Call upon the name of the Lord

The world's best-known evangelist, the Rev. Billy Graham, died Wednesday on the 21st of February 2018. He was 99.

From the gangly 16-year-old baseball-loving teen who found Christ at a tent revival, Graham went on to become an international media darling, a preacher to a dozen presidents and the voice of solace in times of national heartbreak. He was America's pastor. 

Graham died at his mountain home in Montreat, N.C., where he retired in 2005 after nearly six decades on the road calling people to Christ at 417 all-out preaching and musical events from Miami to Moscow.

In recent years, he was plagued by various ailments, including cancer and pneumonia.

He took his Bible to the ends of the Earth in preaching tours he called "crusades." Presidents called on Graham in their dark hours, and uncounted millions say he showed them the light.

On the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance following the 9/11 attacks, Graham spoke of the "mystery of iniquity and evil," of "the lesson of our need for each other" and, ultimately, of hope.

He never built a megachurch, set up a relief agency, launched a political lobby or ran for office. Yet he redefined American Protestant life by popularizing Christianity's core message — Christ died for your sins — downplaying denominational details and proclaiming the joys found in faith.

Billy Graham lived through the explosion of religious diversity in America, the rise of the human potential movement and the trend to personalized spirituality. He also lived to see many tire of lonely seeking or a high-minded hopscotch from church to church, religion to religion.

Yet he remained steadfast in his response. In 1996, when he and Ruth were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, he once more shared his faith in God with some of the most powerful men on Earth:

"As Ruth and I receive this award, we know that some day we will lay it at the feet of the one we seek to serve."

  As Youth for Christ Italia we believe it is a great honor to be part of a global family where Billy Graham was very active in his early years as an evangelist. He often encouraged YFC to stay faithful to the call and he recorded a video for us to watch at our General Assembly in Thailand in 2014. Thinking about his recent death, there are some elements of his spiritual heritage that we think are precious and relevant for us in Italy. One is his faithfulness to the pure message of the Gospel with no involvement in denominational or theological divisive debates. As YFC Italia, we want to incarnate this heritage by continuing to proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel because we are convinced that it is the message of hope and freedom that teenagers need, and respecting and appreciating others who preach that message. We believe that the body of Christ is a global, cross-denomational and in part invisible reality and we have not rights to determine the perimeter and decide who is in and who is out, if not for what the Bible allows us to: whoever calls upon Jesus as Lord.

   The other precious element of Billy Graham's heritage consists in his integrity and faithfulness to the call. As we were thinking of his encounter with Jesus in heaven and the beauty of that moment, we can only imagine how sweet the words of the Master were to this man's ears: "Well done, faithful servant!" We know that he will be rewarded not for the thousands of people who believed in Jesus through his preaching, because that has been a work of the Holy Spirit, but for his faithfulness to the call. To the call to "offer to Every young person the opportunity" we want to remain faithful as YFC Italia, leaving "results" into the hands of the Spirit.

   Finally, we know that Billy Graham was a specific man called by God for a specific era. The history of the people of God is filled with men and women whom God raised to preach and live the Gospel in specific contexts. Many of them have remained anonimous (Hebrews 11). In our desire to stay achored to the Rock as we are geared to times, we want to pray and invest resources to mobilize young evangelists for "such a time as this".  

[Adapted from, with additional comments by Ester Montefalcone, National Director of Youth for Christ Italia]