Remembering Billy Graham

In the wake of Billy Graham’s death we asked the TGCA Council and contributors to share some memories of his ministry. Here are three of them:

The Impact of Billy Graham on Holy Trinity Adelaide

Two months ago a new staff family joined us from Singapore. Their five year old son, Billy, was named in honour of Billy Graham. It will not surprise you to know that (Singapore) Billy’s dad has been employed as an Evangelism mobiliser! Billy Graham’s impact continues in Adelaide in 2018 and I am sure will for many years.

I was not around when Billy Graham conducted his evangelist rallies in Adelaide in May 1959. However, I have experienced the effect of his ministry in the lives of so many since I joined the staff team at Trinity in 1987.

In 1957 Lance Shilton was appointed the Rector of Holy Trinity. He wholeheartedly backed Graham’s visit to Adelaide and the members of the church were involved at every level—Crusade seating layout, counsellors, donors and attendees. It is estimated that over 300 people were referred to Trinity from these meetings and an additional gallery was built in the church building to house the growing congregation. It was a period of enormous evangelistic excitement.

Over 300 people were referred to Trinity from these 1959 meetings and an additional gallery was built in the church building to house the growing congregation.

Over the years I have kept encountering members who were converted at the ’59 Crusade. It has been so encouraging to ask a 75+ year old questions about what they believe, and to have them clearly enunciate the faith in Christ they came to in 1959 when Billy Graham taught them to put their trust in Jesus. Sometimes I found out this information when I took their funeral. Last year I preached at the funeral of a man who was a member at Trinity since the late 1950’s. He was a well-known journalist. In the eulogy I discovered that he and his wife had gone forward at one of the meetings and given their lives to Christ.

Billy Graham’s visit sharpened the evangelical convictions of Holy Trinity Church. Graham’s emphasis on the Bible and conversion caused Anglican diocesan leaders to distance themselves from what was happening. This was in sharp contrast to Shilton and the Trinity congregation. In many ways 1959 highlighted a growing gap in the theological trajectories and practices of the diocese and Trinity.

It is almost sixty years since Graham made his visit to Adelaide. The ripples are still visible.

Paul Harrington

Billy Graham: Example and Leader

Growing up in a warm, gospel-hearted baptist family meant that the name of Billy Graham was held in very high esteem. I remember learning from my mother that Graham refused to allow racially segregated seating at his rallies in the South. That always stuck with me. In more recent years, doing research on the history of evangelicalism in Australia in the twentieth century, it is extraordinary how many of the leadership who have shaped the current evangelical scene were themselves converted at the 1959 Crusade. It was a remarkable moment in the history of the gospel in this nation. Praise God for Billy Graham.

Rory Shiner

Billy via Satellite

In 1989 a friend invited me to a meeting in Aughnacloy church hall in the middle of Northern Ireland to hear the evangelist Billy Graham via satellite.  I have to confess that I remember very little of what he actually said that night but I remember being struck by one thing at the meeting.  After the warm up hymns and songs on the stage, I was expecting an MC to give Billy Graham a rock star introduction. However, at the end of one hymn, the camera simply switched to Billy who started preaching.  The humility of this famous evangelist made deep impression on me.  I was one of four people to ‘go the front’ that evening—another was a reluctant young boy being dragged by his more enthusiastic mother; the other was my  Christian friend who I had asked to go to the front with me.   My understanding of the gospel was limited but walking to the front that evening was the beginning of a process that the Lord used to call me to himself.

The humility of this famous evangelist made deep impression on me.

Although, I was aware of Billy Graham and thankful for his ministry, I did not think of him much for a number of years. Decades later I read his autobiography Just As I Am.  It remains one of the most encouraging and inspiring Christian books I have read. Billy’s gospel conviction comes through on every page – as he tells President Truman who thought being good would get him into heaven: ‘It takes more than that, Mr. President. It’s faith in Christ and His death on the Cross that you need’; when he spars with theologian Karl Barth [] and even when he faces down his own doubts [].

My sons will never have the privilege of hearing Billy Graham live, but some evenings during our times reading the Bible, I will play them a clip of one of his sermons.  They are struck by the directness of his preaching and his calls for repentance:  ‘If there had been another way of salvation, Jesus would never have died on that cross’; ‘There is only one road to heaven’;  ‘If you haven’t come by faith to the foot of that cross renouncing your sins, I don’t care who you are or what you are, you will never be in heaven’. Billy Graham has passed on to glory, but though dead his sermons still speak and call us to trust in Christ and Christ alone for salvation.

Peter Orr

Blessed by Billy’s Converts

In 1980 I began high school where I would soon become friends with a young woman whose older sister had invited her to the 1979 Billy Graham crusade in Sydney. Through that meeting my friend had become a Christian. Less than a year later she invited me to I.S.C.F, the Christian group at our school. I still remember where we were standing when she invited me, and I remember thinking that she seemed different, like something was wrong. She didn’t seem her normal extroverted self. She was more shy and awkward. But she still asked me to come along. I remember thinking when she invited me ‘Sure, I’ll go, I’m a Christian, I know the order of the first 5 books of the New Testament.’ But I really knew nothing, and I was very confused.

Although I had grown up going to church every week, it was at that lunchtime group that I started studying the Bible for the first time, and the first time where I experienced the advantage and blessing of having others help me understand God’s word. In God’s mercy over time I came to understand that Jesus’ death was sufficient for all of our sin, and that I needed him to be my Saviour.

As I kept reading God’s word, I began to slowly understand and appreciate God’s character more and I began to recognise that Jesus’ Lordship over my life was not just right but also good. So I’m not sure exactly when in 1980, but God saved me.

As I kept reading God’s word, I began to slowly understand and appreciate God’s character more and I began to recognise that Jesus’ Lordship over my life was not just right but also good. So I’m not sure exactly when in 1980, but God saved me.

Before studying God’s word I never had assurance of salvation. I was not sure what was going to happen when I died and that left me with no peace. It was a terrible way to live and a completely unnecessary way to live. Through studying God’s word I understood the sufficiency and necessity of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and I began to understand the privilege of being God’s child.

Several years later, towards the end of high school, I was an exchange student overseas. During that year many significant things happened, but the 2 most significant happened back home in Sydney. First, one of my sisters became a Christian through the ministry of Campus Bible Study (CBS) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). Second, my family moved to a different area of Sydney and so I needed to go to a different church. My sister had heard about a church through friends she had met at CBS, and this church was within walking distance from our new home. The chaplain at UNSW, Phillip Jensen, was also the senior pastor of this church. Phillip made his public profession of Christian faith at the 1959 Billy Graham crusade. Phillip’s preaching, evangelism, pastoral care, and his understanding of the great need to train others for ministry so that people all around the world will hear the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, has impacted and shaped me greatly.

Jane Tooher