Welcome home, good and faithful servant
By now you have probably seen, heard and read almost everything possible about the amazing life of Billy Graham. Maybe once in a lifetime a person comes along that you know will not be replaced. His impact on this country and indeed around the world makes his story worth repeating one more time.
He became known as America’s Pastor. He was born the son of a dairy farmer and married the daughter of two missionaries to China. He made a personal commitment to Christ at the age of 15 and grew to become the most influential minister of his time.
Graham’s first citywide crusade was in 1947 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. By the time he retired, he had held more than 400 crusades in 185 countries and territories across six continents. According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, he reached 215 million people.
Though we now use communication tools like the internet that were not available during Graham’s active ministry, he was at the cutting edge of using technology for evangelism. He began the “Hour of Decision” radio program in 1949 at a crusade in Portland, Oregon.
In the Summer of 1957, Graham preached nightly to packed crowds for four straight months at the Madison Square Garden in New York City. In 1981, he began the TV Telephone Ministry for people to call in while watching “Billy Graham Classics” on TV. The callers could then talk to volunteers about a variety of subjects such as depression, drug abuse and doing God’s will.
Graham was known as a counselor to America’s Presidents, beginning with Harry Truman and ending with Barack Obama. President George Bush credits Graham with helping to turn his life around as a young man.
Graham met his wife, Ruth, while attending Wheaton College. They were married in 1943. Upon her death in 2007, he commented that she had more influence on his ministry than anyone else, calling her “the greatest Christian I ever knew”.
Graham was an early supporter of Civil Rights and refused to hold segregated Crusades. He became the target of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1960s after planning an integrated crusade in Birmingham, Alabama.
Pushing back against the bigotry of the time, Graham declared that “Christ belongs to all people. He belongs to the whole world.”
Each year the Gallup Poll lists the 10 most admired men in the world. Graham made the list an incredible 61 times in the 99 years of his life. His message was timeless.
In this time of polarized politics, we would be wise to listen to Graham’s words about political parties. “I will be a friend to men of both parties, but I would never say that I was, even indicated that I was, for one or the other. I am for God. I don’t think there’s any hope for the world except in God.”
Billy Graham always said that Earth was just a way stop on his journey. “My home is in heaven. I am just passing through this world.” I can envision him being greeted with the words “Well done, good and faithful servant. Welcome Home”.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org