Three evangelists reflect on the late Billy Graham

 
Tim Thornborough | February 21st 2018

It seems like everyone knows someone who was converted through the ministry of Billy Graham. The trickle down effect is awe-inspiring. Just think of the untold numbers of generations upon generations who have been impacted by the preaching of this dairy farmer from North Carolina.

And perhaps none more so than the evangelists ploughing the same fields today. Here, three of them reflect on Billy Graham who has just died aged 99. 

 

Peter Woodcock: Evangelist and pastor, London

When I was first converted and started to preach, I listened repeatedly to a couple of Billy Graham's full sermons from the 1960s; they were powerful and direct. I loved the fire and the passion in the early days. I remember thinking: he spoke like a prophet — he was calling people to turn from sin and trust Jesus. But he was also a dignified man who clearly wasn’t in it for money or fame. There was a deep humility about him. I thought Billy was magnificently simple. He taught me to just preach the cross. I had a friend who did a tour of Russia with him who said to me: “Whether he had 30 seconds or 3 hours with someone, he would always share the gospel with them."

 

Rico Tice: Evangelist at Christianity Explored, London

Three things that have always impressed me about “Big Billy”.

1. His "Modesto Manifesto" which was the requirement for personal purity he demanded in both himself and his team—for example, always keeping the door open if there was a meeting with a woman. There was a real insistence on godly behaviour.

2. "The stone of witness” which was a turning point in his own ministry. He laid his Bible on a stone and said to God: “I am trusting this book to be your word, I know I have questions about it, but I am going to preach it as your word." That transparent and obvious belief that the Bible is God’s word was what gave him such incredible power in his preaching. 

3. Having done missions myself I was so impressed by his endurance. It is exhausting to preach evangelistically. And yet Billy did it night after night after night.

 

Glen Scrivener: Evangelist, Eastbourne, UK

I was working as a ministry associate at All Souls Langham Place, and was working my way through the tape library. I listened to a number of Billy’s sermons on repeat on my walkman when I was hoovering the church. And then when no-one else was around, I walked into the pulpit that he had preached from, and delivered some of his lines myself: A sermon on 1 Corinthians 1 has stayed with me: “Why is the cross an offence to man; because it stands to condemn him in his sin.” It was the authority of his preaching that stood out for me: declaring the truth by someone who meant what they were saying, it just connects with people. He spoke the truth as though heaven and hell depend on it. Today, sadly, comedians like Russell Brand and psychologists like Jordan Peterson seem to be filling the gap left by preachers. 

 

Billy Graham (1918-2018).

Tim Thornborough

Tim Thornborough is the Creative Director at The Good Book Company. He is series editor of Explore Bible-reading notes, and has contributed to many books published by the Good Book Company and others. He is married to Kathy and has three teenage daughters and a boy.