– March 7, 2018
Guest Post | Dr. Hughson T. Ong
Ten years ago, I wrote a biographical paper on Billy Graham at seminary. I greatly admired Billy, and that moment provided an opportunity for me to gain greater insight into his life and evangelistic ministry. We will always remember Billy as one of the great historical figures of evangelical Christianity. Indeed, America has never seen a religious icon of such influence and authority as Billy. He served the American people and many other people in the world in various ways.
Billy was an international evangelist. He has preached to approximately two-billion people in more than three hundred crusades, of which an estimated two million have stepped forward to profess their faith. He has organized several international congresses-The World Congress on Evangelism (1966), The Lausanne Conference (1974), and the Amsterdam Conferences (1983, 1986, 2000). He has established the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA; 1950), which to this day is still actively helping various church organizations, counseling training programs, and Christian TV and journal ministries.
Billy was also a national pastor. He stood between eleven American presidents from Harry Truman in 1945 to George W. Bush in 2001 and struggled with many of them through many difficult situations that had affected the nation. John Pollack notes that no church minister “has ever spent the last weekend with an outgoing president and an incoming president of different parties” (Pollack 1969: 287). Indeed, Billy has been the conscience of America for the last half century, especially in advocating a high moral standard in government, business, race relations, family, and marriage.
“…Billy has been the conscience of America for the last half century…”
– Hughson T. OngMr. WordPress
Billy lived as a social justice advocate. His life and actions matched his sermons. He gave hope to a nineteen-year-old marine whose legs were crippled in the Vietnam War. He went out in protest when an associate was evicted from his London flat because of their race. He tore down the ropes dividing whites and blacks during his Chattanooga, Tennessee Crusade in 1953. He cared for his niece when she fought through cancer. President Jimmy Carter once said, “I can think of no individual in the twentieth century who has so positively influenced as many lives as Reverend Billy Graham” (cited in McLellan 2002: 33).
“He was a humble and prayerful man who faithfully followed and served God till the end.”
– Hughson T. OngMr. WordPress
But most importantly, Billy was a man of faith. He was a humble and prayerful man who faithfully followed and served God till the end. Billy trusted God and prayed for months long before he began his crusades. The success he achieved in his 1949 Los Angeles crusade, which virtually had made him a national celebrity overnight, did not derail him from his faith and mission. Forty-eight years later, Billy writes, “I still wish my name were not so visible. It is God’s organization, not mine, and if we ever lose sight of the fact, God will withdraw His blessing from our work” (Graham 1997: 182).
We will never forget the inspiration that was Billy Graham. But perhaps we have started to forget the biblical principles he had taught and lived by-those that exemplified high moral standards and genuine trust in God-as he carried out his ministry (see “Remembering Billy Graham, the Modesto Manifesto 70 Years Later”). We may say that times have changed, that Billy’s method is outdated, and that we ought to keep up with the current, ever-changing trends. But has pragmatism or realism improved the image of evangelical Christianity? Has it provided more effective means for propagating the gospel of Christ? Has it made America and the rest of the western world a better Christian society today compared to the last half century? These are questions we should reflect upon as we remember the evangelical Christianity Billy had left us.
This is a guest post from Dr. Hughson T. Ong, Ph.D. Hughson is an adjunct faculty of Emmanuel Bible College and author and co-editor of three books, including Is the Gospel Good News? [co-edited with S.E. Porter; Wipf & Stock, 2018], and numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on various New Testament topics.
Billy Graham. Just as I Am: An Autobiography of Billy Graham (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997); Vernon McLellan. Billy Graham: A Tribute from Friends (New York: Warner, 2002); John Pollack. Crusades: 20 Years with Billy Graham (Minneapolis: World Wide, 1969); Unpublished Biographical Paper on Billy Graham (CH422 Church History since 1500; Taylor Seminary; 23 August 2008).
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