‘No other preacher could compare with him’
Tributes have been pouring in for Billy Graham, Baptist minister and evangelist, who has died aged 99
'Few Christian leaders will ever rival the impact Billy Graham has made for the sake of the Kingdom,' said Lynn Green, General Secretary of our Baptist Union, as she sought to honour Billy Graham’s life and ministry on the announcement of his death (21 February).
'I am deeply grateful for the way that this anointed man has been faithful to God’s call,' she continued, 'His personal integrity, his dedication to nurturing the gifts that God had given him and his harnessing of innovation in communications have meant that individuals and communities right around the world have been transformed by Jesus.
‘Yet Billy Graham describes himself as but one link in a glorious chain of God’s people sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
‘As we give thanks for Billy, we also need embrace our own ongoing call, here and now, to fulfil our own part as a link in that same glorious chain.’
‘No other preacher could compare with him,’ wrote Baptist minister Derek Tidball, former principal of London Bible College (now the London School of Theology) in an obituary for this website.
However Billy Graham was 'much more than an evangelist', Dr Tidball added. He praised his 'strategic thinking' which led to the revival of evangelicalism in the United States in the second half of the 20th Century; and how he grasped the importance of using modern communication technology for the gospel. He also wrote of his integrity and compassion.
'Although Billy Graham preached a simple gospel he modelled the wholeness of it in his actions.
'Always motivated by the Bible, he believed that all people were equal in God's sight, and he could not escape the more than a thousand verses that commanded people to help their neighbours in their time of need.'
David Coffey, former General Secretary of our Baptist Union, has written to the Graham family. He recounted the excitement generated by Billy's visit to his church in Bournemouth in 1946 (his late father, Arthur Coffey, was among the group of young British Youth for Christ pastors who invited him to Britain), and how he made his first public commitment to Christ in the landmark Harringay crusade in 1954. Indeed, David continued, 'I could recount stories from every decade of my life when I was spiritually blessed under the influence of Dr Graham’s ministry.'
I count myself in the vast global multitude of those who claim Billy as one of their spiritual mentors in the spirit of Hebrews 13:7-8. Billy was a faithful preacher of God’s Word; I have through many years considered the outcome of his pattern of life; and I am drawn to imitate his faith in Jesus Christ who is eternally the same- yesterday, today and for ever.
David has been invited to the funeral, which takes place on Friday (2 March) in Charlotte, North Carolina and will be live streamed.
Phil Jump, regional minister team leader North Western Baptist Association, said there are many Christians across Merseyside, West Lancashire and the North West whose lives have been deeply impacted by the ministry of Billy Graham.
'I am one of many who took part in the famed Anfield campaign in 1984, and it was during this crusade that my wife Jan found faith. As North West Regional Minister, I had the privilege of visiting his home in North Carolina during a visit to the States and met his grandson Will, who along with his wife is an avid Liverpool supporter. Perhaps the Anfield event left its mark on the Graham family too!
'Billy Graham had a particularly straightforward and at times fundamentalist view of the Christian faith that might not be shared by everyone, but anyone who met and knew him had no doubt of his integrity and authenticity. Graham himself often spoke of his surprise at the impact his ministry had, describing his daughter Ruth once as “The best preacher in the family”. My own experience of hearing him at Anfield bore this out – he was clear, measured and articulate in what he had to say, but was no great barnstormer and the hundreds who responded to his message were not drawn onto the pitch in some great wave of emotion and hype, but by a simple and understated invitation to become followers of Jesus. It was perhaps this uncompromising simplicity that accounts for the effectiveness of his ministry.'
Phil added that Billy’s visit to Liverpool in 1984, as part of the accompanying “Mission England” initiative, was 'one of the key catalysts in the journey to unity and co-operation' between the different Christian traditions that is such a valued feature of the city and region today.
Other Baptists have been sharing their tributes on social media. On Facebook Wayne Clarke, minister of Trinity Baptist Church in Manchester, wrote,
‘Billy Graham has died, aged 99. He was the greatest preacher and Christian of our generation. A Baptist minister whose wise words and humble character will be remembered forever, he affected several generations of the Church in Britain.
'Many thousands came to faith in Christ though his ministry, backed up by the work and prayers of Christians serving in unity in our cities and communities.’
Seidel Abel Boanerges, tutor in Christian Mission and Theology at Spurgeon’s College, simply wrote, ‘Thank you, Billy Graham!’
He followed this by posting one of Billy Graham’s quotes:
'One day you will hear that Billy Graham has died. Don't believe a word of it. On that day, I will be more alive than I ever will be. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.'
On Twitter Dr Krish Kandiah, author, founder of Home For Good and member of Cornerstone Church, a cafe-style Baptist church in Thame, said:
‘So grateful for the life and witness of #BillyGraham He was a devoted follower of Jesus and a dignified and graceful statesman for the kingdom of God.’
In a piece about attending two Billy Graham rallies
, Baptist minister Mark Woods, editor of Christian Today
‘Billy Graham has been honoured throughout the world for his ministry. He was the kind of person God sends only once in several generations.
To argue, as some will, that his kind of evangelism has had its day is to miss the point; in its day, it was a powerful instrument of God's grace and in Billy Graham it found its finest and most devoted servant.
Elsewhere, Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, which facilitated an organising committee for the 1954 Harringay Crusades, commented,
‘History will recall that Billy Graham was one of the most influential men of his generation. I was profoundly influenced by his life and ministry from afar. Beside a lake, in large auditoriums and through broadcasts, or watching him on TV – one could not help but be impacted by his passion for God, his commitment to the truth of the gospel and his life of integrity lived under intense media scrutiny.
‘The ministry of Billy Graham in the UK and the Evangelical Alliance have been uniquely intertwined in the second half of the 20th century, since the events at Harringay arena in 1954. I am sure that his legacy will live on.’
Click here for more on the Evangelical Alliance and Billy Graham.
The Revd Billy Graham 1918-2018 Billy Graham stood head and shoulders above every other evangelist and evangelical statesman in the 20th century, writes Derek Tidball
Baptists share their Billy Graham memories
Many Baptists have attended Billy Graham rallies. They have been sharing their memories in this thread in the Baptist Collaboration Facebook Group
Baptist World Alliance
General Secretary Emeritus Denton Lotz, family member and long time friend of Billy Graham, issued the following personal statement
Billy Graham's funeral will be live streamed. Watch it here.
It is also being live streamed in a number of churches across the UK. Locations can be found at billygraham.org.uk.
Image | Billy Graham Evangelistic Association