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22.02.2018

Billy Graham – Just as he was | Connecting with Culture

Billy Graham preached to more people, in more countries, and saw more converts, than anyone else in history. He also gathered the largest live audience (1.1m) of any preacher.

With stats like these, it is often assumed that Billy Graham’s sole focus was on the need to be ‘born again’. If he addressed any other need, it was for more professional preachers, evangelists, and missionaries to carry this message.

He did indeed consistently emphasise both these needs. But throughout his vast publication output, he placed far more emphasis on ‘whole-life discipleship’ than is generally assumed. Indeed, living the Christian life wherever believers find themselves was a constant theme throughout his ministry. He wrote, for instance:

God wants to use you right where you are. Every day you probably come in contact with people who will never enter a church, or talk with a pastor, or open a Bible – and God wants to use you to point them to Christ.

In numerous other writings he stressed the dignity of work, the need to live the Christian life 24/7, and that there should ‘no discrepancy between our walk and our talk’. ‘Becoming a Christian’, he wrote, ‘is the work of a moment; being a Christian is the work of a lifetime’.

He challenged people to pray for their colleagues and to empathise with their struggles. They should also model integrity: ‘Christians should be known in their neighbourhoods or places of business as honest people’.

Some ‘professional’ missionaries, after catching Billy Graham’s vision for an all-encompassing faith, have decided to change course. Opting to pursue a wider mission in ‘secular’ employment, they have found the effectiveness of their witness has been enhanced.

Their experience makes Christ’s great commission to ‘make disciples of all nations’ start to look achievable. At a time when, in some nations, mission giving is in decline, it presents a sustainable model of mission that is not dependent on donations.

There will still be a place for ‘professional’ missionaries and for large-scale evangelistic events of the sort Billy Graham championed. Communicators are also still needed with his clarity, conviction, and integrity.

But the challenge for most of us, in our daily lives, is to pick up the prophetic mantle he has laid down and to rise to his claim: ‘I believe one of the next great moves of God is going to be through the believers in the workplace.’

Peter Heslam
Peter is a senior fellow at the University of Cambridge and Director of Transforming Business.

Comments

  1. Indeed! Let not the seemingly unholy routine tasks of conference calls, corporate meetings and sales targets blind us to the next great move of God – through believers – in the workplace.

    By Mark - 23rd February 2018
  2. Yes that is what I recall as a clear and prominent theme in his writing and preaching .

    By Paul Hayes - 23rd February 2018
  3. thank you for this, there are so many negative vibes going about that this was like a breath of fresh air,

    By Marilyn Hazlett - 23rd February 2018
  4. One of the greatest moments in my Christian Life was to see our son standing on the football field in Roker Park some 33 years ago declaring his faith and putting his trust in Jesus Christ at the invitation of Billy Graham. It was this moment in history not the ( three degree’s including his Doctorate) that followed although they were all proud moments for my wife and I. We had passed on our Faith in Jesus Christ to our son and also with no less pride to our Daughter. After some 77 years of a very happy and fulfilled life I can say with total confidence Jesus is my reason for living – He is my everything!

    By Arthur Bates - 23rd February 2018
  5. Thank you very much for this – preparing a sermon on discipleship for the Sunday after Billy Graham’s death it is good to be reminded of the breadth both of his teaching and of our calling.

    By Hilary Walker - 23rd February 2018
  6. At the risk of being the pedant that throws caution in the face of wisdom, there is a man of my acquaintance who has preached in every single country of the world. He has come out of retirement more than once when new countries were formed in order to maintain that commitment. I doubt he challenges Mr Graham in the size of his audience and I shouldn’t think he would take issue with your core message. ‘Billy Graham preached…in more countries? I just caution your use of hyperbole.

    By Stef Downham - 23rd February 2018
  7. Thanks for this timely piece. I always had a sort of admiration for Billy Graham even though I found the ‘end times’ focus of his later output difficult. I’m struck by two thoughts; one of the reason he was so successful in the early days was because of William Randolph Hearst’s advocacy of his fierce anti-communism – one biographer talks of Hearst’s instruction to his editors to “puff Graham”. Also the writer talks of the Great Commission being “achievable”. I wonder what the world would like if everyone was a ‘Christian’? Food for thought there!

    By Revd. Joseph Daley - 23rd February 2018
  8. Thank you for this great reflective eulogy on Billy Graham. It prompts me to reflect “He did it God’s Way” and that is His call on each of our lives, at work, at home, at play as we connect with God and with others, to preach the gospel with our lives as well as by the things we say. To God be the glory for Billy Graham and for the work of LICC in our world.

    By Liz Day - 23rd February 2018
  9. Thank you for your thoughtful writing.

    His call, “God wants you where you are”, which you highlight, should be the rallying cry for our generation. I would only add, “God wants you where you are, with what you have and all that you are”, which is early Church model seen in Acts 3.

    Thank you again your for your reflection on a life well lived. The first words Revd Graham would have heard as he entered His Father’s Kingdom are, “Well done! Good and faithful servant!”

    By Revd Kalyan Das - 23rd February 2018
  10. Love the quote about whole life following Jesus – ‘ Becoming a Christian is the work of a moment, being a Christian is the work of a lifetime’. I wonder how many spent that moment but have struggled since. I know someone close who clings to the moment but sadly has not followed Jesus for her lifetime. May God use Billy’s passing to rekindle those commitments made in the moment and make them for lifetimes.

    By Chris A - 23rd February 2018
  11. Amen to that prayerful aspiration of a great move of God through Christians in the workplace. May we see that in our generation. May the Lord use us all in helping bring it about.

    By Selvan Anketell - 23rd February 2018
  12. Billy Graham and his message was a huge influence on my parents who both lived and died as devout Christians. As a child I remember hearing him speak and call people forward, as an adult I had the privilege of being in his choir at East Ham and Wembley – ‘Just as I am’, and ‘How great Thou art’ led by George Beverly Shea hold powerful memories for me.

    By Linda Barrett - 23rd February 2018
  13. In my early life i appreciated two people one is rev billy Graham
    in n meeting his son mentioned about his father ‘ son when ever you get an opportunity preach when ever pyu preach preach Christ. his sermons were very simple even a young man can understand. thank you rev for your ministry .

    By rev m.j. david - 24th February 2018
  14. We must remember people like Andrew, who brought people to Jesus. Albert McKain was the person who persuaded Billy to go to “check out ” Mordecai Ham.
    A bit like Philip being sent to meet the Ethiopian.
    There is a message there for all of us, as was pointed out the other day – The little things are often of great importance.

    By George Luke - 24th February 2018
  15. A great man of God. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

    Note that Billy Graham has not gathered the largest live audience of any preacher. He is exceeded by Popes JP II, Benedict XVI and Francis, e.g. JP II gathered at least 4m people together and preached to them in Manilla in 1995.

    In 2016 Rick Warren said that, in his view, Martin Luther King, Billy Graham, John Paul II and Mother Teresa are the 4 people who had the most Christian influence in the 20th Century… and he could well be right.

    By Paul - 24th February 2018
  16. And may we see a great movement of God in the great unreached workplaces of the world as God’s people live on mission in places where Jesus is least known.
    John S

    By John Spadafora - 24th February 2018
  17. May I add the thankful memory of the two congresses for Itinerant Evangelists in Amsterdam in 1983 and 1986? These also showed Billy Graham’s deeply rooted desire to train others as evangelists, and were attended by thousands of his colleagues. And there too, items of teaching included “being relevant to your culture” and “humility in serving as an evangelist” (I am quoting fro memory). I keep very happy and inspiring memories of those hours I spent there as an interpreter with many, many others.

    By Martin Slabbekoorn - 26th February 2018

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