What I like about Billy Graham

14 Nov

After watching these wonderful videos of Billy Graham and Woody Allen, I got thinking about how much I admire ol’ Billy. I don’t know what it is about him…his wit, his faith, his humor, his charm, his simplicity? I don’t know.

He is towards the end of his life and I just think we are going to lose a precious gift when he dies. People have asked who will take his place. Who will fill his shoes? It is certainly not T.D. Jakes or Joel Osteen. Really, I don’t think anyone can fill his shoes. Billy Graham is a one of kind.

Watch these videos and then read my thoughts below. This interview aired in 1969. (Thanks Todd for posting these on MMI!)

Seven Things I Like about Billy Graham

1) His love for Jesus
Billy was accustomed to calling Jesus by the title “Christ.” I heard it said that people call Jesus by his title “Christ” when they know something about him, but if you truly knew Jesus, you call him by his given name, “Jesus.” I don’t think this is the case for Billy Graham. He may have used the title “Christ,” when referring to Jesus, but I think there was (and is) a deep abiding love for Jesus with Billy. Whenever I have heard Billy Graham whether in an interview or preaching a sermon, he always talks about Jesus the Christ.

2) His dedication to preaching the gospel
Billy Graham dedicated his life to proclaiming the life, death, burial, resurrection and soon return of Jesus. I remember hearing Billy Graham on TV at Nixon’s funeral. Even in that setting he was preaching the gospel. I remember (and repeat at the funerals I preach at) Billy saying, “For the Christian there is hope after death. For those who put faith in Christ there is the promise of the resurrection.”

3) His commitment to the authority of Scripture
Even in this interview, Billy appeals to the Scripture. I like the way he says, “Scripture.” It reveals his Southern roots. He has that “ah” sound on the end of the word. He pronounces it “Scriptu-AH” instead of “Scriptu-ER.” No matter how you say it, the authority of the Scripture has kept the Church on target. Billy’s sermons are always filled with “the Bible says….” What a powerful example to follow.

4) His humility
I appreciate that Billy never allowed his popularity or success to be marketed or commercialized. Most people cannot name a book that Billy wrote, although he has written several. (I have an original 1953 copy of Peace with God in my library.) There is no Billy Graham board game, Billy Graham Study Bible, Billy Graham journal with matching Billy Graham pen. There is just Billy and his love for God. Even though Billy Graham has preached to more people than any other human being in history, he remains humble.

5) His knack for engaging culture
Billy never seemed to be afraid to engage culture. He embraced the Jesus Movement in the 70s and included Christian rock/pop in his crusades. He went on TV with Woody Allen for goodness sake! The thing about his interview with Woody Allen is that he seemed just as comfortable with Woody Allen as he would be with a bunch of preachers. What a great example.

6) His ecumenical spirit
Billy was raised Presbyterian, but spent most of his ministry years as a Southern Baptist. Nevertheless, he was a tremendous bridge builder between various denominations. He was even able to bring Catholics and protestants together for his evangelistic events. He never compromised his convictions. He never wavered on the exclusivity of Jesus or the inspiration of the Scriptures. Yet he would join hands with Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Nazarenes, Anglicans, Presbyterians…anyone who loved Jesus and preached the gospel.

7) His work towards racial harmony
During the tumultuous 60s, he refused to hold segregated crusade meetings. He did meet with civil rights leaders, but he worked to bring racial harmony through action and not politics. It seems that all Christians – white or black, Catholic or protestant – can look to Billy as a hero. I certainly do.

My friend Santosh Ninan wrote an article on Billy Graham in Relevant Magazine a couple of years ago. Read the article here.


Posted by on November 14, 2007 in Ministry


5 responses to “What I like about Billy Graham

  1. Santosh

    November 14, 2007 at 11:59 am

    What struck me was the ease in which Graham handled Allen’s little jabs. He had a real gift of charismatic communication.

    Hey – have you read any Alan Hirsch – check out my latest post,

  2. Derek Vreeland

    November 14, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    Yeah…Billy seemed so relaxed and rolled with every punch Woody Allen threw at him.

    I haven’t read any Hirsch, but I will check out your post.


  3. camey

    November 16, 2007 at 12:17 am

    Thanks for those thoughts on Billy, Derek.

  4. OPM

    November 27, 2007 at 9:20 am


    I always appreciate your thoughtful posts. I too, have always valued Graham’s living testimony through his years of ministry.

    However, most recently, as I was perusing youtube for videos much like the ones posted, I stumbled upon a troubling interview with Graham and Schuller on the subject of “wider acceptance”. I wanted to excuse it as “aging” on the parts of both men. But further investigation found that Graham may have had this beleif for a very long time now (but not in the very beginning of his ministry). Just a thought — perhaps worth looking into.

    Also, you may not be aware, there is the “Billy Graham Training Center Bible” available at Amazon. (Not that that’s a bad thing).

    Just to reiterate – I am not a Billy Graham basher. I have hesitated to even put this here — tell me if you find the info lacks credibility. Thanks.

    May God bless.

  5. Derek Vreeland

    November 28, 2007 at 1:54 am


    Thanks for the heads up. I didn’t know about the Billy Graham Training Center Bible. That saddens me. I did catch the YouTube video of Graham and Schuller. I don’t know what to make of it. It seems disconnected from everything else I have heard from Billy.

    I typically answer the question, “What about those who never hear the gospel?” with a simple, “I don’t know. It is a mystery.”

    It doesn’t change my opinion of Billy Graham. Maybe you are right. Maybe we can caulk it up to old age.



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