Picture credit: The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
Billy Graham died this week at the age of 99 but his life touched millions and was perhaps the most admired evangelist in history. He was voted one of the ten most admired men in the world 51 times in Gallup’s poll.
Graham’s accomplishments are stuff that movies are made out of. Though raised on a farm and a college dropout, his accolades included:
- Touching the lives of the multitude with his preaching
- Creating a media empire with television programs, radio, magazines and movies (well before anyone else)
- Authoring books
- Meeting dictators and advising several presidents
- Inspiring dozens of global ministries
Here are some lessons based on Billy Graham
1. Take Determined Risks with Mentor Advice
Graham accepted invitations to preach in perilous places and closed countries, including an historic opportunity in the Soviet Union. Each risk was discussed with mentors that knew more than he and after consultation was accepted.
Lesson: Get the advice of coaches and mentors to branch out. This increases your influence and visibility.
2. Engage With Media
Graham rejected a lucrative $5 million TV hosting contract with NBC early in his career. Instead, he created his own media outlets through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, founded in 1950. Graham also reached audiences through television specials, his Hour of Decision radio program, syndicated newspaper column, and Decision magazine. He founded publication Christianity Today and World Wide Pictures for evangelical films. Billy Graham was a trailblazer for the use of radio, TV and film, well before others.
Lesson: Using media, print, magazines, podcasts, television and speaking engagements, goes a long way to effectively promote yourself and get your message out to the public.
3. Events Showcase the Power of Messages and Missions
Graham’s first major evangelistic event was held on September of 1949 in Los Angeles. The Christ for Greater Los Angeles committee meant for it to last three weeks, but it stretched to eight weeks as people thronged to the event. showing up in droves. In total, 350,000 people came. The event is an example of Graham’s long career of organizing “crusades” all over the world, but it pushed Graham into the national spotlight.
Lesson: Holding events (virtual or real) and webinars further promotes your ideas and establishes you as an authority in your field.
4. Remain Steadfast to Your Mission
Several opportunities arose for Billy Graham such as an offer to run for US presidency. He rejected this. After trying his hand at president of a Christian college, he stepped down because it diverted him from his mission of “spreading the good word”. He never strayed from his beliefs. Graham was generous to other faiths while maintaining his convictions.
Lesson: Keep your messages and services in sync without straying into unrelated areas. Do not falter from your beliefs.
5. Maintain Integrity and Accept Criticism Graciously
In the Modesto Manifesto Graham and his team outlined the key temptations and strategies to withstand them. They would commit themselves to sexual integrity, honesty in their reporting, maintain close links with churches and handle finances transparently. The manifesto helped Graham avoid the moral failure so many other successful evangelists have fallen to. Billy Graham was honest about his missteps, especially his not being around enough for his family. Others could list further weaknesses.
Graham was exemplary in engaging with those of different beliefs. In 1969, Graham appeared on a Woody Allen TV special to have a conversation with Allen about religion, rules and other matters of theology. It was a respectful, gracious conversation between two people with opposing views (much different than the venomous screeching matches of today)
Billy Graham stood out from the beginning and certainly even now. We can all strive to be as true to our principles and inspire others.
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