I had only been married for four months in 1976 when Billy Graham came to the Pontiac Silverdome for a crusade, something those events were called back then. That huge stadium holding 80,000 people, was the home at the time of the typically hapless Detroit Lions, who God knew could certainly use all the prayer and religion they could get, even vicariously. Apparently it didn’t help.
Nonetheless, I was excited to attend this historic event near where I lived at the time. I was also there to serve as one of the counselors for those who would come during Billy’s famous altar call/invitations. It was an incredible, hard-to-believe scene, even for a 26-year-old newlywed, seeing the stadium quickly filled with people beforehand. More amazing was the rapt attention given to every component of the evening and then the thousands who flocked to the field in response to his invitation to receive Christ.
I remember thinking, How is this happening? Why would so many come and then respond as they have? My only answer at the time and still is now is that God was there and these were holy moments ordained for that time and through a man everyone called ‘Billy.'” I truly think we were standing on holy ground.
Will such a personal and accompanying phenomena occur again? Maybe. Nothing is too difficult for God. But I doubt it. Our culture has changed. People respond, connect and communicate in very new ways today. God is still at work but through other means.
But the man bold enough to be used in this way and sadly, to be criticized perhaps most by other Christians much of the time, is now gone. He actually quit preaching over a decade ago, his health failing, but He has now had a face to face encounter with the one, Jesus, who He proclaimed so valiantly! Wouldn’t that have been something to see? Will Heaven have instant replay or On Demand?
Somehow, I have to believe Dr. Graham has already heard those famous Biblical words, Well done, thou good and faithful servant.
I do find myself wondering what his long-time critics, ones who questioned his leadership, theology, acquaintances and teaching style among other things for decades from pulpits, college chapels and popular periodicals, are saying today. I will be saddened, even angry to hear more of what has been for the most part pompous rhetoric void of its own evangelistic fervor, strategies or commitments in sharing the Gospel, even if Billy’s vehicle and organization might have been at times flawed.
But think about it.
What Christian has known and impacted more U.S. Presidents than Billy Graham? Lyndon Johnson, likely not on Billy’s side of a lot of issues, requested that Billy officiate at his funeral at his Western White House. He did.
What person, including most U.S. Presidents, has had more meaningful, deep, eternity-focused relationships with world leaders than Billy Graham?
Who in the last 150 years has had a helping hand in more personal decisions for Christ than Billy Graham?
Many of those who were criticizing Dr. Graham in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s or later have themselves passed on. I hope that their heavenly re-connection with Billy will put aside the past and joyfully become a rich discussion and thankfulness for God’s faithfulness to them all. Those who remain I trust have mellowed.
You see I don’t think Billy Graham ever wavered from the unchangeable truths of the Gospel. But more importantly He never wavered from his love of an unchangeable God and Savior who he knew always was far smarter than him.
Perhaps one of Billy’s famous quotes says it best: Knowing we will be with Christ forever far outweighs our burdens today! Keep your eyes on eternity.!” And he is doing that today.