During his last “crusade,” held in New York City in 2005, Billy Graham, America’s great pastor-evangelist, declared: “I have one message: that Jesus Christ came, he died on a cross, he rose again, and he asked us to repent of our sins and receive Christ by faith as Lord and Savior, and if we do we have forgiveness of all our sin.”
On February 21, 2018, Billy Graham passed away. He was 99 years old. In his autobiography, he had written that “the first question I am going to ask when I get to heaven is this: Why me, Lord, why did you choose me, a farm boy from North Carolina, to preach to so many people, . . . and to have a part in what You were doing in the latter half of the twentieth century?” He believed that “only God” knew the answer to that question.
Billy Graham repeatedly and sincerely gave credit to the Lord for any good that came from his ministry. But a brief remembrance of Graham’s spiritual background and message does shed light on other factors that shaped his career.
In his lengthy evangelistic ministry, Graham called upon his audiences to repent of their sins, accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, and be born again. Graham reminded his audiences that everyone has sinned and is going to die some day and answer to a Holy God for those sins. He urged his audience to get right with God before it was too late. In his crusade “invitations,” he called upon them to come just as they were to Christ.
Now Billy Graham has passed away, or as he said, “changed my address and gone into the presence of the Lord.” In doing so, he has joined the ranks of the greatest evangelical preachers, along with Dwight L. Moody, George Whitefield, and John Wesley.
Rest in peace, Billy Graham. You served the Lord faithfully and upon reaching heaven’s gates, undoubtedly received the Lord’s welcoming commendation: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
John D. Woodbridge is research professor of church history and the history of Christian thought at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.