Happy birthday, Dr. Graham!

Father David Epps's picture

The Rev. Dr. Billy Graham is 90 years old. I cannot remember a time when there wasn’t a Billy Graham in my life.

When I was a child, my parents would watch the Billy Graham Crusades on our black and white television. As a teen, I would “sneak” and listen to Dr. Graham on the radio.

I say “sneak” because it just wasn’t cool for a high school football player to listen to a preacher on the radio. Yet, nearly every night when I would go to bed, I would tune into the “Hour of Decision” radio broadcast (which was only a half-hour long, by the way) and listen to Dr. Graham preach.

He had a way with words, this Southern preacher. I don’t mean that he was fancy or slick — quite the opposite. He was passionate, genuine, and could speak as though he were talking only to you, instead of millions. There were many nights as I lay in my bed in northeastern Tennessee that I was certain he was talking only to me.

Later, when I became a minister, Billy Graham was my role model. I was a child of the South, too, so who better to look to?

When I took my first pastorate, however, I was in over my head. I had not yet taken a course on preaching, although I had done well in a high school speech class. So, I floundered. I was a horrible preacher, and I was pretty certain the congregation agreed.

About the time I thought I should give up the ministry, I chanced upon a book in a used bookstore. It was a collection of Billy Graham sermons. I took the book home and read it — devoured it, really. Then, frankly, on Sundays I would preach Billy Graham’s sermons.

Oh, I changed the stories around and put something of myself into the sermon, but it was still a 23-year-old preaching Dr. Billy Graham’s sermons.

By the end of the book, I had begun to learn how to structure my own sermons and later enrolled in a number of preaching classes. Today, I’m not quite as bad as I was way back then. The truth is that preaching Billy Graham’s sermons got me through the first six months of my first pastorate. If I hadn’t stumbled upon that book, only the Lord knows where I would be today.

Later, I would read other Graham books and a couple of biographies about him. The more I learned, the greater my esteem for this Southern Baptist evangelist.

Today, at 90, Billy Graham is an icon and one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century. In all of his long life and ministry, as far as I know, there has been not one hint of a scandal or inappropriate behavior. A friend of presidents, popes, and kings, Graham remained faithful to his one and only wife, submitted himself to outside accountability, and lived humbly and modestly.

I read once that when no one would allow the young evangelist to preach, he would walk into the nearby woods and preach to the squirrels. Whether that is true or not, I cannot say.

What I do know is that Billy Graham, who rose from humble beginnings, has touched and impacted millions of lives, including my own. There are a few people I would love to meet — my own personal heroes, I guess you could call them. At the top of that list would be Dr. Billy Graham.

Happy birthday, Dr. Graham! May the year ahead be full of God’s grace and blessings!

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Submitted by TomCat on Sat, 11/22/2008 - 4:15pm.

As another "middle-ager" who grew up listening to those 30 minute "Hour of Decision" broadcasts (WSB-750 at 10PM on Sundays...back then), I couldnt agree with you more. A fine, humble man who has remained true to his faith and family and in so doing, has given us a true ROLE model of how to live our lives. I also remember, with pleasure, Bev Shea's opening of "How Great Thou Art" (what a voice) and to Dr Graham....in Cliff Barrow's parting words each week, "May the Lord Bless You - Real Good!".

"The Cat is loose...."

Submitted by Bonkers on Sat, 11/22/2008 - 4:12pm.

The cheapening of titles bestowed upon members of religious organizations for their notoriety as much as for their disciplined work, has made it important that all now have titles to be recognized by the masses!

The honorary titles (doctor, bishop, and others) have lost their significance due to so many being awarded them for the wrong reasons.
There are no consistent standards for their issuance by various sects.

The Catholic church being the worst offender about issuing titles has influenced others to copy this act I suppose to influence their sheep with titles.
Let us face it, "preachers," are all they are. Any further titles such as Holy Imminence, Most reverend, high muckedymuck with a robe and sash and a smoke pot are strictly for show.
Jesus never needed any of this for some reason!
I think it insults the intelligence of those who are forced to indulge in the formalities.
The Creator exists then and now. That is all.

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