Graham’s life has been marked by two qualities that truly great men possess: integrity and humility.
Concerning integrity, one blogger wrote, “One of the major hallmarks of Graham’s ministry has always been his scandal-free ministerial career. When ministers speak of how to handle oneself in ministry while maintaining integrity, Graham’s name is frequently cited as a model for all ministers. His crusades, his leadership, and his personal character serve as a model for those who would be leaders in a time of awakening.”
Concerning humility, in his autobiography Just As I Am Graham wrote, “Most of all, if anything had been accomplished through my life, it has been solely God’s doing, not mine, and He – not I—must get the credit.”
Prior to his birthday a few years ago, Graham released a letter stating, “I’ve recently prepared what may well be my last message to our nation. With all my heart, I want to remind Americans of God’s amazing love and, as simply and clearly as I can, call people to ‘a repentance that leads to salvation.’”
Graham has been a household word in America and much of the world for more than six decades. He has preached to more people than any other person in history.
Ordained as a Southern Baptist minister
The notable evangelist was ordained as a Southern Baptist minister and for 55 years was a member of First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX. In 2008 he became a part of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, SC, where Dr. Don Wilton is pastor.
Graham has been known for conducting large indoor and outdoor rallies in more than 180 countries and six continents in arenas and stadiums all over the world.
The famed evangelist developed a team of dedicated and talented ministers to assist in his worldwide ministry. Among those who partnered with Graham in his evangelistic campaigns was George Beverly Shea, a singer with a deep baritone voice who passed away in 2013 at age 104. Cliff Barrows, who died in 2016 at 93 years old, led singing with the Billy Graham team .
Graham became the pastor to several presidents and has repeatedly been on Gallup’s list of most admired men and women. He has appeared on the list 55 times, more than any other individual in the world.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has broadcast crusades on radio and television, some still being re-broadcast today. The BGEA operates The Cove, a retreat center, in Asheville, NC and the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC, also home of their headquarters.
According to the BGEA more than 3.2 million people have responded to Graham’s Gospel invitation at his Crusades; and Graham’s estimated lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, topped 2.2 billion.
One of Graham’s most successful evangelistic efforts was the 1957 crusade at Madison Square Garden in New York. The crusade lasted 16 weeks and at the time was the high point of the North Carolina native’s career. He preached to more than two million persons in Madison Square Garden and drew the largest crowd in the history of Yankee Stadium. He persuaded more than 55,000 persons “to make the decision for Christ.”
One of the world’s best-selling authors
Graham has also been known as one of the world’s best selling authors. The New York Times reported that although he became a financially successful author, he decided against a career in writing because he thought he lacked intellectual depth.
Billy Graham was married to Wheaton College classmate Ruth Bell on August 13, 1943. She was the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries in China. She died on June 14, 2007, at the age of 87. The Grahams had five children, 19 grandchildren, and numerous great-grandchildren.
Richard Harris, who served with Billy Graham on multiple levels, said the evangelist “was the greatest, most humble, godliest, gracious, kindest Christian leader who exhibited the fruit of Spirit of Christ more than anyone I ever met in my 47 years of ministry!
The Albany resident speaks from decades of interaction with the North Carolina native. Harris served for 16 years as director of Mass Evangelism for the Home Mission Board and, for 10 years, led the North American Mission Board’s church planting efforts. He also served as interim president between Geoff Hammond and Kevin Ezell.
Harris recounted that he did not grow up in a Christian home and knew only a handful of preachers. But when he entered ministry five years after salvation, Billy Graham became his hero, a model for preaching and example for communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“He has served as counselor to 12 US presidents and has influenced countless world leaders politically, socially and spiritually.
“While leading Mass Evangelism for 16 years for Southern Baptists I was afforded numerous opportunities to be around Dr. Graham and his team. Whenever I was around him he always made me think about Jesus! While Dr. Graham is now enjoying eternal life in heaven his life and legacy will live on through thousands of us involved in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Frank Cox, pastor of North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, observed, “Billy Graham is an iconic name in the harvesting world. His impact has been felt not only in his generation but mine as well. In my early days of preaching he was one of my models. He taught any observant pastor how to have a heart for prayer, preaching, personal integrity (character), and how to have a passion for souls. He modeled for me the importance of preaching for a decision and never preaching a message without a call to commitment, inviting the lost to be saved.
“In Billy Graham’s view, to preach the Gospel and never call the lost to be saved would not be biblical Christian preaching. His humility should be ours and the presence of God that was evident upon his life should be our longing. We have been blessed to see one who shined with the glory of God as did Moses and who preached the Gospel with the fervency of Simon Peter at Pentecost. May every preacher desire to do the same!”
State Missionary Ted Kandler commented, “When I think of Billy Graham, the one word that always comes to my mind is ‘integrity.’ He has stood the test of time going literally around the world to share the gospel. Through the years his consistency has resulted in opening doors to many countries and to all levels of society and government. He has met with every president during my lifetime and been well respected by those leaders.
“From his crusades to his books, he has impacted the religious community in a positive way. In my way of thinking, he has influenced more people for Christ in the last 60 plus years than any other single person.
“In the early years of my ministry, we used many of the Billy Graham evangelistic movies in churches and theaters to reach people for Christ. They were always of high quality and could be trusted for content and message. Those movies, like his preaching, were always right on target and touched the lives of many individuals.”
In his book Nearing Home, Graham succinctly stated, “For those who have received the most precious gift of Christ’s redeeming blood … you have reason to look forward to the glories of Heaven, for you will be perfected, you will be joyful, you will once again be active, and right now you can be certain that you are nearing home.”
For an evangelist who traveled the world preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ there were weeks and even months away from home, but William Franklin “Billy” Graham, Jr. is home at last.
Henry Blackaby noted, “Billy Graham has always been the supreme role model of integrity and for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ with boldness. He was a “pace-setter” for me. It is also wonderful to see how Dr. Graham’s children and grandchildren continue his legacy in their own ministries and a privilege to now have my own children and grandchildren working together with them in serving the Lord. “