The Night I Saw Billy Graham

By Stan Guthrie

I used to work at Wheaton College’s famous Billy Graham Center. In my three years there, I never had the opportunity to see the renowned preacher in the flesh—except once. Rev. Graham and his team had scheduled a June crusade at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, and I and other BGC staffers and family members were invited to ride down in a chartered bus from Wheaton to attend.

That warm night Mr. Graham, who was getting well on in years, needed help to get to the lectern. His youth and energy were things of the past, yet his commitment to see people come to Christ was undimmed. His message, as always, was simply about our need to trust Christ. Truth be told, the sermon was not notable for its erudition, and I quickly forgot it.

But I didn’t forget Graham’s simple but powerful invitation at the end—and the thousands of people who streamed forward in response. Mothers, daughters, fathers, and sons came down to floor level as the music for “Just as I Am” played. The Holy Spirit, working through the prayers, preparation, preaching, and invitation, was palpably present, and people responded. He will make His presence known through us, too.

We have the joyous responsibility to call on people to come forward and trust Christ—if not in an arena, at least in their hearts. To be effectual, however, this trust will manifest itself not just in a one-time decision, but in a lifetime of consecrated service. Malcolm Muggeridge once said that a true decision for Christ is not like jumping through a hoop, once; rather, it is deciding to make every decision for Him from here on out.

May we follow Billy Graham’s example in calling our friends, co-workers, and family to embrace the God who has already embraced us—trusting the Holy Spirit for the results.

Adapted from The Sacrament of Evangelism, by Jerry Root and Stan Guthrie (Moody Publishers, 2011).

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