Few men could spark the outpouring of respect and gratitude as Billy Graham upon his death Feb. 21 at age 99.
Among Southern Baptists — among whom Graham counted himself — a range of leaders underscored the broad scope of the famed evangelist’s influence.
Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church: “Billy Graham is with Jesus. He has seen and talked with our beloved Savior. May the awareness of his death result in many people hearing the Gospel and being converted to Jesus Christ!
“He is the nearest thing to a true prophet that Christians have had in the past century. He was a man of integrity, simplicity, love and evangelistic fervency. He preached to more people than anyone else in the history of Christianity. He was a legendary man of God, and every born again Christian will miss him. He was converted to Christ in 1934 at an evangelistic crusade in Charlotte, N.C., led by evangelist Mordecai Ham. He soon felt the call to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the world has never been the same.”
Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee: “Along with countless others, I mourn today for the passing of Billy Graham. As I came to Christ as a young man out of a non-Christian home, he became a mentor to me from afar. I admired his preaching, his life and his integrity. I told him so years ago when I got to meet with him. Heaven is a richer place today.
“For three-quarters of a century, he has been a faithful ambassador for Christ, seeking to reconcile men and women to God through faith in Jesus Christ,” Page said. “He has borne witness for Christ without distinction, sharing the Gospel with the world’s most powerful leaders and with the oppressed, urging the wealthiest and the most impoverished alike to find their hope in Christ alone.”
Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force and immediate past president of the SBC: “I am overcome with emotion when I think of Billy Graham and his influence on all of Christianity. He was a giant for God, a one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-generation prophet of God’s truth and grace. He called everyone, young and old and even boys and girls, to get up from their chairs and give their lives to Christ. And they poured out by the thousands…. I pray we may never forget his legacy and his unrelenting passion for Jesus, and may we follow his footsteps in calling people to repentance in Christ.”
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board: “Only eternity is expansive enough to measure the impact Billy Graham had on our world. I will be forever grateful for the way he kept believers focused on the priority of proclaiming Jesus. I am thankful and grateful for the impact he made on my life and that of millions of others.”
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: “The eyes of a North Carolina farm boy sparkled as never before this morning when Billy Graham entered heaven. After nearly 100 years spent largely in an effort to ‘rescue the perishing and care for the dying,’ the world’s evangelist was called home to a prophet’s reward.
“Never accused of the hoarding of wealth or of sexual misconduct, his careful practices of conduct place him in a category of a man whose life was a proclamation of Christ as well as His message. His faithfulness to the proclamation of God’s plan of redemption — undergirded by his initiatives on racial justice and his concern for the lost — set the standard for all who would attempt to preach the riches of the Gospel. His allegiance to sacred Scripture was legendary. Never did he allow doubt to shake his confidence in God’s Word.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: “An epic era of evangelical history has come to an end. Billy Graham was not only a titanic figure in evangelicalism, but in world history and perhaps represents the last of a kind. He dominated 20th-century American evangelicalism and remained a major figure on the world stage throughout most of the 20th century in a way that we can envision no evangelical leader in our times. He was a man of deep conviction whose passionate heartbeat was for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources and founding dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry: “He [Graham] will forever be revered as one of the greatest evangelists the Christian faith has ever known. In a day and time when Mr. Graham could have easily commanded the attention of millions for his own gain, he chose to live a private, humble life. Throughout his life, it was obvious he wanted the focus to be not on himself but on one thing: the cross of Jesus Christ.”
Russell Moore, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission: “We are fortunate to have lived in the era of Billy Graham. He was perhaps the greatest Southern Baptist in history, turning the world upside down with the Gospel. He was never ashamed to confront a brave new world with the old-time Gospel. Combining the power of a ‘the Bible says’ authority with the compassion of a ‘Just as I Am’ invitation, he projected the mission of Christ Jesus, full of grace and truth. Behind Dr. Graham’s stately North Carolina accent, millions of people heard another voice, a northern Galilean voice calling ‘Come, follow Me.’ As we grieve the loss of Billy Graham, let’s thank God that in this man’s life we were able to see the Gospel that is, still and forever, the power of God unto salvation.”
Adam Greenway, dean of Southern Seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry: “The passing of Billy Graham marks the end of an era in American Christianity. He was incredibly passionate for evangelism and he influenced every level of American life. He was also passionate about theological education and the training of the next generation of evangelists and evangelistic pastors. That’s personified by his support for the creation of the Billy Graham School at Southern Seminary — the only graduate school ever allowed to carry his name. I think his greatest legacy would not only be those whom he personally impacted through his evangelistic ministry, but the scores of pastors and evangelists who have been trained to preach the same Gospel that he so faithfully proclaimed.”
Jerry A. Johnson, president of National Religious Broadcasters: “The world has lost a great man, but those in heaven are surely rejoicing in the homecoming of this good and faithful servant. Only God knows how many are there with him because of his ministry and how many more there will be. It seems trite to say he was a giant among men, but no one could doubt the truth of this statement. For more than eight decades, Billy Graham faithfully obeyed Christ’s command to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature as our Lord commanded. Billy Graham loved the Lord with all of his heart and demonstrated this through his ministry. He was a trailblazer in the use of radio, television, film and other communications platforms to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ…. Billy Graham was and will remain a shining example for us all.”
Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and former president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission: “I grew up in a home with a Christian father because of Billy Graham. Dr. Graham came to Houston’s Rice Stadium for a crusade in the early 1950s. Some of the men from the local Baptist church in our neighborhood invited my father to go with them to hear Billy Graham. It was there that my father accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior and became a faithful deacon and Christian father for the rest of his life. Similar stories have been repeated literally hundreds of thousands of times across the globe. I am eternally grateful that God sent Billy Graham to us and that he answered God’s call and became the greatest messenger for the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ since the Apostles.”
Jerry Drace, a former president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists and president of the Jerry Drace Evangelistic Association: “[Graham’s] standards of integrity, honesty and genuine concern for all people of all backgrounds will forever be a model for every vocational evangelist. His single message of telling others that, ‘God loves you’ and his constant reminder that, ‘The Bible says’ was the foundation of his God-anointed ministry. One one occasion I was scheduled to speak to the annual meeting of religious officials in Shenzhen, China. Rev. Graham shared with me the message which he delivered to that same group a few years before. That evening when I spoke, I brought them greetings from Rev. Billy Graham and they applauded. I knew then that everything was going to be fine. His impact will continue to live on in the lives of the thousands of evangelists throughout the world who were blessed to have come under his influence.”
— Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary: “With news of the passing of evangelist Billy Graham, I am rejoicing over his magnificent life of faithful, powerful, fruitful Gospel preaching & careful, intentional, consistent Gospel living!”
— Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary: “I’m saddened to learn of Dr. @BillyGraham’s passing. Yet rejoice that he is now in the arms of King Jesus, and for the legacy of evangelism he leaves.”
— Bryant Wright, pastor of the Atlanta-area Johnson Ferry Baptist Church and a former SBC president: “Isn’t it a fitting tribute to Billy Graham’s life that on every major news outlet that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being shared over and over. Oh Lord, may Jesus and the Gospel be the focus as we live each day and when any of us are called to heaven one day!”
— Jack Graham, pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church and a former SBC president: “Billy Graham never wavered and preached Jesus faithfully without apology. The cross and resurrection and the public call to decision was the focus of every sermon.”
— Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.