This is Pastor Tim’s article which appeared in the Evening Leader on Tuesday, Nov 7, 2023
The date on which this article will be published in the newspaper is November 7. On this same date in 1918, a great man was born in Charlotte, NC. His name was William Franklin Graham Jr., better known as Billy Graham, and he is as close to a Protestant saint as we have had in these modern times.
Billy Graham was arguably the last prominent Christian figure who was universally recognized. His impactful revival services were referred to as crusades. With a distinctive southern drawl, a well-worn Bible, and a simple message about God’s love as expressed through Jesus Christ, he reached countless individuals.
Billy Graham passed away in 2018, just a few months shy of his 100th birthday. When considering all that has transpired since 2018, one could make a compelling argument that we sorely miss his influence.
Graham had regular meetings with presidents, offering them counsel. When he arrived in a city for a revival service, professional sports stadiums were routinely filled to standing room only. I had the privilege of being part of one of Graham’s last crusades when he visited Cincinnati in 2002. I served as a field leader, overseeing a team of trained counselors who prayed with those who stepped forward during the altar call.
On one memorable night, a member of my team urgently approached me. There was a woman seeking to escape an abusive relationship. At that time, I was a wide-eyed and sheltered kid in my mid-20s. While I had seen signs of abuse in controlled environments before, it was different to witness it out in the world. That night, I was her last line of defense. I hope she was sincere in her determination to leave the abusive situation and that she made use of the resources I provided as she departed.
What Billy Graham said that night deeply resonated with that woman, and I have never forgotten it. She had come to the stadium hoping to hear something she had rarely heard in her life, and no one conveyed it quite like Graham. He did this for millions of people over the decades he spent spreading the Gospel.
Every aspiring preacher of my generation and older aimed to be the next Billy Graham, not for fame or power, but for the profound impact he had. The crusade I attended was held at the then-new Paul Brown Stadium. Over two decades have passed, and I still remember the palpable feeling of being there. It was a sensation you could feel in your chest. A dynamic speaker can move a congregation, but this was something more profound. It wasn’t just the impact of a good point; it was the spiritual experience of being moved by the power of God.
As I write this article, I reflect on who the new Billy Graham might be. Graham’s last crusade was in New York in 2005, and there hasn’t been anyone quite like him since. It’s essential to understand why there hasn’t been another Billy Graham. Billy Graham, while a gifted speaker and deeply knowledgeable about the Bible, was not inherently special. There are several pastors in our town who possess those qualifications. What Billy Graham had that no one has replicated since is the love and support of millions of people.
The error lies in believing that Billy Graham created the movement; it’s quite the opposite. The movement created Billy Graham.
As Christians, we often anticipate another leader like Graham to emerge, but that’s not how Billy Graham came about. What we must do is initiate the movement, and God will provide the leader. What Billy Graham accomplished was the result of countless prayers, numerous participants, incredible gifts, selfless service, and extravagant generosity. It was this movement that gave Billy Graham the influence and opportunity to sit down with presidents, address dire circumstances, and impact the world at large. It was the many names you may not know that gave a humble individual from North Carolina, William Franklin Graham Jr., the chance to become Billy Graham.
If, like me, you believe that we need another Billy Graham, then it’s incumbent on the church in our time to launch a movement that will propel a leader like him to the forefront.