Billy Graham was an evangelical evangelist who preached the gospel and saw many thousands of people come to Christ through his ministry. Though I have not been a supporter of his new-evangelical ecumenicalism, I have always been thankful for many things about his life and ministry. It will be interesting to see how America today handles the memory of Billy Graham and his preaching. It is easy to praise a man after he is incapacitated or has passed away. In many ways today America would not tolerate the evangelical message of salvation only in Jesus Christ, i.e., the Christian message being the ONLY way to God and that through a personal faith in Jesus Christ. But I think we will see them paying lip service to it over the next few days.
Most evangelicals today would not be able to handle the “old fashioned” style of the Billy Graham Crusade, with its hymn singing and choirs, with George Beverly Shea singing How Great Thou Art, and especially with its public invitation to accept Christ right now, and perhaps even with Graham’s condemnation of sexual and moral sins. It should be known or remembered that Graham was not the inventor of the crusade method that he used. Many of us grew up hearing many evangelists preach in tents and large venues and give public invitations. My own pastor, John Rawlings, who also died a few years ago at 99, preached this way all of his life. As a fundamentalist, I am also reminded that in those days there was a stronger ability to stand against the ecumenicalism of the Graham Crusades and even that was more tolerated among evangelicals and fundamentalists than it would be today. Sadly, we are also seeing that methodology (calling evil good and good evil) bear fruit in the evangelical world.
But I am also quick to compliment Billy Graham for a number of things for which I am thankful. First, that there are, and will be, thousands of people in heaven because of his message of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. I know many of them personally. I am thankful that he kept himself clean from moral, financial, and other public failures that seems to have plagued many public religious figures of his day. I am thankful that he made the public invitation acceptable, something which helped all of us who give invitations. Many today who will praise his ministry will never themselves give a public invitation. And I am thankful that even today, the day of his death, many television watchers will hear in his preaching again, maybe in old black and white scenes, the message that salvation is only in Jesus Christ. He being dead yet speaketh, at least for the next few days.
In my life and ministry over the last fifty years, I could not support the ecumenicalism of Billy Graham. But I can rejoice in a message of Jesus Christ and I am thankful for that.