Billy Graham has died, age 99.
He was one of the most influential people of our time:
In his career as an evangelist, Graham preached to more than 210 million people in more than 185 countries and territories.
Indefatigable, he wrote a syndicated newspaper column and dozens of best-selling books, had a radio show, and appeared on the cover of the leading magazines, but he is best known for his crusades.
From the BBC obituary,
After the success of his ministry in the US, Graham wanted to take his message worldwide and he began the process in London in 1954.
It was a calculated risk. At the time only 10% of Britons were regular churchgoers, compared with 50% in the United States.
He also faced a hostile British press, which was scathing about the motives of the man from Charlotte, and he faced calls from one MP for him to be banned from entering the UK
He conducted his first full-scale mission in a 12,000-seat auditorium next to a greyhound track at London’s Harringay Arena.
Such was the demand to hear him that he filled the arena every night for three months.
The final meeting of his UK crusade was held at Wembley Stadium, when 120,000 people heard Graham speak of the reception he had received in London.
“These meetings have been far beyond anything we had the faith to believe possible,” he told the crowd. “The spirit of God is moving across Great Britain as perhaps at no time in the last century.”
It was the beginning of what would be a series of missions to all parts of the globe.
His crusades were always meticulously planned. As his reputation grew, so too did the crowds, from New York to Nigeria. In Korea, more than a million turned out to hear him speak.
In 1957 he invited the civil rights leader Martin Luther King to join him on a 16-week stint in New York, which more than two million people attended.
Rev. Graham was a trusted adviser to decades of U.S. presidents and heads of state.
His popularity is such that he was portrayed in the Netflix series The Crown, where Queen Elizabeth requested to meet him. The WaPo managed to fact-check ‘The Crown’: Queen Elizabeth’s faith and her close relationship with preacher Billy Graham. Unfortunately the WaPo characterizes “his fiery preaching style,” which shows they probably never listened to him.
He was tall, good-looking, very American, hugely appealing, but he made a difference only because of his message – which resonated not just because Billy Graham spoke the words. It’s because he lived them.
“A Christian is more than a person who is living up to a system of ethics. A Christian is more than a person living a good moral life. A Christian is a person in whom Christ dwells.” Billy Graham, 1958, Charlotte
Rev. Graham’s message was “give your life to Christ and receive Him as your Savior.” A direct, simple message.
Here’s a video of the 1957 Madison Square Garden crusade, which includes a lovely performance of His Eye Is On The Sparrow by Ethel Waters,
In this video he emphasized that “the Christian life is one of growth.” I invite you to listen. I was raised Catholic, but Rev. Graham’s message resonates to all Christian denominations.
Here’s a link to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s memorial site.
Shane Vander Hart reminds us of these words from the Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” (2 Timothy, 4:7). Let’s join in a prayer of thanks for Rev. Graham’s inspiration.
Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog