“Daddy thinks the Lord will allow him to live to 95,” said Franklin Graham recently.
The Rev. Billy Graham
It was not a prophecy but a hope, Franklin explained, that he would live to see the beginning of a Christian renewal, a genuine heaven-sent revival in America. And so it was that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association invited pastors, theologians, and evangelical leaders from across the nation to unveil a new outreach emphasis called, “My Hope with Billy Graham.”
Franklin Graham’s introductory remarks and Billy Graham’s passionate plea that followed removed any cynical thoughts in the room that this might be a “send off ” for Billy Graham before he went home to heaven. The old gospel warrior’s words, pauses, inflections, and his aged faintness of voice all carried urgency and an unmistakably genuine, passionate concern that North America needed a powerful movement of God if we were to survive as a people.
This gathering was different, not just because so many got to hear Graham’s burdened plea for revival, but because before them was a man of God who is as committed to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ as he was in 1949.
“In that moment, as this elderly, grey-haired man in the wheelchair spoke,” wrote one of the pastors in attendance, Michael Milton, “I was no longer a minister and a seminary leader in a prestigious gathering with a veritable living chapter in the pages of Church history.
“I was an orphan boy from Louisiana on the edge of my seat at a football stadium and my heart was gripped by the simple, unforgettable, spiritually charged moment when I knew I was a sinner, that Hell was real, and that repentance and faith in the resurrected and soon coming Jesus Christ was the only hope.”
Throughout his ministry, Graham has proclaimed God’s Word with conviction and passion.
Marissa Burt of Seattle recently recalled how “When I was four – maybe five – years old, I went to see a movie. I don’t remember what it was or why the Gospel was presented at the movie theater, but I made a decision right after. I wanted to say that I believed in Jesus, and I wanted Him to come in my heart. Afterward, I remember receiving little comic books in the mail that helped me know more about Jesus.”
Of course, she had attended one of the many films that Graham’s organization produced over the years – all which ended with an altar call for theater-goers and an opportunity to fill out an information card so that a local church could follow up – and so the convert could
receive additional information in the mail.
Billy Graham in the 1980s
“Now, thirty years later, I want to say thank you for introducing me to the Lord,” wrote Melissa, “I belong to Him, and I can’t imagine my life without faith. Thank you for lifting up Jesus, the one who draws all people to himself.”
Graham in the 1990s
“It was the summer of ’63,” recalls Tommy Olive of San Angelo, Texas, “and I was thirteen and home alone that night. I turned on the TV and a live crusade was on. We only had one channel in San Angelo then, so I stayed tuned to the crusade. When Billy Graham asked if I would surrender my life to Christ, I did. I gave all I knew of me to God. I accepted Jesus as my savior. I ordered Decision magazine, but didn’t read much of anything. I didn’t have to back then. I do remember reading one article about the Bible and either it all being true or you couldn’t trust any of it. That made sense to me.
“At that time in my church I didn’t hear anything about getting saved, so I didn’t tell anyone. In hindsight, I think being a loner made my relationship with God go up and down over the next eight years. I was sincere and remember I would read the hymns we would sing each Sunday, almost studying them. I got most of my doctrine from them.
Four generations of Grahams
“Later I described my salvation as being in two parts. The first was emotional and the second intellectual. I truly gave all I knew to give at age thirteen. At 21, I realized that I didn’t fully give it all to Him. When I gave it all to Him, a new world opened. Scripture became alive and powerful.