There’s an outpouring of love going on right now for Rev. Billy Graham, who may be about to do his last crusade, in New York City. Mentions by Mike Todd, Steven Shields, and Andrew Jones (HT’s all around, in the order I saw their posts). Relevant links include a Christianity Today article, a New York Times article (FRR, or use BugMeNot.com), and a Tribute Song with Intro by Bono (Quicktime clip). Of the video, Mike Todd aptly said, “This is the way I choose to remember the apex of the modern era of Christendom. What a servant, what a saint.” Billy Graham was on Larry King for the 24th time this past Friday, perhaps his final one there too. I missed it, but quite enjoyed reading the online transcript. Graham’s is definitely a life well lived (Larry King also uses this phrase), and he’s clearly ready to move on from this life, actually looking forward to it.
Billy Graham is probably, no, easily among the greatest evangelical preachers of the 20th century. And he simply sticks to his message, not getting baited by other hot-button issues which may be important, but aren’t his work. He delivered diplomatic messages to North Korea and was a friend to many world leaders, perhaps more than any other church leader in the past 100 years, save perhaps the reigning Popes. Despite the centrality of his gospel message for more than 50 years, he speaks well of other religions, refusing to say or speculate who’s going to Hell and who isn’t; after 9/11 he asked to be taken straight from the airport to the local mosque to show his support. All this with extraordinary humility, exhibiting quite a generous orthodoxy. Read the Larry King transcript for more.
He’s spoken live to more people than anyone else in history, some 210 Million people… so to hear him in person isn’t exactly unique, but it can be memorable. I heard him speak live-and-in-person at Urbana 87, where he spoke on Isaiah 6, which he called one of the ten greatest chapters in scripture. There are a few things about that evening… one is that I never looked at Isaiah 6 the same way ever again. Another is what happened when he took the platform following his introduction… something I will never forget. After being introduced, as he walked to the podium and before he reached it, all 20,000 people in the building gave him a standing ovation before he ever said a word to us that evening. It was a powerful moment, and when the applause finally died down and people began seating themselves, he responded in the most characteristic manner you could possibly imagine: “My old nature appreciates that.”