On the Passing of Billy Graham and Why He Mattered

I rarely take moments to memorialize Christian people who pass on to eternity; after all, the people of God move from this life to the next every day…and yet.

The life and ministry of Billy Graham have impacted this church in ways that perhaps you may not have known; allow me to share a story with you about how he has likely impacted your life, whether you realized it or not:

In 1974, the broader evangelical church around the world stood divided.

For the previous 50 years, it had been shattered into two camps:

One camp was the part of the church, concentrated primarily in the Majority World (outside North America), which held to a faith more dominated by the conversation around social justice and the gospel being good news for the poor. Because of some of its background, however, it had embraced some Marxist leanings and had put the need for personal conversion down the list in terms of importance. For this reason, much of that part of the Christian world, and the best parts of their thinking, had been shunned by the more conservative, conversion-focused North American church.

The other camp was just the opposite. Based primarily in North America, and primarily white in ethnicity, that part of the church, in order to preserve the Biblical mandate for conversion and discipleship, had largely ignored its brothers and sisters in minority churches, to ensure their own version of orthodoxy.

In 1974, though, everything changed, thanks to a revivalist and populist preacher from North Carolina, named Billy Graham. With decades of credible ministry underneath his belt, and with a burning desire to make Jesus known to as broad an audience as possible, Graham convened what is known as the Lausanne Conference (Lausanne is a city in Switzerland).

The purpose of the conference was to come to some agreements as to what the evangelical church would look like in the decades to come, and Graham, a voice trusted by many, insisted that Christians from around the world be made welcome and heard.

After drafting a number of resolutions, Graham, along with John Stott, the famed Anglican minister, included an addendum to the conference document, acknowledging the failure of the North American evangelical church to listen to the broader church, especially those from Latin America, and a commitment to work towards including more significant efforts to alleviate poverty, racism and injustice where they exist.

Graham led the way in acknowledging that the church in the Global South was far ahead in many ways than their brothers and sisters in the North, and this crucial step began to open doors for the Church, north and south, more liberal and more conservative, to begin to dialogue and reconcile.

The end result, forty years later? Space in the church world for more churches like Mosaic, who hold fast to the necessity of personal conversion and the necessity of societal and cultural transformation as well.

In a way, Billy Graham, leveraging the position and influence he had, with a track record of Gospel inclusivity during the Civil Rights era, set the church on a course to where it is today, and for that I am grateful.

I am thankful both for his humility, and for the courage of those from especially the Latin American church to present their “case” and to not give up their advocacy for the poor and impoverished around the world.

The world is a better place because Billy Graham lived, and may the same be said of us.


P.S. We are, as always, working on getting better at what we do, and part of that includes our Sunday morning services. Would you take a short survey regarding our third service? You can click the link here, and that would help us tremendously. Currently, our second service is near capacity every week, and we especially would appreciate our members considering attending the first or, really, the third service, if at all possible. Thanks!