Heroes of the Faith: Billy Graham
Billy Graham would have turned 100 on November 7th. So, in celebration of his birthday, we will join him as a hero of the Faith.
Billy Graham is considered America’s Pastor, the Great Legitimator and Pastor to the Presidents.
William Franklin Graham, Jr. was born on November 7, 1918 in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was the oldest of four children born to William Franklin and Morrow Coffey Graham. He grew up on a dairy farm.
In 1934, a sixteen-year-old Billy Graham went to a revival meeting led by Evangelist Mordecai Ham. He stated in his autobiography that it was during this time he gave his life to Christ.
In 1937, he entered the Florida Bible Institute and later preached his first sermon that same year. He received his call to the ministry as he later wrote “on the 18th green of the Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club”. He was ordained to the ministry in 1939 and graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois in
- During his time at Wheaton he met Ruth Bell, the daughter of missionaries to China. While in school he became pastor of the United Gospel Tabernacle Church.
On August 13, 1943, he married Ruth Bell. The couple would go on to have five children together, all of whom are in the ministry. Ruth often was left to raise the children, while her husband traveled the world to share the gospel.
In 1943, he became pastor of First Baptist Church in Western Springs, Illinois. Upon
discovering his friends radio program was about to be canceled, his church agreed to support him in taking over the program. The new program titled Songs in the Night launched on January 2, 1944. During this time he met and recruited bass-baritone George Beverly Shea as his director of radio ministry. A year later, Graham decided to move on and the radio program continued under new leadership.
In 1947, he was hired as president of Northwestern Bible College in Minneapolis. He served in this position until 1952, and at the time was the youngest sitting president of any U.S. college or university.
He also worked as a full time evangelist for Youth for Christ.
The first Billy Graham Crusade was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan in September 1947.
In 1949, he scheduled a series of revival meetings in Los Angeles. The crusades were scheduled to run for three weeks, but grew and lasted for eight weeks. He became a national figure during this time.
In 1950, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was founded and headquartered in Minneapolis.
Graham had a personal audience with President Harry S. Truman. He would meet with each president through Barack Obama. He was extremely close with Presidents Richard Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon.
His ministry as an evangelist began and continued to grow. Over the course of his career he conducted over 400 crusades in 185 countries. George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows were part of his team. The three men adopted the practice of not spending time alone with any woman other than their wives.
The BGEA ministries included the radio broadcast Hour of Decision, a syndicated newspaper column titled My Answer, Decision magazine and Christianity Today. The organization was also involved in youth discipleship programs and World Wide Pictures, which produced and
distributed more than 130 films. His crusades were often broadcast on television.
Billy Graham became friends with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr and even bailed him out of jail at one time. Privately, he would advise the civil rights leader. Graham also took a stance in 1957, towards integration in his crusades.
On October 15, 1989, Graham became the only minister to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Faith.
In 1992, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
In 1999, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina.
In 2001, Queen Elizabeth II awarded him an honorary knighthood.
In June 2005, Graham began what would be his last North American crusade. In March 2006, he held the Festival of Hope for those recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
In August 2005, ground was broken for his own library in Charlotte, North Carolina.
His son, Franklin Graham, followed him in running the Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusade.
On June 14, 2007, his beloved wife and help mate for over 65 years passed into glory. Ruth Graham was buried at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte.
Over the years, Graham published thirty-three books, including his autobiography Just As I Am.
He has received many honors and awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Ronald Reagan Freedom Award, and named as Greatest Living American or most admired person in many surveys.
Billy Graham made his last public appearance at his 95th birthday party. In celebration of his birthday, the BGEA published a new series My Hope and Dr. Graham preached one last message “The Cross” via video.
In his later years, his eyesight and hearing diminished, but family say he still had his mind. He was often visited by family and friends and his pastor, Dr. Don Wilton of First Spartanburg Baptist Church.
Billy Graham completed his life journey and went home to be with his Lord and Savior on Wednesday, February 21, 2018. He was buried beside his beloved wife, Ruth.
Over the years more than 3.2 million people are reported to have responded to his invitation to “accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior” at his crusades.
For his service to the ministry, thank you Dr. Graham lived a life of service to the Lord sharing the gospel and modeling how to live a life for the Lord.
Happy 100th Birthday in Heaven, Dr. Billy Graham!
“You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess.” Deuteronomy 5:33
“So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time.” Deuteronomy 4:40
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