In this day and age, Christian evangelists seldom leave a legacy that impacts so many in our nation. Billy Graham is a definite exception. On February 21, 2018, after battling numerous illnesses, the beloved reverend died at the age of 99, leaving many in tears. However, these tears are not as much tears of mourning, though the loss is difficult for many, but tears of joyful remembrance. After the news was heard, social media has been bursting with statuses of how much Graham impacted our nation and the world. Individuals whom Graham never met proclaim in an awestruck manner the legacy Graham left behind and how his legacy will continue even beyond his death. The way he carried himself on stage in front of millions of spectators with immaculate leadership, passionate zeal, and piercing conviction will not easily be forgotten.
Graham served as a spiritual consultant to many of our nation’s presidents, including Harry S. Truman and Ronald Reagan, and received exhortations from others, including President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Trump even tweeted from his twitter account, “Billy Graham was truly one of a kind. Christians and people of all faiths and backgrounds will miss him dearly. We are thinking of him today, finally at home in Heaven.” Barack Obama, who called him ‘humble servant’, and Mitt Romney, who called him a ‘man of character’, are among other political leaders affected by the fiery evangelist and grieve the loss of a man with such integrity.
He not only had an impact on political figures but on celebrities. Following the news of Graham’s death, Kathy Lee Gifford was interviewed on the Today Show in remembrance of Graham, whom she says was a great influence and genuine friend. She expresses her gratitude towards him, claiming that it was through the faith of Billy Graham that her whole family came to the faith. She then went on to say that it was because of Graham’s boldness that she felt inspired to share her faith to others around her. Recalling her last memory of him, on his 95th birthday, she spoke about his kindness and love he continued to express towards her, whispering the words ‘I love you’ in her ear, leaving a lasting impact.
Though there were many that critiqued his preaching, no one can deny the stage presence that flowed from within him to his audience. Stadiums would be filled up to listen to the messages Graham had to deliver. With a physical appearance and confidence that was easily attractive, combined with a strong moral standard, Christian circles and others outside the faith were naturally drawn to him. Though every sermon he preached was spiced up in its own original way, the message remained consistent: repent, give your life to Jesus, and be born again. One of his main targets were those looking for satisfaction in life but unsuccessful in doing so. He called and pleaded for those who had never received Christ to humbly accept him. He believed that to be the only answer. He would always conclude with an open invitation, aimed towards those in the arduous search for their calling in life, gesturing for them to come forward and be born again by accepting Jesus Christ as lord and savior. Through his ministry, Graham witnessed millions to come to the faith and walk away changed men and women. Though the memories of Graham will forever be of a faithful servant to the gospel of Jesus Christ, Graham was not always enthusiastic about his faith.
Growing up in a strong Christian home, Graham was usually captivated by other distractions, such as baseball. It was at the troubling age of sixteen that Graham encountered a pastor that would change the course of his life forever. After hearing Reverend Mordecai Ham, Graham did what he would later call so many to do: he came forward. Graham describes the experience as nothing supernatural but that he realized he was living a two-faced life and that a change needed to take place within him. As Graham recalled later in life, “I can’t say that I felt anything spectacular. I felt very little emotion. I shed no tears.” Heading into adulthood, Graham jumped from school to school in search of what might best suit him. It was finally at the Florida Bible Institute that Graham discovered his calling and felt the urge to preach. Shortly after getting married, he began to preach at the First Baptist Church, which is located in Illinois. It was a few years later that Graham began to become better known through a Chicago radio station by taking charge of a program called “Songs in the Night”, which was on every Sunday. It was in 1949 that Graham became well known throughout the nation through a newspaper in Los Angeles by William Randolph Heart. It was then that his crusades began to take off, leading him to become a world-renowned evangelist, reverend, and political advisor.
Like Gandhi, MLK, and Malcolm X, Billy Graham is now deceased but his legacy is eternal. With testimony after testimony of Graham’s effect, it sparks the question of how much we can impact each other, even if it is only through a kind word. Graham serves as an example of a man of pure boldness and quiet strength. His legacy will continue to reverberate throughout future generations as a man who put others before himself.