The world’s best-known evangelist was born in 1918. He has preached to more people than any person in history. More than 3.2 million have responded to his invitation to make Christ their Savior and Lord. His lifetime audience exceeds 2.2 billion; he has known personally every president since Harry Truman.
No one would have predicted such success for him as a boy. Growing up on a dairy farm in North Carolina, he was known more for mischief than spirituality. His conversion at the age of 16 during a summer revival made no headlines. He went to Bible college, but not seminary. He pastored only one small church before beginning his evangelistic work.
What explains his amazing ministry?
I will never forget the time I met Dr. Graham. I was privileged to lead a delegation from Dallas-Ft. Worth to invite him to conduct a Mission in our area. A picture of our handshake hangs in my study; I can see it as I type these words. I have never experienced such godliness, or such humility.
The back cover of his autobiography proves my point: “I have often said that the first thing I am going to do when I get to Heaven is to ask, ‘Why me, Lord? Why did You choose a farmboy from North Carolina to preach to so many people, to have such a wonderful team of associates, and to have a part in what You were doing in the latter half of the twentieth century?’ I have thought about that question a great deal, but I know also that only God knows the answer.”
I think Dr. Graham’s wife knew the answer as well. A few years ago, Janet and I visited the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Illinois. There were quotes from statesmen, presidents, and kings. But the statement that most struck us came from his wife. Ruth Bell Graham said of her husband, “He was a man in a hurry who wanted to please God more than any man I’d ever met! . . . He stood head and shoulders above all the others because of the depth of his commitment to Jesus Christ. I knew I would always be second to God in his life. But what better place to be!”
In our self-promoting, consumer culture, humility is a sign of true greatness. Its supreme example is found in a Bethlehem manger, where God became one of us that we might be one with him. John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30).
How will you follow his example today?