Billy Graham was probably one of the first evangelists to use that new social media known as television. I remember watching with a certain sense of awe as hundreds of people left their seats in a huge auditorium, making their way to the stage upon Dr. Graham’s invitation to give their lives over to Jesus Christ, as ‘Just As I Am’ was playing in the background. Even watching on TV, it was seriously impressive.
Impact: to influence, alter the course of something (or more importantly, someone.) Yup, that pretty well describes Billy Graham’s ministry. Funny to think that he touched more lives during his lifetime than Jesus did during His own. And yet, who had the most impact?
I remember hearing Dr. Graham say (and I paraphrase) that once in Heaven, he expected to pick up the angelic newspaper, and there might be a short paragraph about Billy Graham somewhere at the bottom of page 12 or so. But the frontpage headlines are going to be about some unknown (to us) missionary stationed in Africa. That’s how Heaven sees things, because God’s perspective is far more realistic than ours.
Reading some of Paul’s letters might lead us to believe that he, too, was seen as a bit of a mediocre player compared with more sensational ministries of his day:
“…we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart….So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! “ (1)
In other places we read where “competing ministries” (talk about an oxymoron!) were trying to get a leg up from Paul while he was in prison. He talks about how one church loving received him even though he may have had some kind of physical impairment. In another part he calls himself an “unskilled speaker”. Yeah, he had to deal with human sparkle and glitz without the sincerity of Christ’s love, even back then.
We may have technology, but we really haven’t changed much, have we?
So I doubly appreciate Dr. Graham’s humility and perspective. I feel as though God told me that whether He’s chosen me to lead thousands in worship or to scrub toilets with a toothbrush, I am to do it with the same passion for Him. Or perhaps to use a little less hyperbole, by the grace and favor of God, I will have the influence and impact on those He chooses, at whatever level He chooses, and whenever He chooses. Due diligence in the task, leaving the outcome to His care. Or in the immortal words of the old hymn:
“All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give…I surrender all.” (2)
Shoot, I’d be happy for a sentence or two next to Billy Graham’s!
- 2 Corinthians 5: 12,16 Tyndale House Publishers Inc (2008-06-01). The One Year Bible NLT (One Year Bible: Nlt Book 2) (Kindle Locations 28580-28588). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- I Surrender All, by Judson W. Van DeVenter, 1896, Public Domain