In the 1980s, I attended some of Billy Graham’s meetings as part of Mission England.
At the time, I was struck by how much preparation, and particularly prayer, went into the planning and execution of these events. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association had a structure which was modelled around prayer and the Word of God. This was a structure that Billy had used with his own family. His son Franklin recalls that as a child, their days started and ended with family devotions, and Franklin credits the longevity of his parents’ marriage to the fact they read the Scriptures together every day.
As news broke recently that Billy had gone home to be with the Lord, news sites across the world told the story. For younger audiences who did not know who Billy was, his story was re-told. Even here in the UK, our major news and radio channels covered his passing, and for me, it was remarkable to see the amazing legacy that Billy Graham had left behind.
Billy was very much the ‘front man’ of his ministry, but it was not something he sought or chased after. His message was always faithful to the Gospel, and he used every opportunity to tell people about Jesus.
He started his ministry on radio, and by the end of his life, by preaching in auditoriums, stadiums and travelling globally, millions had been won to Christ, not just through his direct ministry but through the ministry of those who had come to faith because of attending a Billy Graham event. George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilisation, was one of them. He accepted Jesus Christ as his saviour at a Billy Graham crusade, and years later, his ministry has impacted the lives of many, many more around the world.
In many ways, this was a revival that we never really called a revival. We tend to see revival as being an experience of the manifest presence of God, which compels people en masse to turn their hearts to Jesus. This is what happened throughout Billy’s ministry.
During Mission England, I saw it with my own eyes as thousands streamed to the front to accept Jesus into their lives, filling the front and the aisles. How we long to see this again!
Last week, as we heard the news of Billy’s passing, I thought of Mark 4:8-9, where Jesus tells the parable of the sower: ‘Still another seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.’ If anyone’s life produced a ‘hundredfold’ crop, it was Billy’s!
There is much we can draw from the example of one man’s life. We might never reach millions with the good news of Jesus, but each of us has a circle of influence. We might never be a Billy Graham in terms of numbers, but we can each reach people we know. We all have a story to tell, and even the way we speak and live our lives can be a powerful testimony to a world looking for answers.
And we can pray! We can pray for the people we might never meet or reach, and a life soaked in prayer can reap so much.
Can I encourage you today? You might never speak in an auditorium of thousands or have a public ministry, but you can make a difference to one person by sharing with them the love of Jesus.
Let our legacy one day say that we were men and women of God who shared the Gospel with all who ‘had ears to hear’.