No applause is adequate, no superlative sufficient. So I won’t even try to articulate the immeasurable global impact of William Franklin Graham Jr., aka Billy Graham (1918-2018), the pre-eminent Christian evangelist of the past century.
Coming to my computer this morning to learn of his death just months short of his 100th birthday, my reflections are bittersweet. And quite personal. They are about the Graham family’s touch on my life. I was still a young boy when I was enthralled by his early televised crusades. As a 20-something in the 1970s, I taped a Newsweek magazine cover photo of Dr. Graham to my wall. He’s been a personal hero for more than 50 years.
I observed with amazement the ascent of the various ministries of William Franklin Graham III, aka Franklin Graham. I am blessed to participate in his Samaritan’s Purse ministry, and I always think back to its spiritual roots in his father.
Several years back, I began attending spiritual growth seminars at The Cove, the Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville, North Carolina. It was there that I learned that Billy Graham was the second to receive the namesake. Sitting under the teaching of William Franklin Graham IV, aka Will Graham, director of The Cove, I discovered that the legacy of grandfather Billy is in good hands. The gospel continues to be the centerpiece of every ministry that has its roots in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. As a side note, I also got to meet Will’s son – yes, William Franklin Graham V, aka Quinn.
In August 2014, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association posted a message Dr. Graham had preached in 1966. It is one of my favorites, largely because he boldly cites the cultural ills that had already begun leading our society in the wrong direction. That’s right – 50 years ago, he was warning us of the dangers of a society that rejects God. He was never one to mince words. But he always offered the solution, always wound up at the gospel. Always.
With the Graham generations this morning, I grieve – for the little hole that Billy Graham’s home-going leaves in our hearts. And I rejoice with them in the promise of the gospel that he’s more alive now than ever before.