Going to take a second day breakaway from the twelve steps theme to focus on one more thing about the passing of Billy Graham. It’s not every day the greatest evangelist of the century dies. Not to get caught up in the past, but it does make you wonder where we go from here. Who’s going to take over as America’s foremost Evangelist. Thankfully, Billy Graham himself put a stop to this kind of thinking when he wisely said, “I don’t need a successor, only willing hands to accept the torch for a new generation.”
They actually tried to find a successor for a while, and for a while it appeared that Billy’s son, Franklin, had picked up the mantle, but it soon became evident that his father’s legacy wasn’t what he was after. Franklin is into other things than carrying on his father’s tradition, and that is well and good. But Billy’s shunning of a successor isn’t because he doesn’t think anyone can do the job; it’s because he believes that no one should. The era of the world’s most popular evangelist is over. It’s a different world now.
The mass crusade has run it’s course. In regional settings around the world there may still be something like crusades going on from time to time (i.e. the Harvest Festival in Anaheim with Greg Laurie — Luis Palau festivals), but nothing to the scale of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Our good friend Leighton Ford (Billy’s brother-in-law) was at one time being groomed to be Billy’s successor, but he has been out of the crusade business for years. Instead, he is mentoring young leaders who will be some of those who will “accept the torch for a new generation” as they seek to adapt the gospel message to their generations.
I love this quote. I think it is so wise and I am so glad that Billy himself came up with it. He put an end to any kind of thinking that there might be a Billy Graham II out there somewhere. Nope, there’s only us. We are — all of us — accepting the torch of evangelism for our generations.
As Sandie has said so well in her comment yesterday to the Catch:
None of us (or hardly any) will deliver the message to thousands at a time – whether in an arena, via TV or radio. Rather, it will be the smile and thanks to a harried cashier, holding the door for a mom whose arms are full of kids and grocery bags, thanking a vet or a first-responder for laying their lives on the line for us, giving Christmas gifts to the neighborhood kids, having a music jam session around a campfire… learning how to ‘walk’ with people. “They’ll Know We are Christians By Our Love.”
Billy was called the pastor to Presidents…how I wish he had been young enough to minister in the current climate and situation. But that is our job now, and it starts in our homes and communities; it starts wherever we are at any given time.
You are the successor to Billy Graham. Big shoes to fill, but you don’t have to fill them, because the Holy Spirit already has.