Never Another Like Him

This weekend Billy Graham will hold his last evangelistic crusade in New York City. The 86 year-old preacher has been the unofficial figure-head of American Christianity for almost sixty years; Graham has been a spiritual advisor for every US President since Eisenhowser. I was fortunate enough to get to see him preach just a few years ago when he brought a crusade to Cincinnati. Even in his old age, it was a surreal experience to get to listen to his preaching live. I know that years after he's gone I will claim to have had the privilege to listen to one of the greatest preachers who ever lived.

What a testimony his life has been! While many high-profile preachers have had life indiscrepancies exposed to the public, Graham did his best to lead a life of integrity [I read in his biography of his rule to never be in a room or car alone with a woman who is not his wife, and I've tried to copy that philosophy in my own life]. He even has the respect of those who aren't Christian. His humility and loving demeanor was observed and appreciated by people from all different walks of life. In fact, the people most critical of his ministry were followers of Jesus who held him to an unrealistic, Phariseutical standard that not even the Lord Himself could live up to.
It's sad to think that this man, whom many Christians view as their preacher, won't be out there preaching anymore. There will truly be a gaping hole left that no one will ever be able to fill. I guess that's the question that people will now try to answer: who will be the next Billy Graham? I've heard speculation from people that perhaps Rick Warren, TD Jakes, or even Franklin Graham would be able to step up and fill his father's shoes. I just don't think it's possible. I doubt we will ever see [in the United States anyway] the type of evangelistic crusades that Here are just a few thoughts as to why I think there will never be another Billy Graham.

First, I feel that the moment has passed. Post World War II, America was ripe for the harvest. Someone was needed to come and preach the Word in the way that Graham did; he contextualized the message of the gospel brilliantly. I could be mistaken, but I think Grahams crusades emphasized calling the lost sheep home. America was still a Christian society, but people had given up on practicing their faith and left the church. The crusades were perfect for that. It was like inviting people to come back what they knew to be true- to Jesus and to the Word of God.

Fifty years later we have evolved into a post-Christian society, where people have little to no familiarity with the church. I just don't think we'll ever see those types of crowds that Billy was able to call because there is no respect shown to the church and to the Bible. That's how Graham was able to draw in his crowd. Today's society would tend to view such crowds as cultish and would probably steer away from them. In that same vein, fewer people are coming to faith now a days because of the crowd mentality. One-on-one evangelism will be the trend of the future. And it's rather Biblical. Sure, we like to cite the crowds on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 that came forward, but read the rest of the book and you notice that crowds didn't work out to well[Acts 17 in Athens and Acts 19 in Ephesus]. I'm not saying that large evangelistic crusades won't work anymore, but the time has expired on that trend.

Also, [this is not meant to be a criticism, but an honest evaluation] the evangelistic crusades have been ineffective for years. Recently, Graham's campaigns have thrived more on his celebrity than on the actual mission to reach out to people. These crusades have become such a part of our psyche that when it comes to town, the Christians go. When we went to the crusade in Cincinnati a few years ago, I was amazed at the masses who went forward during the invitation time. I noticed, however, that the majority of people who descended to the stage area were counselors trained to meet with the people who came forward. I saw only a couple of people actually going forward to make a decision. I'm not saying that people didn't find Jesus there, but it's nowhere near the amounts of conversions that were seen at the crusades forty and fifty years ago. Personally, I went to the crusade for one thing: to be able to say that I've heard one of the greatest preachers of all time; I felt it was my obligation as a Christian to go. And I think that's why many have gone for years.

Finally, I think there'll never be another Billy Graham because it was a God thing. The Lord called him at a specific time for a specific purpose and did what he needed to do. Read Scripture and you'll see people who were successful because the mission was tailored to their talents and abilities. Switch the callings of Esther and Samson and how do they do in their different roles? Perhaps the question is, do we really need another Billy Graham now anyway? I would say that we don't need the next Billy Graham, but an army of them- disciples of Jesus who are passionate about reaching out to people with the message of God. So instead of us searching for a person to fill his shoes, we should get our own pair and do our best to walk like he walked or, even better, as Jesus walked.

There will never be another preacher as influential in America as Billy Graham has been. As a young preacher of the Word of God, I'm forever grateful that he heeded the call. Thanks Billy.