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Billy GrahamName: William Franklin “Billy” Graham

Why you’ve heard of him: He was the preeminent evangelist of the 20th century and has preached the gospel to nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories—more in live audiences than anyone else in history.

Position: Evangelist and Chairman of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Previous: Pastor, radio host, president of Northwestern Bible College (University of Northwestern – St. Paul), evangelist for Youth For Christ International

Education: Diploma in Biblical Studies from Florida Bible Institute (Trinity College), B.A. in Anthropology from Wheaton College, numerous honorary doctorates

Books: Graham is the author of 31 books. His first, Calling Youth to Christ, was published in 1947, and his most recent, The Heaven Answer Book, released in 2012. Some of his more popular works include: Hope for Each Day, Angels, Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham, Peace With God, Hope for the Troubled Heart, and How to Be Born Again.

Why he’s important: According to the BGEA, millions have responded to the gospel during Graham’s crusades around the world. He has served as the de facto spiritual advisor in America, appearing on Gallup’s “Ten Most Admired Men in the World” an unparalleled 56 times total with his inclusion in 2012 marking his 50th consecutive. He has been called the pastor to presidents, as he has had a personal audience with U.S. presidents from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

He was particularly influential in the growth of evangelical Christianity, as opposed to liberal and fundamentalist views of the faith. Graham sought a Christian faith that was biblical, intellectual, and still engaged with the culture. Because of this perspective, he founded numerous ministries in the field of mass communication, including a movie studio, radio stations, and, most perhaps most prominent, the magazine Christianity Today.

Graham also played a role in racial reconciliation, inviting Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to share the pulpit with him during his New York City crusade in 1957 and posting bail for the minister when he was jailed in 1963 during the civil rights protests in Birmingham, AL.

Notable quotes

“It is far too easy for someone in my position to read the Bible only with an eye on a future sermon, overlooking the message God has for me through its pages.”

“We are not cisterns made for hoarding, we are channels made for sharing.”

“Suffering is part of the human condition, and it comes to us all. The key is how we react to it, either turning away from God in anger and bitterness or growing closer to Him in trust and confidence.”

“I have failed many times, and I would do many things differently. For one thing, I would speak less and study more, and I would spend more time with my family.”

“The thing we need to know more than anything else is that we are forgiven. That’s what Christ can do.”

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7 thoughts on “Know Your Southern Baptists: Billy Graham”

  1. Travis says:

    I thought Billy Graham was Presbyterian.

    1. Trevin Wax says:

      No. He was a long-time member of First Baptist in Dallas, and he recently moved his membership to a church in NC.

    2. Reid Fowler says:

      According to Grant Wacker (America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation. Belknap, 2014), Graham’s family were members of an Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, so that was the denomination of his childhood and teens. His wife, Ruth, was Presbyterian, so it lends some confusion to the narrative. While Graham attended Florida Bible Institute he also served as an associate pastor with a Christian and Missionary Alliance congregation.

  2. Christiane says:

    Billy Graham once preached in the pulpit of the Polish Cathedral of Krakow. This is a strange, but true, account of how it came about:

    “When Karol Wojtyla stepped out on the Vatican balcony on October 16, 1978, as the new Pope John Paul II, waving to the crowds in St. Peter’s Square on the first day of his auspicious papacy, the person preaching for him in his home pulpit back in Krakow, Poland, was none other than Billy Graham. Behind that fact is a surprising story of the late pope’s personal involvement with American evangelicals. With his passing, it is time to tell that story. . . ”

  3. Wanda and Dennis says:

    WE recently visited the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC. We are now reading his autobiography called “Just As I AM” I would reccommend everyone reading this wonderful book.

  4. Brendt Wayne Waters says:

    I realize that you’re working from a “template” here, but, to be honest, the only text after “Why you’ve heard of him:” should be “because you haven’t been under a rock for the last 50 years”. :-)

  5. Adam Hatfield says:

    Another little tidbit that few know about him. He attended Bible Baptist Seminary in Ft Worth Texas (J. Frank Norris school) for a short while. He also traveled, as an evangelist, with John R Rice.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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