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Billy Grahams’ Ministry in Four Words

Posted by Pastor J.D. on February 13, 2017

My wife, kids, and I recently had the chance to visit the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC. We’ve long been impressed with Graham’s life and ministry, and this trip only increased our appreciation for Graham.

As I reflect on Billy Graham’s six decades of ministry, four words stand out:

1. Conviction

As we looked over various exhibits and heard stories about Graham’s life, Veronica commented to me, “He wasn’t complex, and not usually ‘profound.’ But you can tell that he really believed what he was saying.” And it’s true: Billy Graham had struggled with the hard questions, so when he spoke with assurance, it wasn’t the naïve assurance of a neophyte. It was the absolute assurance of someone who has wrestled with questions of faith.

During the beginning of Graham’s ministry, theological liberalism was on the rise in mainline denominations, and Graham’s faith was shaken. He often told the story of a moment when, in the height of his doubts, he took a walk in the woods. During that walk, he finally acknowledged, “I either believe God has spoken or I don’t. I believe Jesus Christ is God’s Son, and I believe the Bible he authorized is his Father’s word, just like he said it was. I’ll believe it by faith—even the parts I don’t quite understand.” (my paraphrase)

Graham’s conviction was contagious. Conviction always is. It reminds me of David Hume, the 18th-century atheist philosopher, who consistently went to hear the preacher George Whitefield at his evangelistic rallies. Someone recognized Hume, and—surprised to see him there—said, “I thought you do not believe in the gospel.” Hume answered, “I don’t, but he does.” That was the draw that Billy Graham had at his rallies: he believed in his message so deeply that he drew in some of the most skeptical and non-believing.

At this point, you can’t name a single one of Billy Graham’s friends who drifted with the tide of theological liberalism; but Billy changed the world.

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This guest post is brought to you by Jason Gaston, our Family Ministries Pastor. Hardly anyone embodies the passion of “seeking the 1” more than Jason. Be sure to listen to the rest of Jason’s message here.

For most of us, we don’t realize the value of something until we lose it. I take my TV remote control for granted…until it goes missing. Then suddenly we have an issue. (How did people change the channel before remotes? What kind of magic was that?) Or think about wedding bands. Most of the time, you don’t even realize you’re wearing it. But I remember going to Defy Gravity—a “trampoline park”—with some buddies, and one of them realized he had lost his ring in the foam pit. Most disgusting hour of searching we had ever done. Trust me: you don’t want to know what’s at the bottom of those foam pits.

Lost. In Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep, “lost” is the only thing that separates the 1 from the 99. The shepherd goes after the one, not because he’s the VP of the sheep club or quarterback for the Durham Lamb Chops. He goes after the one sheep because that sheep is lost.

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The narrative our culture puts forward regarding homosexuality is that we have only two options—affirmation or alienation. Sadly, the church has far too often simply condemned and alienated those in the LGBT community. What greater lie could we tell about our Savior than to distance ourselves from others, especially at their moments of greatest hurt and vulnerability?

Jesus shows us that a third response—a gospel response—is possible. He shows us how to respond with grace and truth, how to hold out God’s truth and God’s love, not having to choose between the two. Truth without grace is fundamentalism. But grace without truth is vapid sentimentality. Failing in either puts us out of step with Jesus. As a church, we should be known not only for our unflinching commitment to truth, but also for our excessive love toward our neighbors. We must not only speak the truth of Christ, we must do so with the spirit of Christ.