The True Gospel

After the death of Billy Graham on February 21st, many articles appeared in various newspapers and online, and one evening, we also watched a documentary on television about his crusades.

At his funeral, his son, Franklin Graham, said that his father always said that he did not understand everything in the Bible, but he believed it all.

The publicity about Billy Graham's life caused me to look up about his crusades. Wikipedia says that he preached the gospel to more people in person than anyone in the history of Christianity. More than 3.2 million people responded to his invitation to accept Jesus Christ as their personal saviour. Between 1947 and 2005, he conducted 417 crusades in 185 countries and territories on six continents. I also noticed that there were several in the same countries over the years — but there was only one in Vienna, Austria, and I remember that vividly, because we were there.

We were attending the Vienna Community Church while we lived in Vienna for four years. Early in August 1969, at the church, we got word that Billy Graham was going to be there on August 10th. Cliff Barrows and a team came ahead to prepare the different venues. As I was an active elder, our minister, the Rev. James Griffith, suggested that he and I attend a workshop on how to tell the congregation and others about the upcoming event.

On Sunday afternoon, August 10th, my wife and I, with our three children aged 10, 8, and 5, went to the Stadthalle, the big ice hockey arena in Vienna. There were thousands of people there: military folk stationed in Germany, expatriates from local congregations, as well as Austrians.

Part of Mr. Graham's message was that there was an opportunity to challenge the churches of eastern Europe. This was a big challenge at that time, because the Iron Curtain was still there, and travel to any of the countries behind it was officially discouraged, if not denied, even though it was only 40 kilometres away. We did have some representatives from different denominations who lived in Vienna and attended our church, and we learned from them how difficult and dangerous it was to go there to preach the gospel and to encourage the people, even though there were many Christians in all those countries, in many cases worshipping in secret. Under the circumstances, the ministers did the best they could.

In all his messages, regardless of where he was preaching, Billy Graham always brought the true gospel in an easy-to-understand, meaningful, and relevant way. He emphasized that God loves us and that He sent His Son to die for our sins:

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (NKJV)

Despite Billy Graham's faithful preaching, there are still millions who have never heard the gospel message, and many of them are right around us every day. Although we may not be evangelistic preachers ourselves, we still have opportunities in personal discussions to share our relationship with Jesus in a simple, winsome way. Let us also pray that God will raise up respected preachers who can successfully contend for the faith in an increasingly secular world.

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we thank You for all the pastors and preachers who have brought the good news of Jesus to millions of people. We pray that each of us in our own way will be able to continue to do Your work, wherever we are. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.

1 comment on this post.
  1. PresbyCan Feedback:

    A good word, Joel.


    Amen Joel.
    Blessings.


    Thank You Joel. A very poignant message, that ‘Billy’ would be thankful that you wrote. Jesus would be too.
    Blessings to you, and all you read your message.


    Good morning Joel
    Thank you for your writing this morning. It’s funny, I just finished answering an email to someone that was in dire need of prayer. In that email I shared Christ with her. So… your devotional was timely.


    Wonderful story. The challenge to speak the Gospel to the people with whom we come in contact is a universal and ongoing one. It sounds straight forward but is much more easily said than done. In my own experience, the main thing is to be asking the Lord to prepare opportunities for us/me to do so. That’s a prayer that He always seems to answer… and that I do often forget to ask!


    Hello
    Thank you for this devotional. It was interesting and challenging. I was a teen when the church I attended sent the choir to help with the many others singing for a Billy Graham crusade in Kingston, Ontario. Truly a gentle giant in the Christian realm. So simple and honest and genuine.
    God bless.


    Thank you so much for your message, always nice to hear of your travels and ministry.
    Billy Graham always had a sermon that we could understand, and we need more ministers like him.
    We are very blessed to have someone who explains the scriptures in ways that we can understand them, and these days we all need this!
    I pray that you and Greta are doing well!


    Greetings Joel,
    Many thanks for your devotional this morning. Billy Graham is the name of a Gospel Preacher that will truly be remembered thru the ages. He was a remarkable person in all aspects and as the title of your devotional, he really did speak the “True Gospel” to all peoples of all nations.
    Blessings to you,
    (B.C)


    I often wondered about your Email address, now we know the back-story.
    As a tourist in 1961 I went to an English language Sunday service in a downtown church where I spoke to an American or two.
    I think the church building was for Hungarian Reformed services.
    It was good to remember those younger days.
    God bless!


    Your devotional brought back lovely memories of his Crusade here in Toronto. I sang in the crusade choir so was present every night. I still have the purple t-shirt with the crusade logo. Near the end he became ill for the first time Franklin took over. He recovered to preach for some years afterward.
    I saw an American cartoon that showed him at the pearly gates, bible tucked under his arm and just beyond you could see a large crowd. The caption was, “Welcome, Rev. Graham. There’s a huge crowd of people inside, all wanting to say “thank you.”
    That says it all!


    Interesting. I was only at Crusades in Toronto and at that time he was speaking against drugs away back in the 50’s and 60’s there was no talk about LGBTQ.
    I never heard him speak against LGBTQ but some people that is all they remember about him. He in the last few years apologized for small thinking referred to Aids, LGBTQ, and Muslims. Now Franklin Graham may not be allowed back in England because of his very vocal speaking against the same three.
    I think today we need to teach people how to be aware of scammers.
    (ON)


    Thank you, Joel, for sharing your experience with us. This devotional reminded me of the time my father and mother took my brother and I along to a Billy Graham Crusade in New York City. We met some friends who had obtained tickets through their church. Our seats were so far up that Dr. Graham and those with him appeared to be no bigger than my brother’s little toy soldiers, but his voice boomed over the P.A. system touching my heart. I remember that I wanted to go forward, but my parents wouldn’t allow it fearing I’d become lost in the crowd. So we stayed in our seats until the crowd thinned at the end. I’ve often wondered what the future would have been like had my parents taken me forward. We’ll likely never know until we are in Heaven.


    Thank you, Joel, for sharing your experience with us. Your devotional reminded me of the time my father and mother took my brother and I along to a Billy Graham Crusade in New York City. We met some friends who had obtained tickets through their church. Our seats were so far up that Dr. Graham and those with him appeared to be no bigger than my brother’s little toy soldiers, but Billy’s voice boomed over the P.A. system touching my heart. I remember that I wanted to go forward, but my parents wouldn’t allow it fearing I’d become lost in the crowd. So we stayed in our seats until the crowd thinned at the end. I’ve often wondered what the future would have been like had my parents taken me forward. We’ll likely never know until we are in Heaven. Blessings.


    Thank you, Joel. I too heard Billy Graham on radio and TV often, and in person in New York when we were on our way to India as missionaries. It was remarkable how representatives of all denominations where trained in each city to minister to the many people who responded to the altar call. They were assisted in their new surrender to Christ, in reading the Bible and in planning to receive continued support in the church of their choice. The choirs had representatives from every church also. Hymns common to all churches were sung. I pray for revival again and for unjust criticism of other denominations as unfaithful to Christ, to end. I pray for meaningful hymns to be sung again, instead of repetitive rock style choruses.
    (BC.)


    Thank you so much for this beautiful honest word re; Billy Graham. I too had these emails sent to me about how ungodly he was etc. and I personally saw him publicly humiliated with a lemon pie thrown at him after he preached the gospel. I was a counsellor when he came to Toronto. He raised his head for he prays with head bowed eyes closed unaware of who is coming forward. He opened his eyes and looked straight at the audience and said God forgives you and so do I. He then bowed his head with all the pie on face and clothes. Previously I had walked down a hall as counsellors come early and I heard someone crying like in agony behind a closed door, I spoke to the leader and he said oh that is Billy lying face down praying for the meeting. I was moved so deeply and I know that he has always preached the gospel. He has used the Bible only. In fact, one of the humble international type of preachers I know.
    It is very encouraging for me to hear you speak as well.


    Once again, your words are sound and encouraging. Thank you for making a difference in this world even if your influence has not spread as far as Mr. Graham. You have seen much in this world, and it shows in your writing. It also is encouraging to us who have been slow to learn but eager, that the world needs Jesus, even the world right outside my door. Thank you for the reminder.
    Thank you, again for writing your thoughts.
    Blessings


    Dear Joel,
    Thank you for the beautiful remembrance of Billy Graham.
    I pray that God will raise up many Christians and empower them to share the Gospel of eternal salvation as Billy Graham did.
    May God bless the Graham family at this time, and cause all of them to carry on the work of spreading of the gospel message far.
    In Jesus’ name, Amen.


    Joel
    It was a treat to receive a devotional from you this morning.
    I too have great memories of hearing Billy Graham speak. I was in my teens when he first came to Toronto. Our Church hired a bus and we went to the Exhibition Stadium. His message was wonderful as was the music. I will never forget those two special trips. I know people were converted in one of his crusades in Scotland.
    Thank you again for writing your great devotionals.