The Internet erupted with praise and emotion as the world received news on Wednesday morning this week of the death of Billy Graham. Though I never met him personally, or even heard him speak in person, I am feeling a certain sadness about it.
I’m not sad for him, though – he was 99 years old when he died, and he was confident of his eternal destiny. In fact, he once said (borrowing from D.L. Moody), “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will have just changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”
What saddens me is that with the passing of Billy Graham, we have seen the end of an era. When Billy Graham preached at crusades, God worked in mighty ways. Graham’s ministry led thousands upon thousands of people to embrace faith in Christ. And his connections with local churches at those crusades meant there was meaningful follow-up that took place so that these new believers could connect with faith communities that would strengthen their newfound walk with the Lord.
In a post-war, still-Christian western world, that approach worked. But in a post-modern, post-Christian western world, it does not work as well. Still, Graham’s passion for evangelism has inspired millions of Christ-followers to share their faith, in helpful and appropriate ways, with their friends. Evangelism today happens more effectively from neighbour to neighbour.
God has not given me the gift to be able to preach with the evangelistic fervour of Billy Graham, but that does not stop me from proclaiming Christ, crucified, risen and ascended, both from the pulpit and from the front porch. While I may not have a gift for evangelism, I have a heart for it – as should each of us. Why not step out in faith and share your love for Jesus with a neighbour this weekend? Don’t be afraid of the response; if you get questions for which you have no answers, your friend will be patient as you seek out answers.
Many have imitated Billy Graham, but none has been so used of God in mass evangelism. I recommend that you read his autobiography (available here) to get his own take on his life as an evangelist. Unlike so many who crave the spotlight, Graham remained a humble man of God his whole life.
There’s such good news to share – how can we keep from sharing it? Billy Graham shared it in word and in deed…and so can we.
“Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25.21, RSV).