The Greatest Christ Proclaimer
Since the Apostle Paul:
What Billy Graham Meant to Me
[Editor’s note from David Bryant: On March 24, a powerful, new movie hits theaters nationwide—Paul: Apostle of Christ. However, many of us had opportunities to be involved with a man of God in our generation who is claimed by Christian leaders to have had the greatest impact for spreading the gospel of Christ among the nations since the Apostle Paul.
Personally, I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Graham in a number of ministries, even sharing a meal with him about ten years ago. Clearly, his mind and heart and conversation and passions were, as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2, filled “with the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ” everywhere he went.
Our guest blogger this week is John Beckett, chairman of the Beckett Companies in northeast Ohio. John had many firsthand experiences with Billy. Here, from that reservoir, John shares insights that can inspire ALL of us to pursue more of Christ and more glory for Christ—the way Billy Graham did.]
What a rich and enduring legacy Billy Graham gave the worldwide Church!
And it was all about the greatness and saving power of his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dr. Graham conducted two large events in Cleveland, one in 1972, the second in 1994. Employees from the Beckett Corporation participated in both, and I was privileged to be on the leadership committee each time.
Recently I was able to attend the funeral service for Dr. Graham in Charlotte, NC.
Let me share with you my reflections on this extraordinary man of God from that experience.
Many Called It Billy’s Last Crusade
More than 2000 participated in the invitation-only event, which was held in a large tent on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library. Guests came from more than 50 countries and included the U.S. President and Vice-President and their wives.
I recognized many in the crowd as well-known national figures who had likely altered whatever important matters they had on their agendas in order to attend—not in any official role but to quietly pay respect.
Those speaking at the service were almost entirely members of the Graham family including their five adult children. I appreciated the simplicity, yet dignity of the service.
Speakers observed that, with Billy Graham, it never seemed to be about him, but rather about his passion to lift up the One he served so faithfully for nearly 80 of his 99 years.
It was about honoring Jesus Christ.
A brochure given to us at the service recalled a statement Dr. Graham made some time ago:
Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! I shall be more alive then than I am now. I will have gone into the presence of God.
How Did Billy Graham Reach This Conviction?
Two Factors Stand Out
First, he rejected the prevalent view that the Bible “contains” God’s word, but isn’t actually God’s word. He became convinced the Bible is fully accurate and dependable, though he readily admitted he didn’t always understand its full meaning.
Second, his faith was rooted in a decision he made as a young man to trust Christ for his personal salvation.
Often, at his large meetings, Dr. Graham would recite a favorite verse: “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God’s love, to Dr. Graham, presented a challenge that required a response, a decision—to believe in Christ.
This conviction shaped his unique ministry such that throughout his lifetime he addressed, in person, more than two hundred million people— more than anyone in history.
While Dr. Graham’s passing marks the end of an era, multitudes today (including some in our own family) owe their relationship with God to his clear, unwavering message—words of life that touched hearts and transformed lives.
I have had the privilege of being in the presence of many significant leaders, including several U.S. Presidents and a British Prime Minister, but perhaps none rivaled Billy Graham for his honorable, impeccable, and impactful life.
Attending the Charlotte event, for me, brought important closure: witnessing what was the final chapter of one of the great men of the past century, yet what was also the beginning of his eternal residency in the place where he longed to be—with his Savior in “the presence of God.”
About the Author
John Beckett is chairman of The Beckett Companies in North Ridgeville, Ohio. The company has grown to become a worldwide leader in the production of engineered components for residential and commercial heating. With its affiliates, Beckett employs some 1,000 people. John is a graduate of M.I.T. and has authored two books related to faith in the workplace, Loving Monday and Mastering Monday. He helped found Intercessors for America, a national prayer organization, and is a board member of Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ). John and his wife, Wendy, have been married since 1961 and have six children and eighteen grandchildren.