A year has passed since Billy Graham died on Feb. 21, 2018. I can’t help but think the world is worse off whenever a man of God dies; true believers have the light of Christ in them and when that light is removed, the world becomes a little darker.
Like most, I had always been impressed with Dr. Graham’s gentle spirit and devoted love for mankind. I also appreciated his pioneering use of broadcast and film media. He knew radio, TV and movies could be effective tools for addressing our spiritual needs.
Long ago, Dr. Graham began preaching on radio and then moved into television where his crusades were broadcast to tens of millions. Though some were upset that he would go on “secular” shows, he wisely did. He appeared on the hits of the day, including “The Jack Paar Show” and “The Jack Benny Program.” TV pioneer Paar once asked him, “Are you criticized for coming on this show?” Billy good naturedly responded, “There are some who criticize me, but I always tell them, ‘Well, Christ went among the publicans and sinners, so I guess I can come on The Jack Parr Show.’”
In 1969, Graham even went on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.”
Now, for those unfamiliar with Laugh-In, this hip, fast-moving weekly hour of sight gags, one-liners, short skits and sometimes bawdy humor was groundbreaking television. Laugh-In humorously took on political and social issues, while changing the pace and content of comedy shows forever. Dr. Graham appeared on the last show of the second season.
This guest spot must have raised many a pew-sitter’s eyebrow, but Rev. Graham had a mission: to deliver a short message from John 3:16 on the highest-rated TV program of the day. I have it in my personal film and TV library; trust me, it’s amazing. The regulars paid him respect and the Holy Spirit obviously guided him as he reminded viewers of the need for Jesus Christ in their lives. Just amazing.
Let’s not forget his association with the motion picture industry. World Wide Pictures is an innovative production company and film distributor, established as a subsidiary of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. WWP has presented evangelistic movies in churches and movie theaters since 1953, with an estimated 2 million decisions for Christ as a result of those films – well, as a result of the Holy Spirit through those films.
Many of World Wide’s productions are available on DVD and I highly recommend the following: “The Climb,” “Joni,” “A Vow to Cherish,” “Something to Sing About,” “The Hiding Place” and “Road to Redemption.”
Several TV and film presentations have spotlighted Billy Graham and his ministry, the most recent being “Billy Graham: An Extraordinary Journey,” now available on DVD and digital HD, and I wholeheartedly recommend it for family viewing.
What truly stands out in this documentary is the clear depiction of Billy Graham’s love for the lost. What’s more, his example can uplift our own daily walk or ministry. Viewing the film reminds us of what God can do with a life completely surrendered to Him.
That’s really the point of this piece – God can and will use a yielded heart. Not everyone will preach to coliseums full of people, as Dr. Graham did – but we are reminded in 1 Corinthians 12 that the whole body of Christ is made up of many parts. The chapter further explains: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.” He uses all His children for the furthering of His Kingdom.
For more than 60 years, Billy Graham preached the gospel around the world to an estimated 215 million people through 400 crusades and evangelistic rallies that were simulcast in more than 185 countries and territories. On top of that, he became a trusted spiritual adviser to many U.S. presidents and world leaders.
Don’t let that intimidate your Christian walk or work for Christ. I believe when Billy Graham first got to heaven, God wasn’t awed by Billy’s earthly ministry (or numbers), but pleased by his faith in Jesus. This, Billy Graham shares with many souls who aren’t so famous.
While we are humbled by Dr. Graham’s accomplishments, let’s remember, man sees the deeds of others, but God sees the intent of the heart. Our ministries are as important as Dr. Graham’s because they were given to us by God.
I look forward to befriending Billy Graham in heaven. That said, from a peek into the character of God through the scriptures, I’ve come to the conclusion that it will be an equal pleasure meeting everyone there, for we will regard one another through the loving eyes of Jesus.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Phil Boatwright is the author of MOVIES: The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Really Bad available on Amazon.com.)