With the passing of Billy Graham, I know a lot of people have been reflecting on his life, ministry, and influence. I am no exception..
I never met Billy Graham, although I did attend his 1965 crusade in Houston. I was a whopping seven years old.
I have read many of his books, but I enjoyed most his 1997 autobiography Just As I Am. And one event spoke volumes to me about his ministry and character:
The Modesto Manifesto
Graham had been an evangelist with Youth for Christ before striking out on his own. His ministry team from these early days included Cliff Barrows, George Beverly Shea, and Grady Wilson. From the start these men were “successful” in their ministry. As with any evangelist, though, temptation also loomed.
Billy Graham wanted none of that. As he told the story in his autobiography, it was during their crusade in Modesto, California that he addressed the issue with his team. As they met in a hotel room, he asked them each to create a list of problems evangelists encounter. They came back together with four “remarkably similar” lists. From this list, they agreed to four resolutions.
- Money. It could be tempting to wring a lot of money out of a nightly offering, but they chose to downplay the offerings. They would depend, instead, on the money raised by the advance planning committee, see that all monies were distributed, and live on a fixed salary.
- Other ministries. They resolved to never criticize churches, pastors, or other ministries. In addition, they would only work with churches that were willing to cooperate with others in the work of evangelism.
- Honesty. It’s tempting to “up” the numbers of those in attendance or those who made decisions. It makes for good publicity and a good reputation. It’s an inside joke with pastors that, say, if a church had 101 in attendance, the pastor would tell his pastor friends, “Ministerially speaking, the crowd was approaching 200.” Har, har. Graham’s team resolved to avoid any exaggeration by only using numbers from official reports.
- Sex. You can probably quickly rattle off the names of five pastors or evangelists who killed their ministries through sexual immorality. Graham would have none of it. They resolved to never be alone with a woman other than their wives unless other people were present.
One word screams at me from their 1948 decision:
I cannot match Dr. Graham’s style and poise in the pulpit. I may be an author and writer, but I will never match Dr. Graham in the people he has reached with his written words. I will never influence politicians, world leaders, and everyday people like he has. But I can strive to match him in one way.
I want to do the work God has called me to with joyful abandon and integrity.
- “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Prov. 21:3).
- “We are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man” (2 Cor. 8:21).
- “… keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (2 Pet. 3:16).
That’s the man I want to be. When all of us who serve the Lord in some capacity resolve to live with Christlike integrity, the world just may sit up and take notice.