As Billy Graham, age 94, gears up for his final major outreach, evangelicals reflect on the impact he has made on them individually and for the movement, and anticipate hearing him one more time. The April Evangelical Leaders Survey showed that nearly half of the leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals (44 percent) have met Billy Graham, and 73 percent have attended a Billy Graham crusade.
“The evangelical resurgence in America has been centered around Billy Graham,” NAE President Leith Anderson said. “He communicated the gospel of Jesus Christ for everyone. Never about politics, ambition, money or power. Just about Jesus.”
Many evangelical leaders, like Paul Cedar, offered heartfelt praise of Billy Graham when they responded to the Evangelical Leaders Survey. “Billy Graham has been and is one of my spiritual heroes of the faith!” said Cedar, Chairman of the Mission America Coalition, who worked with Billy Graham as a crusade associate and director.
Bill Lenz, Senior Pastor of Christ the Rock Community Church, in Menasha, Wis., shared that his life was a mess before he saw Billy Graham preaching on TV in September 1975. “It was the first time I understood the gospel,” he said. Ever since that day when he turned his life over to Christ, Lenz wanted to meet Graham. Last year at a planning meeting for Graham’s final outreach, “My Hope America with Billy Graham,” Lenz had the opportunity to shake Graham’s hand and personally thank him for leading him to Christ.
Graham’s My Hope event is slated for November 2013, and will center on Christians inviting neighbors and friends to their homes to watch videos featuring Billy Graham, music and testimonies. Graham is taping a new message for the My Hope series, which the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) is framing as Graham’s last public event. Greg Johnson, NAE board member and President of Standing Together, is assisting the BGEA with outreach for the event. “My Hope is going to be an awesome national outreach that will help many people discover the grace and wonder of Jesus Christ.”
Graham is credited with preaching the gospel to nearly 215 million, not including those reached by his robust television, radio, video and print ministries. Twelve U.S. presidents have sought his counsel, and he is regularly named to Gallup’s “Ten Most Admired Men in the World.”
Anderson said, “Billy Graham has influenced American faith more than anyone else in the last century; perhaps, more than anyone else in American history.”
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.