Billy Graham

Dear Church,

I wasn’t alive for the height of Billy Graham’s ministry.  In fact, when I hear people talk about a “crusade” in connotation with a Billy Graham crusade, I have far more negative historical connections than positive ones when it comes to that word!  Be that as it may, like many of you, I have been enthralled with reading about this man’s life and legacy.  From Kathy Lee Gifford’s emotional testimony of her relationship with Billy to reading about how his casket was built by prison inmates, undoubtedly Graham casts a long shadow of faithfulness for us all to walk in.  I’ve also wondered how did he get to be “Pastor to the Presidents”?  Was there a search committee for that?!

This past week I took Pastor Mel out for coffee and a donut.  It had been a while since my good friend and I got together, so this trip was of special importance.  On the car ride out to Munster Donut, Mel brought up Billy Graham’s death and memorial.  He talked about Graham’s humility.  Flippantly, I just asked Mel, “Did you ever attend one of his events?”  “Oh sure,” Mel said.  He then went on to tell me that back when he was serving the church in San Dimas, CA, Mel was trained as a counselor for a Billy Graham Crusade that was hosted in the baseball park of the Anaheim Angels (I think back then they were still called the Los Angeles Angels).  He went on to share with me that he needed to attend three training events in preparation for the big crusade at the baseball park.  Before the event started, Mel was down on the field standing next to Billy Graham!  Mel even shook his hand!

Looking back on this conversation with Mel, I really don’t know why I’m surprised.  Of course 93 year-old Pastor Mel met Billy Graham.  Of course he helped lead a couple to Christ at the event.  Of course he was on the front lines of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ to a mass of people.  Why wouldn’t he be there and why wouldn’t he have met Billy Graham?!

After we talked about the actual crusade, I asked Mel about Billy Graham’s preaching.  Again, I’m more acquainted with the legacy than I am with the actual ministry. “Was he a good preacher?” I asked.  “He couldn’t really preach all that well,” Mel said.  “What?!  Billy Graham couldn’t preach?” I responded.  “No, every text had the same ending – God loves you,” Mel told me.  I mean I guess on some level we all are trained to read the Scriptures through a Christ lens, but still, that was a really interesting comment.  Every sermon ended the same way, with a simple message of salvation and a reminder that God loves you.

I don’t know about you, but I could really use a reminder of that right about now.  How about you?  Not the best version of you.  Not the person you want to be.  Not the person you were.  Not the person who has come through the wilderness.  Not the person who has been sober for “X” number of days.  Not the person who has it all figured out.  Not the person whom you show to the rest of the world.  No, God loves you and God loves me.  Right where you are.  Right now.  Here.  Today.  God loves you.

What a great message?!  Who wouldn’t want to hear that over and over and over again?!  And who wouldn’t want to share that with someone else?  Not share with them a brand of religion or a particular denomination or even an invite to our church (although that would be great).  No, just letting others know that God loves them.  And my friends, we can be certain of this because, well, just remember John 3:16.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Matt

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