‘Well done good and faithful servant…’


Michael Writes:

‘It was both a huge surprise and a massive privilege to be invited to attend the funeral of Billy Graham last week in Charlotte, North Carolina. When I first felt called to the ministry of evangelism Billy Graham was, like for so many, a great hero and inspiration. I often dreamt of meeting him, and,  though it didn’t happen, it was a great honour to go to celebrate his life. (I still look forward to meeting him in the future).


I doubt I’ll ever get invited to a higher profile funeral in my life. (I don’t think I’ll be on the guest list for the Queen’s). In that sense the day was fascinating. 15 years in the planning, the day was obviously a huge logistical challenge as 2000 guests descended on Charlotte from around the US and 50 other countries. The security was obviously tight, especially as Donald Trump was in attendance. The media interest was huge – I have never seen so many media trucks in one place!


One of my most abiding memories of the funeral was that it was really cold! I, like, many, had assumed that, with it  being in a tent, there would be some form of heating. We hadn’t banked on a tent with no sides that became something of a wind tunnel! I very quickly regretted leaving my coat in the hotel – especially given that we had to be in place three hours before the service began!


Although most of the guests present would have been believers the service obviously had in mind the millions of others that would watch around the world. In that sense, the service was billed as Billy Graham’s final crusade – the tent itself a reminder of the 1949 Los Angeles crusade where he first came to prominence. The gospel clearly came through, not just in the sermon but also in the tributes, songs, prayers and readings.


As well as family member, a range of others were involved. These reflected the international impact of Billy Graham. Richard Bewes, the former Rector of All Souls Church in London (and successor to John Stott) had been Billy Graham’s first choice of preacher. Sadly, on his doctor’s advice, he was unable to attend so Franklin Graham preached instead.-(His daughter did a great mini-sermon in the tributes too!)


As I reflected on the service, and also the many conversations I have had over the  48 hours with people there, several aspects of Billy Graham’s life stand out:




No one else in history has preached the gospel to more people face to face. Millions trace their spiritual birth to one of his crusades. His legacy is remarkable. If there was one person in the last century who could be tempted to be proud it would have been Billy Graham. Yet those who knew him were deeply struck by his humility. Though he met with presidents and kings he valued the ordinary member of the public with the same dignity and value. I think one of the secrets to his humility is that he never forgot where he came from – he was just an ordinary kid from a farm to whom God gave a gift. The very nature of a gift is that we didn’t earn or deserve it. I think one of the reasons God used Billy Graham is that he knew that he could trust him with success. Could the same be said of us?




If there is one person who the media would have loved to ‘dig dirt on’ ’it would have been Billy Graham. Yet, despite his prominence, no dirt has really stuck. Of course, he wasn’t sinless and admitted his own failings and mistakes at times. However, even today’s cynical media has been largely positive about him. The worst contemporary criticism seems to be his views on homosexuality. Strangely enough, the media seem to forget that the view he holds would not only be held by nearly everyone from his generation, and by the majority of Christians through church history, but also by many Jews and Muslims today – though the latter don’t seem to garner any criticism for it!


Early in Billy Graham’s ministry he and his team made a commitment to act with integrity – especially in regard to money (he never earned more than the average Southern Baptist Pastor), women (he would never be in a room or travel alone with a woman, other than his wife) and reporting (they wanted to avoid exaggeration in the way they reported their ministry).


Several of his children remarked that there weren’t ‘two Billy Grahams’  – one that presented in public and another at home. There was only one. His example was evidently a massive influence on his own children – and though some went through rebellious periods (both as children and later in life), he modeled the grace of God in the way he dealt with them.




Billy Graham was not an academic. There have been many greater minds in the last century of the Christian church. However, his life is a good reminder of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians that our message didn’t come with wise and persuasive words… and that we determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Billy’s ministry was focused on Christ and the cross. This does not mean there isn’t a place for apologetics – especially as today people don’t have the same presuppositions and basic Christian worldview that most of Billy’s audiences would have had However, it is a great reminder to keep Jesus central to our evangelism, and to remember that the message of the cross is still the Power of God.




I can still remember the first time I heard a Billy Graham sermon. I was working on a farm as a teenager,  and was listening to sermons on cassette tape in a tractor. The tapes were not labeled, so I had no idea who the preachers were. I remember thinking of one of the sermons – ‘This preacher isn’t very good – he doesn’t use humor… and it’s very basic!’ It was only when my friend got into the cab that he told me that the preacher was Billy Graham! However, as I listened to the tape again I was struck by the simple authority with which he spoke. He wasn’t ashamed to say ‘The Bible says…’ . In short, punchy, direct sentences (that made him so easy to translate) he got his message home.




The breadth of denominations present at the funeral showed something of Billy Graham’s popularity. On the table next to me at the reception afterwards,  there were Ministers, Archbishops, Priests and even a Beatitude!


It was not that he didn’t ever get criticism, or that everyone liked him – far from it. In his ministry, Billy Graham got criticism from liberals for being a fundamentalist, and from fundamentalists for being liberal (in fact some of them even stood outside the parking lot when we arrived with placards stating that he was actually in hell and the freewill was in fact Satanic…!). However, the fact that he got criticism from both ends of the spectrum shows that he got something right – he was passionate about the gospel,  and fully confident in the authority of the Bible. He steered clear of debates on secondary issues and political controversy – a good lesson for evangelists today. Too many ministries today turn secondary issues into divisive issues – such as pushing a particular view on the role of women, or Calvinistic theology.


I doubt that I will witness anyone else in my life-time with the global influence and popularity of Billy Graham. That’s ok. The job of evangelism was never meant to be the job of one man anyway. In fact, the job of evangelism is not even just the domain of the evangelist, for they themselves are to equip all of God’s people for works of service. In that sense we can all learn from the example of Billy Graham.


I am very grateful to the BGEA, not only for the invitation to the funeral, but also for their generous hospitality and welcome during my time in the States. Although my trip there was a short one it will be remembered for a long time. ‘





billy G


Mrs Elizabeth Carter

Wonderful blog Motsy for a wonderful servant of Christ. Praying God will raise up more like him as we wait on the coming of our Lord.

Michael Ots


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