We learned this morning that Rev. Billy Graham died at the age of 99.
Billy Graham was recognized as one of the most well-known Christian evangelists in modern history. He was known as “America’s Pastor” and served as an advisor to U.S. presidents since the 1950s. He preached to hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. and around the world. His desire was to tell people about Jesus as the Savior of the world.
In his 1997 autobiography, Just as I Am, Graham recounted his early interest in how radio was being used to proclaim the gospel. He had an early fondness for Walter Maier’s The Lutheran Hour. But, initially, Graham did not see himself as a radio preacher, as evidenced by his prayer upon hearing of the death of Maier:
Some months before, I heard over the radio that Dr. Walter A. Maier, the great Lutheran theologian and radio preacher from St. Louis, had died of a heart attack. I was so jolted that I knelt in my hotel room and prayed that God might raise up someone to take his place on the radio. . . . Dr. Maier and Charles Fuller were virtually the only preachers on national radio at the time (pages 176-177).
Several months later Dr. Theodore Elsner, a radio preacher from Philadelphia and president of the National Religious Broadcasters, met Graham. Elsner told him, “‘I have a great burden on my heart,’ he said, ‘It’s a message that I believe is from the Lord. Billy, you must go on national radio. You know Dr. Maier is dead, and you’re the man God could use to touch America through radio’” (Just as I Am, page 177). Graham dismissed the idea initially, but soon launched his Hour of Decision radio program. From 1951 to 1954, a 15-minute version of Hour of Decision also aired on television.
Rev. Billy Graham is well known for the 400+ crusades at which he preached to live audiences around the world. We also remember him for being a pioneer in Christian media ministry, both radio and television. But mostly, we remember him as a man committed to sharing Jesus with the world.
For decades, Billy told people about Jesus. Today, he is blessed to meet Jesus face-to-face.