Wednesday 22 February 2012

Just As I Am

It is estimated that he brought more than 3.2 million people to Christ.  He was the spiritual advisor to every American President from Truman to Bush.  He has visited at least 185 countries in his lifetime. He has written 29 books and is approaching his 95th birthday.  His name is Billy Graham.

Although he is known worldwide today, Billy Graham had humble roots.  He was born on November 7, 1918, the son of a North Carolina dairy farmer.  He converted to Christianity at a revival meeting back in 1934.  He attended Florida Bible Institute where he would paddle a canoe up the Hillsborough River, p[reaching to the birds, alligators and cypress stumps.  Graduating in 1940, he then attended Wheaton college in Illinois, obtaining an anthropology degree three years later. 

In 1943, Billy married Ruth Bell and they resided in a log cabin in North Carolina designed by his bride.  He was ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention and started preaching.  However, Billy Graham did not achieve national recognition until 1949 when he conducted revival meetings in tents in Los Angeles.  Billy delivered sermons on the radio and on TV.  The evangelical caught the eye of William Randolph Hearst, a news mogul who promoted the pastor in his newspapers.  By 1954, Billy Graham graced the cover of Time magazine. 

While busy at work, he also made time for family as he and his wife had five children.  With fame, came certain dangers.  In his everyday routine, Billy always made it a point of never being alone with a woman other than his wife, even leaving an elevator that carried just one woman, so as not to be accused of inappropriate behaviour.  This came to be known as the Billy Graham Rule.

By the 1950's, Billy started holding crusades in parks, theatres and other large venues. In 1964, he filled a pavilion at the World's Fair in New York City.  Preaching the gospel, he would surround himself with a choir of up to 5000 members.  As the choir sang "Just As I Am", the pastor would hold an altar call, asking people to come to the front and give their lives to Christ.  Billy Graham was the first big name evangelist to go behind the Iron Curtain, risking the wrath of the Communist leaders.  At one such crusade in Moscow in 1992, a quarter of the audience (155,000 people) responded to his altar call.

Yes, Billy Graham has brought millions of people to Christ through word of mouth, through the media, through the 29 books he has written, and through his crusades.  Everyone knows his name.  However, who brought Billy Graham to Christ?  A farm worker named Albert McMakin.  One person can make a big difference.  

Note:  Billy Graham has left a legacy for his 5 children, 19 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren. His son Franklin, also a minister, runs Samaritan's Purse which oversees Operation Christmas Child, among other things. His grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, is the senior pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida.

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