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Tribute to Evangelist Billy Graham


                                                                                                         Friday February 23 2018



The Rev Jim Stewart, minister at Perth: Letham St Mark's, reflects on the life of the influential US preacher who died this week aged 99.

William Franklin Graham was born on November 7, 1918 in Charlotte, North Carolina. He grew up in a farming household that was strict but fair, governed by the culture of American Presbyterianism, although as a young adult he became a Baptist.  These life lessons of Christian faith, hard work, and personal discipline would serve Billy well for his future role.

A travelling evangelist called Mordecai Ham came to town and invited this shy boy to “come forward to the front” and put his trust in Christ as his Lord and Saviour.  Reluctantly, the last to his feet, on the last night, he did. 

Billy was first and foremost a preacher.  He cut his teeth preaching in Southern American Churches and eventually was used more and more as an evangelist on the southern “revival” circuit. 

It was during a series of meetings in Los Angeles (1949) when media mogul William Randolph Hurst famously told his newspaper editors to “puff Graham” ie give him positive exposure.  Billy was suddenly taken from relative obscurity to national and then international prominence as a preacher.

He arrived in the Britain for the Harringay Crusade in 1954 and spent three months preaching and calling people to faith in Christ.  A reserved post-war British audience was at first cautious towards Graham and his approach.  They had never seen the gospel presented in such a way before or by someone so impassioned by its message.  Although his public call to people to come to the front of the auditorium to make a commitment to Christ was (and still today) is contentious for some – his personal warmth and conviction gradually won over many sceptics. Billy Graham was a very likeable person.

Graham’s love affair with Scotland started with an invitation from Church of Scotland minister Rev William Still to Aberdeen in 1947 where he preached at Gilcomston South church.  The severe winter didn’t dissuade Graham from desiring to return to Scotland for something bigger.  The bigger event came in the form of the 1955 Tell Scotland campaign under the leadership of the Rev Tom Allan.  An invitation was sent to Billy and his team to come and lead meetings in Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall.  Billy Graham, Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea came and led meetings in Glasgow every night for six weeks.  Other meetings were held in football stadia around the country including a mass rally at Hampden with over 120,000 present.  Approximately 1.5 million people heard Graham preach live during that six-week period with countless more hearing him in cinemas around the country. The BBC also broadcast a “Good Friday” special from the Kelvin Hall as most of Britain watched the service mesmerised by Billy’s electrifying preaching. Even the Royal family gathered around a television in Buckingham Palace to watch the service from Glasgow. It’s difficult now to imagine the sense of excitement and expectation that was present during these days.  We truly haven’t seen anything like it in Scotland since.

Billy Graham returned to Scotland in 1991 with meetings in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Glasgow.  The numbers this time were lower than 1955 and the delivery was more measured.  The message, however, was just the same, “Give your life to Jesus Christ!” As in 1955 people were not only brought to faith but some were also called into Christian service including the Church of Scotland ministry.

Over the years a few critics have tried to undermine his credibility and find “dirt” on Billy Graham. The reality is there simply wasn’t anything to find.  He was a cautious, careful, humble man, filled with integrity but, like us all, not without error.  His close association with Richard Nixon was something he came to regret in later years. 

Quite simply, Billy Graham was a phenomenon.  He was blessed with a loving wife (Ruth Bell Graham) and a supportive family.  Arguably, he was a gift to the global church. His faith was simple but his intellect was fierce.  His capacity to be discreet would be appreciated by every president from Truman to Obama and his pastoral care and wisdom were gratefully received from Her Majesty the Queen among others.

“When I get to heaven the first question I want to ask God is, ‘Why did you pick me?’” - Billy Graham


Brian Webster - Friday, February 23rd, 2018

“I am one of the many whose lives were influenced by Billy Graham. I first heard him over a week of rallies in Raleigh, North Carolina. When I was assigned by my company to Winchester, his meetings were televised to Southampton churches in the 1980’s. When Billy Graham came to Scotland I was involved in the meetings in Glasgow and Edinburgh - queuing on a stopped M8 as we headed for Murrayfield, and exchanged water bottles of cars when their radiators overheated!
It was in 1993 when I was at the follow-up School Of Evangelism in Stirling University that I was called to ministry as Rev James Philip was speaking, and I subsequently began my studies in that October.
I have since been blessed with those years of ministry since, and I give eternal and grateful thanks to the ministry of Billy Graham, and of course, to my Lord.”

Gordon McQueen - Friday, February 23rd, 2018

“Billy Graham was a great man, genuine in his love of Christ, a truly wonderful preacher, his word is as true today as it was when he was in Glasgow in 1955. The Lord has taken him home, may he rest in eternal peace, thank you Lord for Billy Graham and his message and ministry.”

Mary Morrison - Friday, February 23rd, 2018

“As a young student in Edinburgh I was trained as a counsellor attending instruction by Rev D.P. Thomson and undergoing an interview by Rev James Shanks. This led to attending the nightly relays from the Kelvin Hall held at various places in Edinburgh and the unforgettable gathering at Tynecastle football stadium. It was great to play a humble part in helping those who had responded to the call to commitment to find the way forward. In fact D.P. had prepared a booklet The Way Ahead given to all. It is important to remember that the All Scotland Crusade was part of a wider movement of outreach by the churches in Scotland called Tell Scotland which involved ordinary members visiting homes in pairs and sharing an invitation to the local church. It was a wonderful time for the Scottish Churches . People were talking openly about faith and the Crusade gave us two new hymns:" Blessed assurance " and "to God be the Glory".”

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