“God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with.” This quote from famed evangelist Billy Graham emphasizes that we are to receive God’s grace and distribute it throughout the whole world to as many people as possible. Over the course of his life, Billy Graham has had an incalculable impact on Christianity and on the world as we know it. He is reputed to have personally preached to more people than anyone else in history in person let alone those he has reached over television and radio.
On November 7, 1918, in Charlotte, North Carolina, William Franklin Graham Jr. was born to William and Morrow Graham who were devout Calvinists. At the age of 16, Graham attended several revival meetings held by Mordecai Ham, whose sermons on sin spoke to Billy in a way he had never felt before. Intrigued by this message, he eventually became disillusioned with the rigid doctrine of his former style of faith and went to school at Florida Bible Institute. It was here Graham joined a Southern Baptist Convention Church and was ordained in 1939. Graduating with a bachelor’s in theology, Billy then enrolled in Wheaton College to receive further spiritual training. It was here he met his future wife Ruth McCue. They were married on August 13, 1943.
Graham’s first experience at being a pastor came with the First Baptist Church in Western Springs Illinois. He soon left the church, however, and joined with an organization called Youth for Christ who spoke to returning soldiers and young men and women regarding Christ. Eventually God led him to become the president of the Northwestern Schools in 1947 which caused him to resign from Youth for Christ in 1948. In 1952, Billy resigned from his position to focus on preaching.
Billy’s first chance to preach in front of a large audience came in 1949, when he was invited to preach a revival sermon in L.A. After news that Graham was preaching at the revival spread through a radio talk show, so many people attended that the revival was extended by an additional five weeks, with each sermon closely followed by papers around the country. Graham’s popularity in the Christian community skyrocketed, his influence so palpable it is believed to be one of the major influences on America’s post-WWII culture. One of Graham’s more popular topics during this time was his outspoken opinions on the evils of communism.
Eventually, Billy’s ministry grew and he moved to televangelism. He and his colleagues formed the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). Radio sermons, television shows, and live sermons were all heavily attended and watched by people around the world. As Billy’s success and following grew, international BGEA offices appeared around the world to hold sermons, choirs, and venues in places that had not yet received Christ. Through these efforts, thousands upon thousands of people came to Christ. Eventually, these “crusades” were televised, and testimonies from people saved at these conventions were distributed to many different people. BGEA also began their own magazines, Decision, as well as Christianity Today, which were translated into many different languages.
Throughout his career, Billy Graham has received much criticism for what he has done. Some think his message is too liberal, others too simplistic, and one man, Bob Jones, even commented that Graham has done “more harm to the cause of Jesus Christ than any other living man.” Despite these comments, Billy Graham is seen by most in an overwhelmingly positive light. He is regarded as the one mega-evangelist who did it right. Unlike many others such as Jim Bakker, Joel Osteen, and Jimmy Swaggart, he simply preached the gospel and did not get caught up in the fame and the potential for financial success.
Billy Graham is undoubtedly one of the most influential Christian figures in the history of the world. Through his implacable morals, to his unflinching beliefs about Christ and Christianity, Billy Graham has led millions around the world to Christ. His influence will forever be felt in Christian life and his work will continue to lead people around the world to Christ until He Himself comes back.