AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR of the Center that bears his name, it’s humbling to carry on the legacy that Rev. Billy Graham ’43, Litt.D. ’56 left. And yet, that is what we are all called to do. Once when Graham was leading a global forum of evangelists, he was asked, “Who will be the next Billy Graham?” He swept his arm out over the large gathering and he simply said, “They will.”
It’s hard to overstate Graham’s global impact. His influence has gone far and wide, but Graham’s ministry has deeply impacted me personally as well.
I planted my first church among the urban poor at the same time the Billy Graham Crusade in Buffalo, New York, began. We brought people to the crusade from the community we were serving. While there, I approached some of the crusade workers to see if I could get the names of a few people who made a decision to follow Christ so we could help follow up with them.
Originally, the crusade workers turned us down because we weren’t really a church yet—and they were right. We were just an idea. I kept pushing, and eventually they relented and gave us the names of a few families. That may not sound like much, but it’s a big deal when you are planting a new church.
So, my ministry began connected to a Billy Graham Crusade.
Later, I taught at the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at Southern Seminary. While there, I always thought about what it meant to carry the legacy of Rev. Graham in all that we did.
Today, serving at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, we are asking ourselves how we work in line with the values, tone, and approach of Rev. Graham, and how we can represent Jesus well.
While there may be no “next” Billy Graham, our hope is that the Billy Graham Center would have the passion for evangelism and reaching people that Rev. Graham had.
It’s a legacy worth carrying forward.