I heard the gospel on the ABC this morning.
The great gospel preacher Billy Graham has died at the age of 99. So they played a grab of him preaching the gospel. So yet again Australians – together with people around the world – in his death as in his life – heard the gospel from big Billy.
There will be lots written about Billy Graham this week. There will be a lot of looking back. There will be a lot of remembering. And we should remember. But I want to suggest the best way to remember Billy Graham this week: invite someone to church on Sunday.
Pray that churches will preach the gospel with Billy’s clarity:
“You’re born. You suffer. You die. Fortunately, there’s a loophole.”
“God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’”
Pray that people will share his understanding of what the gospel means in life and death. Billy also said:
“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 just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”
“My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.”
Of course, much of Billy Graham’s preaching of the gospel happened outside churches.
When he came to Australia in 1959, here in Brisbane a quarter of a million people turned up to hear him across four nights. One night in Melbourne almost 140,000 gathered at the MCG, the largest crowd ever at that venue.
Yet Billy’s passion for was always for people to find a church where they would keep hearing the gospel of Jesus. As The New York Times put it:
“Mr. Graham always closed by asking his listeners to “come forward” and commit to a life of Christian faith. When they did so, his well-oiled organization would match new believers with nearby churches. Many thousands of people say they were first brought to church by a Billy Graham crusade.”
One church in Sydney had 600 new people show up because of the rallies. Indeed, a significant impact of his ministry was a resurgence in gospel preaching in churches – which had become so impoverished in Australian churches through the 1950s. Billy strengthened the gospel ministry of many churches in Australia and also spurred many people into full-time gospel ministry.
Former Principal of Moore Theological College, Peter Jensen, in an article published by The Bible Society, said this about Billy Graham’s impact on his life:
“I grew up in a churchgoing family, but I think personal faith was lacking. When I was in my 16th year in 1959, I went to a [Billy] Graham Crusade that was being held in Sydney, and when Mr Graham invited people to come forward and give their lives to Christ, I did so. That was on April 20th, 1959. The sermon was on Noah and the Ark, and I have some fairly vivid memories of the occasion, as you may imagine. That introduced me to the world of what you may call personal faith, rather than simply formal faith. It was a transforming experience – one that has guided my life ever since. I hope I’ve grown in understanding, but never away from the gospel that was preached that afternoon….”
“…One of the things that Mr Graham mentioned in one of his sermons – I went back 17 times to hear him, much to the despair of my parents – was the need for people to go into full-time ministry. That just lodged in my mind as a 15-year-old, though it seemed inconsequential at the time. When I left school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I started to do Law – didn’t like it, failed, was tossed out of the Law school. [Around that time] I went to see a doctor because I kept falling asleep, and I was wondering if there was something physically wrong. He wasn’t a believer, but he said to me, “what do you really want to do?” And immediately I articulated for the first time, “I want to go into the ministry.” So he said, “Well, stop studying Law and go into the ministry,” which seemed like a good idea.”
Dave Thurston, Mentor Consultant with Church2Church said this:
“I’ve been to three Billy Graham Crusades at the Sydney Show ground; 1959 as a one-year-old; 1969 as an eleven-year-old when I felt the pull to go forward and give my life to Christ and 1979, after I had become a Christian in 1976, when I was part of the follow-up team.
Once when John Chapman (‘Chappo’) was in a meeting where some were criticising Billy Graham’s use of the ‘altar call’, he piped up and said ‘I prefer the evangelism that Billy Graham does, to the evangelism we don’t do.’”
I am very thankful that Billy Graham’s ministry of the gospel impacted these and other gospel leaders who in turn have had such an impact on me for the gospel. I am very thankful that there are churches in every city of Australia where you can attend this Sunday and hear the gospel. I am very thankful that there are churches in every city of Australia where you can invite friends and family this Sunday to hear the gospel.
Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Colossians 4:4-5 NIV
That would be a great thing to do. And a great way to remember Billy Graham – as we remember the preciousness of the gospel he preached and believed.