|MY OPINION OF BILLY GRAHAM
By Evangelist John D. Jess
Perhaps too much has already been written pro and con about Evangelist Billy Graham. Countless words and man- hours have been invested in human appraisal of this international figure and his ministry. The brisk controversy, aimed at determining "is he Is or is he ain't," continues unabated.
Many friends have written me for my opinion of Mr. Graham. In complying, I find It difficult to oppose the estimate of some of my best friends. Nevertheless I feel obligated to express my personal judgment of the man - a judgment that time alone will justify or condemn
I. THE MAN
What kind of a man is Billy Graham?
1. He is kinder than his critics
Few men have been the target of ;harper epithets than has Billy Graham - epithets hurled, for the most part, from --the most unlikely sources, the household of faith! - but If Billy has ever made public rebuttal or has spoken un- kindly of his critics, I have never heard him do so.
In my opinion, Billy Is much more Christian in this respect than those who vilify him.
2. He is not mercenary.
Billy Graham could be, at his choosing, one of the nation's wealthiest men. Others, in like position, have capitalized on their fame and popularity. But Billy accepts a very modest salary for a man of his position - only $15,000 a year. This is less than he pays some of his co-workers.
One love offering from one of his tremendous audiences would make him a rich man. In my opinion, few men in his position would have been able to resist the temptation. Billy's refusal to benefit financially from his popularity makes him outstanding.
3. He has a clean record.
To my knowledge, there are no "dark" chapters in Billy's life. He talks and acts like a Christian gentlemen In all places and circumstances. Fellow Christians need not apologize for his conduct or excuse his past. He is "the husband of one wife," a devoted husband and father. His closest friends say he is a humble man, living what he preaches.
II. HIS MESSAGE
What about Billy Graham's message?
1. It is uncompromising.
Billy's messages are fearless and plain. He uses freely such words as Heaved," 'born again,' "hell,' 'judgment,” “sin," etc. Whether he is addressing an assembly of pastors, a legislative body or a nation-wide television audience,,his message is the same - "Jesus Christ and Him crucified." His severest critics admit this.
When one considers the pressures that undoubtedly are brought to bear upon Mr. Graham by the "fence-straddlers" to trim his message, this uncompromising attitude is greatly to his credit. The modernists on his committees get It 'fright between the eyes" like everyone else.
2. It is simple.
So one considers Billy Graham a profound preacher; as a matter of fact, his sermons are sometimes simple almost to the point of childishness. But the important thing is, he gets them across in the power of the Holy Spirit. The results bear ample testimony to that fact.
In a day when there is so much religious intrigue, camouflage and double-talk, the simple gospel as Billy presents it is as refreshing as a stream in the desert!
3. It Is Biblical.
There is not the slightest trace of departure from the faith in Billy’s preaching. His doctrine is sound. He rides no hobbies. His most repeated phrase is, "The Bible says..." He believes and preaches the Bible to be the inspired Word of God.
III. HIS METHODS
Being somewhat hypercritical of modern-day evangelistic methods, I have watched Billy closely for si ns of professionalism - or, in other words, a "loaded& invitation. His invitations are as honest as a minister of the gospel can make them.
Billy employs no tricks, no "gimmicks,' no double meanings to get people forward. He does not depict the Christian life as easy or "romantic." I cannot see how people could fail to understand exactly what they are doing when they respond to his invitation.
His critics, however (that is, among the conservatives), are more concerned with Billy's "bed-fellows" than with anything else. Admitting all that I have just said, they turn to his so-called "unholy associations."
They say -
"Billy Graham allows modernists on his sponsoring committees/”
Apparently this is true - that is, If repetition constitutes proof. It seems quite obvious, however, that conservative theology is not a requisite for participation in his campaigns. If these reports be true, some liberals have been assigned to the planning committees, some have been invited to sit on the platform during his crusades, and in some cases modernists have been called upon to lead in prayer.
I am quick to confess that to me, this is a new approach to the problem of mass evangelism. There is no question but that some of Billy's critics consider this a brazen sell-out to the cause of modernism. Very frankly, I do not profess to understand it. I know I understand it too little to criticize it.
On the surface, this looks like a violation of Paul's admonition to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness." I have strong doubts ?I however that Billy Graham and his associates have any fellowship"with these liberals. Being worlds apart theologically, there could be no basis for fellowship.
I prefer to give Mr. Graham the benefit of the doubt and to believe that he sees in this arrangement an opportunity to get some modernistic pastors and their people saved. They do have souls, you know - for Jesus died for them the same as He died for you and me. I prefer to believe, also, that Billy feels that this arrangement allows him to be "made all things to all men, that he might by all means save some." Jesus preached endlessly to the Scribes and Pharisees - the difference being that He somehow failed to get these hypocritical gentlemen to sponsor His campaigns!
Of this I am sure: previous attempts by "big name" evangelists to reach the modernistic pastors and their flocks have failed. If Billy Graham has found an effective way of reaching them with the gospel, I cannot find it In my heart to criticize his success.
Others say -
"He advises his converts to join the church of their choice.”
The danger here, as the contenders see It, is that his crusades will add great numbers of new members to the liberal churches, thus increasing their already bulging membership rolls.
I will not argue the fact that there is real danger in allowing a new-born babe in Christ to select his own church. It Is not a pleasant prospect to see new Christians starving to death in a religious "mausoleum."
However, in all fairness, we must seek to appreciate the problem with which Mr. Graham and his sponsors are faced. Never In any union endeavor are new Christians advised to join a certain church or denomination. Such a procedure would bring a terminus to the city-wide character of the meetings. Mr. Graham believes that those who are sincere in their decision for Christ will be given divine discernment as to the right church in which to fellowship. The Bible does say, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." No Christian, however young or feeble, is left without a divine Guide.
Billy Graham is himself an ordained Baptist minister. I ,take it for granted he is a Baptist by conviction. I know he preaches Baptist doctrine. I am confident he would prefer to have his converts join Baptist churches. I am equally confident he has no desire to see any of them join liberal churches, Catholic churches, or Jewish synagogues. Due, however, to the tremendous scope of his ministry, It would be impossible for him or his workers to express this preference publicly. This is one of the things they are obliged to leave under the complete direction of the Spirit.
Billy's critics within the "orthodox" circle deplore the fact that he secures the cooperation of modernists. Personally, I am thrilled by It! Anyone who can get a religious infidel to sit night after night under the hammer blows of the Word of God, as Billy does, should have our "Amen." Jesus died for the Higher Critic, too - remember?
If we are unable to rejoice in the (partial) liberal sponsorship of the Graham Crusades, we may at least be grateful that these deluded blind leaders of the blind are willing to sit under the sound of the gospel, for in doing so, they are shorn of any excuse in the coming Day of judgment.
RIGHT OR WRONG?
I have not sought to picture Billy Graham as flawless. He would be the first to deny such a thing. But I am sin- cere in trying to point out that it is a dangerous practice to lay a hindering, critical hand on any true servant of Jesus Christ.
I know this: Billy Graham is preaching the true gospel. I believe he has made the gospel real to more people in this world than any other man, living or dead. Because of this, I DARE NOT TOUCH HIM - even though I may disagree with him.
The cause of Christ cannot be served by magnifying Billy Graham faults; it can be served by our prayers for him and our confidence in him. God says, "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.”