New York, NY – February 21, 2018
As news of Rev. Dr. Billy Graham’s passing at 99 years of age spread through the world today, the Christian community said goodbye to the one who helped defined the Christian message of the past few decades, more than any other. Bp Efraim Tendero, Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), noted: “No one has more defined the essence of evangelical faith than Dr. Graham. He was God’s gift and instrument to the growth and development of today’s evangelical movement.”
He reportedly preached face to face to some 100 million people in his many public meetings since the middle of the past century. He gave focus and definition to what it meant to be born again in Christ and to what He calls us to in giving witness to the love and message of Jesus.
During his time, Dr. Graham was the voice of evangelicals, a community of Christians that grew from 90 million in the early 1960s to 600 million today. During his global travels, his prophetic and pastoral presence were trusted. His clear biblical message and deeply regarded leadership gave evangelicals a voice, an identity and clear vision. Not only did his preaching reach into millions of people, but his vision and energy translated into the lives of generations of leaders.
Throughout his life, he also had a deep interest in the world of the WEA. In 1968, at a time when the WEA needed added impetus he stepped in and provided resources for the relaunch and internationalization of the work.
WEA leaders were heavily engaged in the Lausanne Congress in 1974, where Graham and John Stott called 2,500 church leaders together in Lausanne, Switzerland, and there reshaped the evangelical witness, calling Christians to move away from just seeing the Gospel as an inward work of grace but to view ministry and calling to the world in all its need. The Lausanne Covenant became a theological and missional backdrop against which ministry was carried out. A legacy of enormous importance.
The week after the Congress ended, Dr. Graham took time to attend the WEA General Assembly nearby at Chateau d’Oex. Throughout his long ministry he continued to give much encouragement to the WEA and each of the national alliances to ensure that the results of his evangelistic efforts would be shepherded into the church, which the WEA is devoted to work with.
Living for almost a century, he had said, “I’ll preach until there is no breath left in my body. I was called by God, and until God tells me to retire, I cannot. Whatever strength I have, whatever time God lets me have, is going to be dedicated to doing the work of an evangelist, as long as I live.”
His ministry befits one who has been cited as one of the most liked persons of his generation. Avoiding political affiliation, his ministry drew together Christians from all communities. His humility, an earmark of his life, not only enabled people of all sides to join in common witness, but the clarity of his message never wavered. His faithfulness to the cross of Christ, its centrality in life and death, was an invitation for millions to accept the payment of sin and to live a Christ-centered life.
Dr. Graham’s passing leaves a vacuum that inevitably will be filled as the Spirit raises up new leadership for these coming generations.