New York Times, USA Today, and the BBC ran obituaries the day Billy Graham died. Various evangelical voices are adding their reflections on this historical and often controversial North Carolinian. The Billy Graham Center at Wheaton has a good biography of his life on their site. It is estimated that he preached to 250 million people in his lifetime as an evangelist. He is known for preaching an uncompromised gospel at a time when compromise was infecting the American church in massive proportions.
Graham was converted at 15 through an evangelist named Mordecai Ham. Eventually he would become a pastor and then an evangelist. His crusade in Los Angeles in 1949 (where Louie Zamperini of Unbroken was converted) put him on the map, and he followed this up with decades of crusades around the world. His Christian status and reputation put him in the confidence of presidents beginning with Harry Truman.
He was a Fundamentalist that arose when that group was responding to the increasingly liberal churches of this country. Yet, in the middle of the 20th century an off-shoot of this became what we now call Evangelicalism. This group—which included Carl Henry, John Stott, JI Packer, George Ladd, and others—produced Christianity Today, Fuller Seminary, and myriad books and articles to defend the “evangel,” the gospel, in a way that was more theological and less cultural/lifestyle driven. The reality is that victories in the church are never permanent. Christianity Today is not the magazine it used to be, and Fuller Seminary has lost its way theologically. Yet, the Evangelical torch was picked up by others and continues through men and women like D.A. Carson, Al Mohler, the Gospel Coalition, and in churches like ours.
I hope you and your family get a chance to learn about the life of Billy Graham in the days ahead. His dedication to the only gospel which saves is commendable. Not everyone agreed with all that he said or did, of course. Yet, his life is one that challenges us to live for Christ and give him our best with the time that we have left.