I was sad when I heard the news that Billy Graham died. He was 99 years old. I never met the man, but he had a profound influence in my life and my family.
According to the news reports, Billy Graham spoke to over 200 million people who attended his crusades during his lifetime. He preached in almost every country on our planet. He preached to the Queen of England in her private Chapel and met many leaders around the world.
He personally met with every US President from Truman to Obama. He advised and encouraged many of them during difficult times in our nation’s history. Billy Graham spoke to the nation at the service in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC after the terrorist attacks on our nation in 2001.
When I was a young high school student, my parents and my brother and I attended a Billy Graham crusade at the Arizona State University football stadium in 1964. I must admit that I didn’t pay attention to what he said that day, but I will always remember that at the end of the service, my mother got out of her seat and went down to the football field and put her faith in Jesus.
Don’t misunderstand; my parents were church going people. They were good people. But, the Bible teaches that each of us needs to personally decide for ourselves if we want to be a committed follower of Jesus.
In the Gospel of John chapter three, Jesus told a devout, religious scholar named Nicodemus that he needed to be “born again”. Just like we all have a physical birthday, we also need to have a spiritual birthday – be “born again” (John 3:1-8). I believe that my mother’s spiritual birthday was the day she went down to the football field at Arizona State University in 1964.
My mother met a counselor on that football field that day. The counselor encouraged my mom to start reading her Bible and to go back to church. The counselor told my mother about a new church that had started in our town. It was called Scottsdale Bible Church. In 1964 the church met in a store front on Scottsdale Road. A few years later they got a building of their own.
Through the influence of a wonderful pastor at Scottsdale Bible Church, Dr. James Borror and an energetic youth pastor named Sherrill Babb, my brother and I eventually came to faith in Christ, too. It took our father a little longer to come to the conclusion that he needed to put his faith in Jesus but eventually he did, too.
When I heard about the death of this remarkable man, I was struck by the fact that I would probably not be where I am today if it wasn’t for Billy Graham. My brother and I would probably not have become pastors. Some of our children would probably not be serving on church staffs and as missionaries and Christian educators if it wasn’t for Billy Graham. Through the words of one man who taught the Bible and preached the Gospel (Good News) our whole family was changed forever.
Most of us will probably never know how many people we influenced in our lifetime. I doubt that Billy Graham could ever imagine how many people he influenced in his lifetime. But, I do know his ministry and his words have impacted three generations of my family. And, I’m thankful he did.
Let me encourage you to find the Billy Graham ministry website and learn more about this remarkable man. I think you will be glad you did!
Pastor Mark Hopper
Efree Church of Diamond Bar
3255 South Diamond Bar Blvd
Sunday Services: 9:00 & 10:45 AM