White: Billy Graham’s impact is measureless

Published 12:19 pm Saturday, November 12, 2016

Growing up, I watched on television as Evangelist Billy Graham preached in stadiums and arenas around the world. In 1966, he came within an hour of where my family lived to hold a crusade, so we went to hear him in person.

This week Graham celebrated his 98th birthday.  His son, Franklin Graham, commented on Facebook that his dad “told us three years ago that he might live to be 100—I hope he does!”

Billy Graham “has preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history—nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories….Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film, and webcasts,” according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Rev. Graham’s last live crusade was held in 2005 in New York City.

Billy Graham was once quoted in a Christianity Today article as saying, “My mind tells me I ought to get out there and go,” he said, as he was beginning to feel the effects of his age and (Parkinson’s) disease, “but I just can’t do it. But I’ll preach until there is no breath left in my body. I was called by God, and until God tells me to retire, I cannot. Whatever strength I have, whatever time God lets me have, is going to be dedicated to doing the work of an evangelist, as long as I live.”

In 1934, at age 15, Mr. Graham made a personal commitment to Christ through the ministry of Mordecai Ham, a traveling evangelist, who visited Charlotte, N.C., for a series of revival meetings. But do you know “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey would say?

In 1858, Edward Kimball went to a Boston shoe shop to witness to a young man who had attended his class, asking him to come to Christ. The clerk, Dwight L. Moody, left the store that day a new person and eventually became the most prominent evangelist in America.

On June 17, 1873, Moody arrived in Liverpool, England, for a series of crusades. Moody visited a church pastored by a scholarly man named F.B. Meyer and invited Meyer to come preach in our country. At a Bible conference, Meyer challenged the crowds, “If you are not willing to give up everything for Christ, are you willing to be made willing?”

His question changed the life of a struggling young minister named J. Wilbur Chapman. Chapman, involved in the YMCA, encouraged a professional baseball player named Billy Sunday to preach the Gospel. After a revival Billy Sunday preached in Charlotte, N.C., a group of men converted during his services organized another city-wide revival years later with an evangelist named Mordecai Ham. During this revival, Billy Graham received Christ as his personal Savior.

Billy Graham once said his favorite Scripture is John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

He added, “I suppose it is the most familiar passage in the Bible. It has only twenty-five words in the English translation of it, but it is the Gospel in a nutshell…..Whatever the color of a person’s skin, whatever language he speaks, God loves him and God is willing to save him. To me that is marvelous.”


-Jan White is an award-winning columnist. She can be reached at jwhite@andycable.com.