As I was driving to my hotel on a recent trip to Nashville, Tennessee for Connectional meetings, a billboard caught my eye. The billboard read “Gone Home. 1918-2018” and included a picture of the Rev. Billy Graham. At age 99, Rev. Graham joined the great cloud of witnesses and entered into the Church Triumphant.
Throughout this past month, I have been pondering the life and legacy of Graham, who will probably be known for generations to come as one of the world’s most revered spiritual leaders. As Graham traveled the world and encountered brokenness, his message never wavered. Wherever he visited, his desire, as he stated so clearly, was always to point people to and invite them to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Through his preaching and revivals, Graham reached more than 200 million people in 185 countries across the world, offering them hope and belief in something more than anything accessible in this earthly existence. I remember when my colleague, Charlie Gooden, organized a bus trip to the Cleveland stadium so that we might attend one of Billy Graham’s events. Open to all, a group of United Methodist men led the way for us to join thousands for a worship service that was unlike any other. It was invigorating and humbling to see hundreds of people came forward, near the end of the service, to the middle of a football field to answer the invitation and surrender all to Jesus.
For me, Rev. Billy Graham confirmed the truth that evangelism matters and offering Christ to others is a lifelong calling that should be celebrated. As Graham has said, “Our greatest contribution to world peace is to live with Christ every day.”
He lived a life that focused on creating spaces where disciples could be made and to know that that they were loved by Christ. In fact, I believe, Eugene Peterson might call Graham’s life “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction."
"For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." – I Corinthians 2: 2 (NIV)
Bishop Julius C. Trimble