Evangelist Billy Graham preached to an estimated 2.2 billion people—more than any preacher in the history of Christianity. On February 21, 2018, he went home to be with the Lord.
The name Billy Graham is known throughout the world, to believers and non-believers alike. He was recognized as the world’s most influential preacher. Born November 7, 1918—he would have turned 100 this year—William Franklin Graham Jr was a Southern Baptist minister whose ministry became global after 1949, thanks to the annual crusades he began in 1947 and continued until his retirement in 2005.
In those 58 years, Graham conducted big indoor and outdoor rallies in over 185 countries and territories on six continents. The longest Graham’s evangelistic crusade took place in Madison Square Garden, New York City, in 1957, which lasted 16 weeks! The largest audience—1.1 million people—in the history of Graham’s ministry assembled at Yoido Plaza in Seoul, South Korea in 1973 (pictured). He was the first foreign evangelist allowed to preach in North Korea in 1992. Graham’s crusades became so popular, they were broadcast on radio and television. Some of his sermons are still being broadcast today around the world.
As Proverbs 18:16 puts it, a man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men. Graham became greatly influential among world leaders: he served as a spiritual adviser to American presidents and provided spiritual counsel for every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. He was invited to preach privately to Queen Elizabeth and her household on several occasions. He met with North Korean leader the late Kim Jong Il, which led to him being able to preach there.
Perhaps one of the greatest social messages Graham emphasized was the end of segregation. He sought racial integration for his revivals and crusades in 1953; in 1957, he invited Dr Martin Luther King Jr to preach together with him at a revival in New York City. Graham bailed King out of jail in the 1960s when King was arrested in demonstrations. King said of him: “Had it not been for the ministry of my good friend Dr Billy Graham, my work in the civil rights movement would not have been as successful as it has been.”
As widespread as his ministry went, Graham’s crusades authentically touched the lives of millions of individuals across the world, many of whom have personal stories of receiving salvation at a Billy Graham crusade.
Sun Ho, who co-founded City Harvest Church with her husband Kong Hee, recalls her experience at Graham’s crusade in Hong Kong in 1990. “It was a straightforward evangelistic meeting. Dr Billy Graham came out and he simply preached the Word of God. But what was so powerful was the altar call. When he gave the altar call my hair literally stood. It was like the Word of God had acted, and the power of God was convicting hearts. Thousands and thousands of people were walking down the aisle. And I was crying because it really was the power of the Word, and this man simply held on to the Word and preached it. He has impacted my life and Pastor Kong’s life so much—we learned from him that the Word of God has the ultimate power to save souls.”
Graham passed away from natural causes at his home in Montreat, North Carolina. While his absence is felt, a certain joy abounds that this good and faithful servant has returned to his Lord. As Graham himself once said, “My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.”
Photos from billygraham.org