I respect churches who allow young preachers to hold forth in their earliest days of ministry. I was 17 when I preached the first time. I told the church all I knew, and a lot I wasn’t sure of, in my 11-minute sermon!
I was a Samford student when a church in the Birmingham area contacted me about filling their pulpit. It became an eight-month commitment as their interim pastor. I remember a senior adult in the church named Charlie. He was retired and went to Bible conferences all over the area, and everybody knew him.
The Billy Graham organization planned a crusade at Legion Field in 1972. Charlie was involved. He told me to come “backstage” one night and he’d introduce me to Billy Graham. I thought, “Right!”, but I met Charlie backstage one night and he introduced me to Billy Graham. I was so taken by the man’s presence I think the only words I thought of to say were, “God bless you, sir.” He shook my hand and he was gone.
I’ve jokingly told folks over the years that I’ve had a blessed ministry since I once shook hands with Billy Graham, “and the glory of God spilled out all over me”!
The world lost a great man recently when Graham made his heavenly homegoing.
He’s one of very few non-politicians who lay in state at the U.S. Capitol, and whose funeral was attended by the president and vice president of the United States.
A hobby club friend posted on social media last week his opinion that Graham’s ministry was tainted because he didn’t speak out strongly for civil rights. Au contraire, I responded to him. I remembered the ’72 event, and the Graham organization’s insistence that the crusade be fully integrated. This brought a measure of blow-back from racists in our town, I’m sorry to say. But Graham was a pioneer in bringing all people together and to Christ.
I’m sure Graham could’ve been more outspoken for civil rights or world peace or whatever else, but he was single-minded in his quest to present Christ to as many as possible throughout the world.
The Apostle Paul was also single-minded. He’s been criticized for tolerating slavery in the Roman Empire. It’s been estimated that one-third of the Empire were slaves. But if Paul had taken a stand, the Empire would’ve crushed him like a bug. He chose, rather, to plant churches to do the work of Christ. Paul planted a seed, however, when he told Philemon to treat his runaway slave not as a slave, but as a brother in Christ.
Thank God for Billy Graham and his single-minded quest to preach grace to a needy world.