Few people have impacted the world and, in particular, a nation as has Dr. Billy Graham. From before the 1949 Los Angeles Crusade that catapulted him to national prominence to his funeral services this week he has preached a message that has impacted those who have heard and seen him and lived a life beyond reproach. As a Christian, I could not help but be moved to tears as I watched the coverage of his passing. The memorial service in the Capitol Building with the members of Congress and President and First Lady Trump and Vice President and Mrs. Pence was a powerful testimony to not only the man but his message.
Regardless of one’s political persuasion, Senator McConnell, House Speaker Ryan and President Trump honored both the man and his message with an uncompromising acknowledgement of the gospel in their remarks in the Capitol ceremony as the name of Jesus was invoked and honored. In a day when so many are afraid to say the name, Jesus, those who spoke today did so eloquently.
Dr. Graham preached the gospel for 58 years in 185 countries and held 417 crusades during those years. The Blackwood Brothers had the great honor and privilege to sing on two of his crusades, one in our hometown of Memphis in 1978 and in Calgary, Alberta in 1981. He led more people in the sinners prayer than any person ever. At his Moscow Crusade in 1992, one quarter of the 155,000 people attending went forward to receive Christ at his invitation. Only eternity will reveal how many people came to faith in Christ as a result of his faithful ministry.
If you’re reading this story you are very likely one who has grown up aware of the ministry of Billy Graham and perhaps, like I, watched his crusades throughout the years. One could read for days the articles and history of this man and his ministry with a simple Google search of his name. The name of Billy Graham is synonymous with the gospel, much like the great men and women of God of years ago. In my lifetime no one has had the respect, integrity and impact of Dr. Graham. The enormity of it is incalculable.
Having said that I want to share my personal thoughts in hopes that they will encourage you. As I heard the comments of dignitaries and common people alike, what welled up in my heart was a challenge that my life would make a difference in the lives of others, that my ministry would have the anointing and effectiveness of Dr. Graham’s ministry. I’m not naive enough to think that anything I could accomplish in whatever years I have left could equal his, but one thing I can do is be everything God called and created me to be, to be ready as Peter said in 1st Peter 3:15, to give a defense to everyone who asks me a reason for the hope that is in me.
As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ I have recognized that, based on our spiritual gifts and personalities, we tend to go one of two directions when it comes to our passion and focus. One direction is the prophetic or proclaiming track in which preaching and declaring the gospel, calling people to deal with the reality of the gospel message is paramount. The other is a service direction, wherein we tend to be more focused on a social gospel that seeks to meet the needs of those in our world who are less fortunate and blessed than we. Obviously, both are valid and necessary and it’s really not an ‘either / or’ situation but a ‘both / and’. Sharing the love is Christ encompasses both avenues.
Unfortunately, we are surrounded by distraction and, as a culture, spend countless hours in pursuit of insignificant things, and wastes of time and resources. The amount of time and energy and resources spent on entertainment is unbelievable. What a tragedy it is to think that there are people who are in need of basic necessities all around us while we spend millions of dollars on frivolity and entertainment. Were the body of Christ to fast entertainment for one month and give the resources we would have spent to ministries that are truly changing peoples lives, both physically and spiritually, how different the world be. May I suggest we take that as a challenge?
Here are just a few ministries that are drastically changing the lives of real people around the world.
Samaritans Purse, directed by Dr. Graham’s son, Franklin. The disaster and other outreach opportunities they are engaged in is very powerful.
Life Outreach, the ministry of James Robison. This organization provides water wells for thousands of people around the world giving many people their first taste of pure water.
Compassion International. For just a few dollars a month you can pour blessing into the life of a child who will never have the abundance and resources available to you and me.
Smile Train provides operations for children born with severe cleft pallets that gives them the opportunity to live a normal life.
There are many others but these are some with which I am acquainted. If possible, go on a short term mission trip to a third world country. It is not difficult to find opportunities to go and serve.
We are called to go, to give, to share, to sacrifice, to be the hands and feet of Jesus. May the passing of Billy Graham be a catalyst for world changers to rise up and take the gospel to the ends of the earth! That would be a fitting tribute to this great man!
Billy Blackwood / questions and/or comments to [email protected]