We saw the outpouring of love and respect shown for him in the week following his death, both in Charlotte, North Carolina, his birthplace, and in the capitol in Washington D.C.
Despite his advanced age and his years of growing seclusion, the public had not forgotten him. Who Billy Graham was and how he would be remembered shone through most clearly at his funeral on Friday, March 2, 2018.
It is reported that 2800 invitations were sent out and more than 2000 invitees were able to be there, coming from as far away as South Korea.
Held in a large tent, erected on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library near his reconstructed childhood home in Charlotte, North Carolina, the funeral was joyful, reflecting in several ways the faith in Christ that Billy Graham, his deceased wife, Ruth, and the larger family connection shared openly.
The Gospel of the world’s Savior and its wonderful promise of eternal life for believers was celebrated at the funeral both in personal testimony, prayer, song, and Scripture reading. There was laughter and there were tears, all undergirded by the Christian hope of life everlasting.
How did Billy Graham’s journey begin? There is on record a certificate of his graduation from the beginners Sunday School class of the Graham family’s church when he was six years of age, so he had the advantage of early Christian training.
Still, he had to have his own awakening to saving grace through faith and at 16 years of age Graham had a decisive conversion to Christ under the ministry of evangelist Mordecai Ham. His interest in church that had been flagging was clearly awakened.
Later, during a late night walk around a golf course near where he was attending Bible school he prostrated himself at the eighteenth hole and answered yes to God’s call to full time ministry.
His consequent worldview must surely be attributed to his deep faith commitment to Biblical truth, grounded in the staunch Presbyterian upbringing of his early years. His adult framework for life was wholesomely moral but not moralistic.
Before his ministry developed, and after a serious struggle with the issue of the authority of the Bible, he committed himself to the Christian Scriptures — affirming their utter truthfulness and trustworthiness. The spot where that commitment was made while in California bears a marker.
He was an evangelist from the start of his ministry. His message was the Gospel of Jesus Christ, his Savior and Lord, preached with resonance and urgency.
His theme was God’s love for sinners, but within that framework he spoke with candor of Jesus’ warnings about the alternatives of heaven or hell, urgently calling sinners to repentance.
His commitment never varied or changed. His messages were punctuated constantly with the declaration, “the Bible says.”
He was not only an evangelist himself; his contributions to the cause of world evangelism are astounding: He was the founder of The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Decision Magazine, Christianity Today, The International Congress on World Evangelism and much more.
In reviewing his many contributions to the cause of Christian evangelism, one must ask, how can one person do so much?
From the start he preached the Gospel under the authority of the Scriptures and worked with a team; his team members kept their focus sharp and protected one another from compromising situations; his beloved wife, Ruth, supported him in his work wholeheartedly; he made himself accountable to a governing board; he did not handle or assign campaign funds personally.
Billy Graham’s grave is next to that of his wife, Ruth, near the entrance to the library bearing his name in Charlotte. The simple headstone of his grave bears his name, Billy Graham, and with it, these simple words to describe his life:
PREACHER OF THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. JOHN 14:6
Photo credit: Jessica Johnson (via flickr.com)