God used Billy Graham powerfully. There are unseen and untold ripples of his faithfulness to the Gospel which no doubt have touched your life.
God sovereignly saved a young man in New Jersey while watching Billy preach on the T.V. That man went on to get his doctorate at DTS, and spent his life teaching Greek, theology and Bible at the Bible College I went to.
After college I found myself working for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Baltimore as a local hire. There are a lot of opinions about Billy Graham in the reformedish circles I find myself in. People talk about Finny, decisionism, revivalism, manufactured emotionalism, altar calls…
There’s plenty to be worried about all that. All I know from working for the BGEA is that Graham’s events were grassroots movements led by local churches. They were prayer movements. Churches prayed, for years, for the people they were going to invite to hear the Gospel.
It was called “Operation Andrew”.
The churches worked together. In a city like Baltimore that meant Churches of all social economic, racial, and denominational backgrounds working together for perhaps the first time. Or, rather… since the last time Graham came to town.
I think we all know the bad side of altar calls. Some are manufactured emotionalism: fake decisions that don’t stick. Jesus talks about all this in the parable of the sower. But… Here’s something interesting: MANY of the volunteers for the 2006 Baltimore Festival were saved at the 1981 Baltimore Crusade. They heard the Gospel, and believed it in their heart and professed it with their lips, just like Romans 10 says, and then they plugged into a local Church.
When I worked for the BGEA we kept the office open after the preaching was done for months trying to make sure that people who made professions of Christ were plugged into a local Church.
We held the 2006 Metro Maryland Festival in Camden Yards where the Orioles play. Billy had retired in 2005, but preached the last night of the 2006 Baltimore Festival, on Sunday. Now, in the circles I run in we don’t use a lot of words like “Anointing” and such…
But this frail, elderly man hobbled up to the podium in Camden Yards, and preached a simple, Gospel message of repentance and trust in Christ Crucified and Resurrected for sinners. God’s power was palpable. There is no other way to explain it. His Spirit was there: Mighty To Save.
They said he couldn’t even speak after he preached. He left it all on the field.
I was an atheist clad in black in 1999. I had a dream one night that I had converted to Christianity. And so it was that when my Christian friend invited me to youth group at the Methodist Church yet again, I went, instead of mocking her as I had always done previously.
That night the youth group was going to the Assembly of God Church to watch body builders break, rip, & bend stuff. I sat there with my hard heart, fighting irresistible grace. It was foolishness. I hated it. But as they preached the Gospel my heart melted. I surrendered all.
I was saved in my seat. But I went up anyway when they called me to the altar. And I said a prayer, which was good because a baby Christian doesn’t have the words to vocalize salvation. I may have even signed a card. I don’t remember… but salvation stuck.
I have only answered one altar call in my life. I have only been Baptized once. I have so little tolerance for all the malarkey and foolishness that is passed off as Christianity, believe you me. But make no mistake: the Gospel is foolishness to the perishing (1 Corinthians 1.18)
I’m not saying you have to like Billy Graham. I’m not saying it’s even the best way to share the Gospel. All I’m saying is that it’s not a bad idea to get a bunch of lost people together to tell them truth, and then to give them an opportunity to do something with the truth.
Jesus preached to crowds of lost people outside.
Peter and Paul did.
Wesley & Moody did.
And so did Billy.
Thank you, Billy.