Dr. Billy Graham has gone to heaven to be in the presence of the Lord. As he receives his rest for faithful service to his Lord, we celebrate Dr. Graham’s legacy of humble, open-hearted, unabashed evangelism.
Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church Mission and Evangelism, and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. He shares how Billy Graham changed the face of evangelistic outreach.
“He united together the idea that evangelicals should be focused on a common sense of mission; that’s key for of evangelicalism, showing and sharing the love of Jesus. But then he also refocused Christians on the gospel. If there’s any way to honor Billy Graham’s legacy, it’s for us to to get focused on Billy Graham’s ultimate passion: we need to be focused on showing and sharing the love of Christ. I think that matters the most.”
One of the first steps to becoming more ‘evangelically-minded’ is to reach out in kindness toward others. Graham consistently reflected how much he cared for the people he met, saying
“It’s God’s job to judge, the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, and my job to love.”
Ed expands on Billy Graham’s heart for evangelism.
“In a world where evangelicals are focusing in on so many things, I love that Billy Graham put the ‘evangel’ or good news back in ‘evangelical.’ I think the most loving thing we could do at this moment is to not to focus on so many shiny bright things, saying ‘look over here! Focus on this!’ Instead, Billy thought that what’s going to last for a very long time, what’s going to change everything, is ultimately the work of Christ.”
One of the ways Billy Graham was so effective at sharing the Gospel was his use of technology and mass communication which includes founding what would become Faith Radio.
“Billy Graham was a great user of tools. Think about him starting this radio ministry. His passion for what he was doing carried over different technologies. Billy Graham actually pioneered Christian film…films like “The Hiding Place:” we know the Corrie Ten Boom story from him. We know Joni Eareckson Tada from him. He goes from radio to television and then internet and more; the Billy Graham Association has one of the largest internet ministries out there today. Again, Billy Graham knew that the Gospel needed to be proclaimed through many different means and places, and he would just seek for opportunities to do that.”
As the world remembers Billy Graham’s legacy of crowded Crusades and praying with presidents and rulers, Ed says the best way Christians can remember ‘America’s Pastor’ is by dedicating their lives to the same mission.
“What Billy Graham did is what Billy Graham would want us all to do. That is not as popular today. We can look at how awesome Billy Graham is but what’s far more awesome about Billy Graham is the message that he shared. Some people like it when we share that message today. Let’s remember what Billy Graham’s legacy really is about: he used words to tell the good news of the Gospel to a world that needed to hear those words.”
“Thank God for all things he cared for: he spoke up on issues, he talked about apartheid being doomed, he wouldn’t preach to a segregated audience in Alabama when when it with life-threatening, he bailed M.L.K. out of jail–amazing things. We should celebrate that, but as Christians, we also have to participate in sharing the Good News of the gospel. I think ultimately that’s where Graham’s legacy matters most.”
Ed Stetzer is a researcher, author, pastor and church-planter. He holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism.How Billy Graham changed Evangelism- Ed Stetzer