Evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham has died at his home in North Carolina at age 99. Some of the most notable people within evangelical Christian circles remember Graham's impact.
Dr. Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary (Charlotte, NC) and former head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, believes that "if there were an evangelical Mt. Rushmore, Billy Graham would be the first person on it." He points out that Graham preached the gospel to more people than anyone else in the world and is responsible for the Lord leading millions of people to Christ.
"His legacy will be that he's the greatest preacher of the gospel in at least the last thousand years, and maybe the greatest preacher of the gospel since the Apostles," Dr. Land submits. "Evangelicalism is far, far more deeply rooted in the soil of the United States and all around the world because of the way in which God used Billy Graham."
The seminary president believes Billy Graham's greatest characteristic was perhaps his humility.
"You know, he means it when he says, 'When I get to heaven, the first question I'm going to ask is, Why me, God?' And I think it took someone with that kind of humility to be used the way God used Billy Graham," says Land. "Most mere mortals would have had their heads turned by the adulation that was heaped upon him, but not him."
Land knows personally of Billy Graham's reach, as his own father accepted Jesus as Savior at a 1950s Billy Graham crusade. So he credits Graham for his being raised in a Christian home.
"He would actually do this when he would have microphone checks before interviews. Instead of saying 'five, four, three, two, one' and something else, this is what he said, because it was his message: 'For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.' That was the message of Billy Graham. He was an intensely humble man. He loved the Lord and would do anything to see people come to Christ."
"The world has lost a great man, but those in Heaven are surely rejoicing in the homecoming of this good and faithful servant. Only God knows how many are there with him because of his ministry and how many more there will be. It seems trite to say he was a giant among men, but no one could doubt the truth of this statement."
"... [Billy] Graham was exceptional for not compromising gospel essentials in his proclamation while befriending countless nonbelievers who were impressed by the sincerity of his service to God and humanity. He never claimed to be more than he was, not a towering intellectual, but a rural North Carolinian dairy farmer's son summoned to preach. His gifts were courage, magnetism, savvy, perseverance, energy and, above all, faith. May the fruits of his labors be blessed for many more generations."
Graham also took the gospel to the White House on many occasions during his long life. David Aikman, author of Billy Graham: His Life and Influence, tells OneNewsNow the late evangelist's friendship with many American presidents is well documented. He describes Graham as one of the most significant evangelical preachers to ever live.
"I think the important thing about that is that Graham was the only man who managed to transcend partisan politics at the highest executive level in the United States and serve as a confidant and an encourager," Aikman states.
That goes back to Dwight Eisenhower, whom Graham baptized in the White House shortly after the 34th president's inauguration.
Aikman believes one of the reasons other parts of the world are overwhelmingly evangelical is because of Graham's crusades, though he does recall that the preacher was criticized by some in the press for attending a church peace conference in Moscow in 1983.
"Although the Soviets were trying to use that as a propaganda platform for their point of view, in fact, that led to all kinds of openings for Graham to visit countries in eastern Europe," the author notes.
Graham's impact there following 1983 is well recorded.
Aikman also recalls a crusade Graham held in depressed post-war England in 1954. It was so effective that when he returned in 1966, seated on the platform with him was a number of Anglican clergy, all of whom had been converted in the 1954 crusade.
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