Someone recently asked, “Why aren’t there any Billy Grahams today?” It’s a good question that deserves an honest response.
In the late 1940’s through the early 60’s, When Billy Graham’s ministry filled stadiums with thousands of people night after night, our culture was significantly different from what it is today. Back then, far more people were raised in (or in proximity to) a Christian church. As well, the basic tenants of Christian belief were still talked about in homes, schools, club organizations, and even on television. It was as if everyone was given all the puzzle pieces for belief, even if they were not quite assembled in the right order. Those puzzle pieces included things like the reality of sin, the fact that God exists, and the golden rule. When Billy Graham spoke to such people, he simply revealed to them the center piece of the puzzle, namely Jesus Christ. Upon hearing about Jesus, suddenly the whole picture came into view—all the pieces fitting together to form the beautiful story of the gospel. A person would walk into an arena unsaved and walk out of the arena saved. Billy Graham’s simple job was to reveal that missing center piece.
Nowadays, however, people don’t even have the right pieces to the puzzle.
Those institutions of schools, clubs, and television are not giving people the basic tenants of Christian faith. Even in most homes, the Bible is no longer read. Oh, people are receiving puzzle pieces, but not the ones that can eventually be assembled into Christian faith. Instead, people receive pieces of secularism, pluralism, and uncertainty. And some pieces are missing; for example, few people want to talk about sin anymore. If someone today attended a Billy Graham rally and heard his Jesus-as-centerpiece message, it might not even make sense. It would be like trying to fit a puzzle piece from another puzzle into the one you’re working on.
For this reason, there really can’t be “another Billy Graham” right now, at least not in the same way Billy Graham did ministry. It’s no longer enough to simply hold up that center puzzle piece and say, “Jesus saves!” The cultural response might be, “Saves us from what?”
Our new mission is to help rebuild society with the puzzle pieces of faith. It starts in our homes. Last Sunday’s Scripture lesson includes the phrase, “Teach [God’s truths] diligently to your children.” (Deut. 6:7) It also says, “Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deut. 6:9) This means we need to be sharing God’s truths in our inner circles (the doorposts of our house) and in the public sphere (on our gates). In other words, it is our job to communicate the love of God to people who don’t know it. If few people are reading the Bible and thereby gaining the right puzzle pieces that can be assembled into saving faith, then our mission is to disseminate the message of God’s love in our homes and everywhere we work, play, and conduct our lives. I realize that this can be an awkward and unpopular thing to do. But at this point in our history, we must do more than merely celebrate Billy Graham’s amazing ministry. We must also continue his legacy by doing the hard work of re-supplying our culture with the right puzzle pieces that eventually lead to saving faith in Jesus.
What I am saying is this: You and I are the next Billy Graham. Let’s get to work!