Friday, February 23, 2018

Billy Graham - One of the most influential Christian preachers of the 20th century

Some extracts from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Graham :

William Franklin Graham Jr. KBE (November 7, 1918 – February 21, 2018) was an American evangelical Christian evangelist and an ordained Southern Baptist minister who became well known internationally after 1949. He has been called one of the most influential preachers of the 20th century. He held large indoor and outdoor rallies with sermons which were broadcast on radio and television, some still being re-broadcast into the 21st century. In his six decades of television, Graham hosted annual Billy Graham Crusades, which ran from 1947 until his retirement in 2005. He also hosted the popular radio show Hour of Decision from 1950 to 1954. He repudiated segregation and, in addition to his religious aims, helped shape the worldview of a huge number of people coming from different backgrounds leading them to find a relationship between the Bible and contemporary secular viewpoints. Graham preached to live audiences of nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories through various meetings, including BMS World Mission and Global Mission. He also reached hundreds of millions more through television, video, film, and webcasts.

Graham was a spiritual adviser to American presidents and provided spiritual counsel for every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. He was particularly close to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson (one of Graham's closest friends), and Richard Nixon. He insisted on racial integration for his revivals and crusades in 1953 and invited Martin Luther King Jr. to preach jointly at a revival in New York City in 1957. Graham bailed King out of jail in the 1960s when King was arrested in demonstrations. He was also lifelong friends with another televangelist, the founding pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, Robert H. Schuller, whom Graham talked into doing his own television ministry.

Graham operated a variety of media and publishing outlets. According to his staff, more than 3.2 million people have responded to the invitation at Billy Graham Crusades to "accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior". As of 2008, Graham's estimated lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, topped 2.2 billion. Because of his crusades, Graham preached the gospel to more people in person than anyone in the history of Christianity.

Graham was repeatedly on Gallup's list of most admired men and women. He appeared on the list 60 times since 1955, more than any other individual in the world. Grant Wacker reports that by the mid-1960s, he had become the "Great Legitimator".
...
William Franklin Graham Jr. was born on November 7, 1918. He was the eldest of four children born to Morrow (née Coffey) and William Franklin Graham Sr. Graham was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was raised on a family dairy farm with his two younger sisters and younger brother.
...
In 1937 Graham transferred to the Florida Bible Institute in Temple Terrace, Florida, near Tampa. He preached his first sermon that year at Bostwick Baptist Church near Palatka, Florida, while still a student. In his autobiography, Graham wrote of receiving his "calling on the 18th green of the Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club", which was adjacent to the Institute campus. Reverend Billy Graham Memorial Park was later established on the Hillsborough River directly east of the 18th green and across from where Graham often paddled a canoe to a small island in the river, where he would preach to the birds, alligators, and cypress stumps. In 1939, Graham was ordained by a group of Southern Baptist clergymen at Peniel Baptist Church in Palatka, Florida. In 1943, Graham graduated from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois with a degree in anthropology.

It was during his time at Wheaton that Graham decided to accept the Bible as the infallible word of God. Henrietta Mears of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood (Hollywood, California) was instrumental in helping Graham wrestle with the issue. He settled it at Forest Home Christian Camp (now called Forest Home Ministries) southeast of the Big Bear area in Southern California. A memorial there marks the site of Graham's decision.
...

Family

On August 13, 1943, Graham married Wheaton classmate Ruth Bell, whose parents were Presbyterian missionaries in China. Her father, L. Nelson Bell, was a general surgeon. Ruth Graham died on June 14, 2007, at the age of 87. The Grahams were married for almost 64 years.

Graham and his wife had five children together: Virginia Leftwich (Gigi) Graham (born 1945; an inspirational speaker and author); Anne Graham Lotz (born 1948; runs AnGeL ministries); Ruth Graham (born 1950; founder and president of Ruth Graham & Friends, leads conferences throughout the U.S. and Canada); Franklin Graham (born 1952, who serves as president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and as president and CEO of international relief organization, Samaritan's Purse); and Nelson Edman Graham (born 1958; a pastor who runs East Gates Ministries International, which distributes Christian literature in China).

Graham had 19 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. His grandson Tullian Tchividjian, son of Gigi, was the senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida until he was defrocked in June 2015 after admitting to an extra-marital affair. Tchividjian later filed for divorce from his wife, Kim. Grandson Basyle "Boz" Tchividjian, a former child abuse chief prosecutor and professor at Liberty University School of Law, is the founder and executive director of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing and responding to abuse in Christian organizations.

Ministry career

While attending college, Graham became pastor of the United Gospel Tabernacle and also had other preaching engagements.

Graham served briefly as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Western Springs, Illinois, not far from Wheaton, in 1943–44. While there, his friend Torrey Johnson, pastor of the Midwest Bible Church in Chicago, told Graham that his radio program, Songs in the Night, was about to be canceled due to lack of funding. Consulting with the members of his church in Western Springs, Graham decided to take over Johnson's program with financial support from his congregation. Launching the new radio program on January 2, 1944, still called Songs in the Night, Graham recruited the bass-baritone George Beverly Shea as his director of radio ministry. While the radio ministry continued for many years, Graham decided to move on in early 1945. In 1947, at age 30, he was hired as president of Northwestern Bible College in Minneapolis – at the time, the youngest person to serve as a sitting president of any U.S. college or university.[citation needed] Graham served as the president from 1948 to 1952.

Initially, Graham intended to become a chaplain in the armed forces but, shortly after applying for a commission, contracted mumps. After a period of recuperation in Florida, he was hired as the first full-time evangelist of the new Youth for Christ (YFC), co-founded by Torrey Johnson and the Canadian evangelist Charles Templeton. Graham traveled throughout both the United States and Europe as an YFCI evangelist. Templeton applied to Princeton Theological Seminary for an advanced theological degree and urged Graham to do so as well, but he declined as he was already serving as the president of Northwestern Bible College.

Graham scheduled a series of revival meetings in Los Angeles in 1949, for which he erected circus tents in a parking lot. He attracted national media coverage, especially in the conservative Hearst chain, although Hearst and Graham never met. The crusade event ran for eight weeks – five weeks longer than planned. Graham became a national figure with heavy coverage from the wire services and national magazines.

Crusades

Since his ministry began in 1947, Graham conducted more than 400 crusades in 185 countries and territories on six continents. The first Billy Graham Crusade, held September 13–21, 1947, in the Civic Auditorium in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was attended by 6,000 people. Graham was 28 years old. He called them crusades, after the medieval Christian forces who conquered Jerusalem. He would rent a large venue, such as a stadium, park, or street. As the sessions became larger, he arranged a group of up to 5,000 people to sing in a choir. He would preach the gospel and invite people to come forward (a practice begun by Dwight L. Moody). Such people were called inquirers and were given the chance to speak one-on-one with a counselor, to clarify questions and pray together. The inquirers were often given a copy of the Gospel of John or a Bible study booklet. In Moscow, in 1992, one-quarter of the 155,000 people in Graham's audience went forward at his call. During his crusades, he has frequently used the altar call song, "Just As I Am".

Graham was offered a five-year, $1 million contract from NBC to appear on television opposite Arthur Godfrey, but he turned it down in favor of continuing his touring revivals because of his prearranged commitments. Graham had crusades in London, which lasted 12 weeks, and a New York City crusade in Madison Square Garden in 1957, which ran nightly for 16 weeks.

Student ministry

Graham spoke at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's Urbana Student Missions Conference at least nine times: in 1948, 1957, 1961, 1964, 1976, 1979, 1981, 1984, and 1987.

At each Urbana conference he challenged the thousands of attendees to make a commitment to follow Jesus Christ for the rest of their lives, often quoting a 6-word phrase written in the Bible of an heir to the Borden milk fortune, William Borden, who died in Egypt on his way to the mission field, "no reserves, no retreat, no regrets".

Graham also held evangelistic meetings on a number of college campuses: at the University of Minnesota during InterVarsity's "Year of Evangelism" in 1950–51, a 4-day mission at Yale University in 1957, and a week-long series of meetings at the University of North Carolina's Carmichael Auditorium in September 1982.

In 1955 he was invited by students to lead the mission to Cambridge University, arranged by the CICCU, with the London pastor-theologian John Stott as his chief assistant. This invitation was greeted with much disapproval in the correspondence columns of The Times.

Evangelistic association

In 1950, Graham founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) with its headquarters in Minneapolis. The association relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1999. BGEA ministries have included:

*) Hour of Decision, a weekly radio program broadcast around the world for more than 50 years

*) Mission television specials broadcast in almost every market in the US and Canada

*) A syndicated newspaper column, My Answer, carried by newspapers across the United States and distributed by Tribune Media Services

*) Decision magazine, the official publication of the association

*) Christianity Today was started in 1956 with Carl F. H. Henry as its first editor

*) Passageway.org, the website for a youth discipleship program created by BGEA

*) World Wide Pictures, which has produced and distributed more than 130 films

In April 2013, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association started "My Hope With Billy Graham", the largest outreach in its history, encouraging church members to spread the gospel in small group meetings after showing a video message by Graham. "The idea is for Christians to follow the example of the disciple Matthew in the New Testament and spread the gospel in their own homes." The video, called "The Cross", is the main program in the My Hope America series and was also broadcast the week of Graham's 95th birthday. In an email interview with WND, Graham wrote that "we are close to the end of the age".

--- end wiki extracts ---

*) CNN video: Evangelist Billy Graham dies at age 99, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38dYSj3F-Lo, 5 min. 56 secs, published on 21-Feb-2018.

*) A Tribute to Billy Graham, by Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXlbRhkQaVc, 5 min. 51 secs, published on 21-Feb-2018.

*) Billy Graham - Who is Jesus? - Chicago 1971, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U89zkUZPd5w, 42 min. 36 secs, published on 19-May-2016.


*) What We Believe from Billy Graham's main web site: https://billygraham.org/about/what-we-believe/.

[Ravi: I need to say here that my religious and spiritual beliefs do not match with that of Rev. Billy Graham as expressed in the above webpage. In particular, while I view Lord Jesus Christ as a divine figure, I do NOT view Jesus Christ as the ONLY way to achieve merger in God ('merger in God' in Hinduism is roughly equivalent to salvation in Christianity). I am a multi-faith person believing in the divinity of Jesus Christ as well as the divinity of Hindu Avatars like Rama, Krishna, Shirdi Sai Baba and Sathya Sai Baba (who is my beloved and revered Gurudev). Readers wanting to know more about my multi-faith beliefs expressed in short statements may want to view this post of mine: Crisp Statements of Belief in God that is Compatible with Science, https://iami1.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/crisp-statements-of-belief-in-god-that-is-compatible-with-science/.]

*) Billy Graham, 99, Dies; Pastor Filled Stadiums and Counseled Presidents, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/21/obituaries/billy-graham-dead.html, 21-Feb-2018.

The article is detailed and gave me a decent picture about this famous evangelical preacher from the USA who preached for five to six decades! The article states that Billy Graham was USA's "best-known Christian evangelist for more than 60 years".

He also seems to have earned a reputation for financial integrity and for not getting into any marital infidelity problems. His Billy Graham rule is famous. The rule is about male preachers avoiding spending time alone with a woman to whom they are not married.

*) How Billy Graham’s Movement Lost Its Way, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-lost-revival-of-billy-graham

*) Billy Graham, the Great Uniter, Leaves Behind a Divided Evangelicalism; The preacher, dead at 99, advised presidents, mentored clergy, and influenced millions of people. Will his legacy of non-partisan outreach continue? https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/billy-graham-death/553850/

*) Texans recall Billy Graham as 'an evangelical with integrity', https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/article/Texans-recall-Billy-Graham-as-an-evangelical-12631844.php, 21-Feb-2018

*) Spirit Willing, Another Trip Down Mountain for Graham, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9500E1DB1E38F931A25755C0A9639C8B63&pagewanted=all, 12-June-2005

[I thank wikipedia and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts from their website on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

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