The Passing Of A Legend

Billy Graham (1918-2018)

Billy Graham (1918-2018)

If you know me at all, you know that I am not a fan of calling people 'legend'. We hear it all the time today. It has become an empty and flippant phrase we use for everyone. Of the many definitions of the word, a legend is 'Originally a story concerning the life of a saint.' That is why I have always guarded my use of the word.

Youth Ministry

We do Youth Ministry today because of his emphasis upon young people in his crusades world-wide. He used contemporary Christian music first to reach young people. He brought in rappers and urban choirs when no one else would do it. He promoted the early ministry of the YMCA, Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity, and the Urbana Student Missions Conference. And his crusades (which he later stopped using that name because of the bad connotations) in New York City, Los Angeles, London, and Moscow saw millions of young people come to Christ in neutral site stadiums.

He would never allow us to call him a legend.

But, today the use of the word couldn't be more appropriate.


When the terrorist attacks hit on 9/11, there was only 1 civilian aircraft in the airspace that day. With civilian air grounded, the White House summoned the private jet that would carry Billy Graham to Washington (Karl Rove, FOXNEWS.COM).

And in the hours to come, it was Billy Graham who would speak to the waiting world these comforting and courageous words:

"We watched these towers tumble to the ground - our examples of prosperity and creativity. Yes, our nation has been attacked, buildings destroyed, lives lost. But now we have a choice: and I believe that we are starting to rebuild on the foundation of our trust in God. And in that faith, we have the strength to endure something as difficult and as horrendous as what we have experienced this week.

People ask, 'Where is God in this tragedy and suffering?' First, we are reminded of the mystery of evil in our world. And second, we have to trust that He is sovereign."

Of the many things that could be said today about his passing, that moment would have to be one of the highlights.


Here are 10 reasons why Billy Graham is a 'legend':

  1. Humility - It was never about him. 'Some day for all of us it will all be over. And someone else will come along.'
  2. Integrity - Nobody is perfect, but, Graham lived his life and his sermons well. 'Some things in my life I wish for no one to see. I would like God to edit my film.'
  3. Eternity - His emphasis was never solely on this world. 'When you hear that I have died you will be wrong. For in that moment I will have never been more alive.'
  4. Unity - Every President in his lifetime summoned Graham for counsel. 'Miracles happen when we serve God together.'
  5. Truth - He was unwavering in his call to biblical morality. 'You cannot run the space age with horse and buggy morality. Man will destroy himself ecologically, militarily, and in every way without morality.'
  6. Love - He loved everyone no matter their condition, race, or belief. 'It is the Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge, and my job to love.'
  7. Diversity - He embodied RIGHTEOUSNESS and JUSTICE together with MLK, Jr. 'The closer all races get to Christ, the closer they will get to each other.'
  8. Salvation - He was full of mercy and grace. 'There are some who have never heard of the bible or the name of Jesus, who will turn in their heart from darkness to a message of the God of light.'
  9. Altar (or, decision) calls - Graham was not afraid to call people to change. 'If we had more on hell in the pulpit, we would have less of hell in the pew.'
  10. Youth - One of the earliest voices to the youth of America. 'There is something about American young people and their heroes. Whether on the track, the baseball diamond, or the gridiron, there is only one hero I idolize. His name is Jesus.'

Personal Experience

I was in the Chapel service at Evangel University in December of 1982 when Graham was speaking. Due to time restraints, he only delivered the first of his three points to his message that morning. But, in an inspirational moment, this would be an unforgettable day for me.

After speaking that morning, and cutting his message short, Graham had to leave. Just before Graham began to walk off the platform, a student gave a message using the gift of tongues. It was just hours later that Graham shared how the message the student gave that morning gave exactly the last two points of his message. He later called that moment one of the three most important miracles in his life (recorded by Vinson Synan, Voices of Pentecost, page 62.) 

We took our children to his Youth Rally in Cincinnati. In my library is almost every one of his books. I have had the privilege of hearing him speak 5 or 6 times in person. I even had the chance to meet him at my University back in 1982. Today, as Billy Graham lays down his life and the ministry that so greatly impacted millions globally, I want to say personally that there is probably no one who impacted my life and ministry like Mr. Graham.

And today I want to thank him, and, his family for sharing him, by using just one simple word to describe his impact upon our nation, our world, and myself.


Jeff Grenell