The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
Leaders of Christian organisations in Europe remember the evangelist’s confidence in the Gospel, his personal integrity, and how he helped start mission movements.
The life of American evangelist Billy Graham, who died at age 99 this week, made an impact for the Gospel across the globe.
Many in European countries are remembering these days the life and ministry of the preacher. Some leaders of evangelical organisations shared their thoughts with Evangelical Focus.
Samuel Escobar (missiologist, Lausanne Movement).
“I had the privilege of meeting Billy Graham and working besides him in the process of organization of the Lausanne Congress of Evangelism in 1974. I first had met him in Berlin 1966, the Congress on Evangelism that preceded Lausanne. Graham was a humble man and a God fearing servant of God. Though he had dreamed of a revival of evangelism and mission among Christians in the world, he was surprised by the positive response of Evangelicals from around the world that developed into the Lausanne movement. He was open to receive criticism and to respond to questions about his ministry, his theology and his organization. Though he insisted that he was an evangelist and not a theologian he had a clear grasp of the need for a solid Evangelical theology and he was wise enough to include theological reflection, and even debate, in the missionary conferences and congresses that his organization sponsored. He was also wise enough to surround himself with thinkers such as John Stott, Leighton Ford, Jim Packer, or Carl Henry, and to value their contribution to the thinking process among Evangelicals exemplified by the Lausanne Movement. Praise the Lord for His servant Billy Graham”.
Thomas Bucher (European Evangelical Alliance).
“A godly man of great influence on Christian life, ministry and theology. Mightily used by God for the blessing of many. He stayed humble despite his ‘successes’ and finished the race well”.
Nick Park (Evangelical Alliance Ireland).
“At a crucial juncture in Church History, Billy Graham typified the difference between Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism. At a time when many Christians seemed suspicious of the future, Billy confronted secular culture with a confident proclamation of the power of the Gospel. His courageous willingness to confront racial segregation and injustice also played a pivotal role in encouraging Martin Luther King’s historic campaign for civil rights”.
Leonardo De Chirico (Italian Evangelical Alliance, Reformanda Initiative).
“He embodied the evangelical ‘soul’ of the 20th century: simple gospel message centered on the historic Christ to be believed in repentance and faith, global activism for the advancement of mission, interdenominational cooperation beyond ecclesiastical differences. At times he lacked evangelical discernment (e.g. his endorsement of John Paul II and the confusion over cooperation with non-evangelicals in evangelism), but together with John Stott, he was one of the last giants of the evangelical movement.
Evi Rodemann (YL Gen Lausanne Movement Europe).
“Already as a child I was totally fascinated by this man. His love for God and the world was always contagious and drew me closer to God and wanting to make a difference in this world. The man like no other has not only helped millions of people to love God, but also through his integer authentic missional lifestyle has influenced thousands of leaders worldwide. Evangelists have risen up to take the Gospel further, because he role-modeled it faithfully and sacrificially. Praise God for Dr. Billy Graham!”
Steve Clifford (Evangelical Alliance United Kingdom).
“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”.
Ron Anderson (European Christian Mission).
“Billy Graham has been used of God in multiple ways to shape my life and career. In the late 1960’s it was his preaching over the radio that God used to bring conviction of sin to my young heart. In the late 1970's I was impacted for Global Mission by reading papers of the first Lausanne Movement gathering which he convened in Lausanne Switzerland. In the 1980’s I used his films to evangelize in Southern Spain and was admonished to “do the work of an evangelist” at the Amsterdam gathering of evangelist which he hosted. At the present time I serve as the Catalyst for the church planting issue network of the Lausanne Movement which he started 44 years ago. Billy Graham has been used of God to impact and inspire me. His last legacy to me and all is that he finished well and this inspires me to do the same”.
Thierry Le Gall (National Council of Evangelicals France).
“A true man of faith whose international ministry has been characterized by a Christlike simplicity. A source of inspiration for many preachers around the world. A harvest of souls won by Christ through evangelistic campaigns to the glory of God, not of man, organized with professionalism”.
Jaume Llenas (Spanish Evangelical Alliance, Lausanne Movement Spain).
“The life of Billy Graham has been a humble tribute to the glory of God. His focus on the power of the Word of God to save and his profound conviction that mission has to be carried to all the earth which lead him and John Stott to start the Lausanne Movement, are powerful examples of a life bearing fruit for God”.
Philip Powell (Jubilee Centre).
“He truly lived above reproach, especially given all the time he spent in the corridors of power. His life is a biography of living truthfulness in a world that rejects and opposes truth. It can be argued that the reason he had such an impact on the world stage during his life-time was because he lived a life of integrity and humility. We read in Scripture, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’ (James 4:6). Certainly, God’s grace overflowed in this man’s life and millions around the world received the message of God’s grace through his ministry”.
José Pablo Sánchez (Decision Spain, Buenas Noticias TV).
“Billy Graham was a model in the way he preached and lived. He invested all of his life and resources in promoting evangelization and sharing the message of the Good News of Jesus with courage and authenticity wherever he went”.
Jeff Fountain (Schuman Centre for European Studies).
“Billy Graham was an evangelical colossus of the post-War era initiating countless projects which continue to shape our world: YFC, Christianity Today magazine, Decision magazine, the Lausanne Movement and many more. His contribution to the evangelical movement in Europe is inestimable. He was tireless in his commitment to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whether in great stadium campaigns all over the globe, or on a personal level with American presidents and other world leaders, including Chairman Brezhnev at the height of the Cold War”.
Ylli Doci (Vush, Evangelical Alliance Albania).
“We who are left on earth may take heart from Billy Graham’s example to trust his God to continue amazing our generation with the power of ordinary people who are completely committed to Christ’s glory”.
Hélder Favarin (180º Global).
“Though I did not have the privilege of meeting Billy Graham personally, no preacher has had a greater impact in my life and ministry than him. His faithful character, his authoritative preaching and his Kingdom vision will continue to touch millions in the whole world. May the Lord continue to raise and anoint ambassadors of the Gospel filled with the same conviction, boldness and humility that Billy Graham demonstrated across the nations”.
David Robertson (Solas Centre for Public Christianity).
“I listen to a supposed Christian minister on BBC radio today saying that the impact of Billy Graham and the church and society was negligible. All day I have come across personal testimonies from people who either were themselves, or their parents, converted through the ministry of Billy Graham. Negligible?! Would that any of us and that “negligible” effect! His character, consistency and overall faithfulness to the word of God have been a major part of Evangelicalism, not only in the USA, but throughout the world”.