Billy Graham died Feb. 21 and was buried on March 2. During that time, the world was exposed to the word “gospel” in an unprecedented way. Tributes to the great evangelist came from people in all walks of life. News organizations and social media sites played video clips of the respected man of God delivering his powerful gospel message. His death could actually reach more people with the gospel than his life!
Combined with the Easter season that is upon us, Billy Graham’s death opens the door for doing more than just talking about gospel conversations — it is the prime time to be having gospel conversations. The opportunity is wide open because millions of people have heard about Billy Graham’s death and seen video of messages he delivered more than 50 years ago and throughout his life. With all the attention on “America’s pastor” and the worldwide celebration of Easter, what an opportune time this is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. For disciples of Christ, the death of a prominent evangelical leader, combined with the perennial emphasis on Easter, present a ripe time for sharing His good news.
People were touched by the integrity, goodness and morality of Billy Graham. His death affected people around the world. Perhaps some hearts have been softened, and some minds are now willing to at least consider the message he preached. On the heels of Graham’s death comes the greatest event in the history of the world, the bedrock of the Christian faith: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Many Christians shared nostalgic memories or moving tributes to Billy Graham, the man. But what would Graham himself want at this juncture in time? I believe he would want people to take advantage of this opportune moment to talk about the message behind the man. No doubt, many people who were touched by his death do not understand what the new birth is all about. They appreciate the man, and they are impressed by the fact that he preached to more people than anyone in history, but they may not have a genuine relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. What better time than now to talk about what he preached about?
It can be as simple as sharing John 3:16. It can start with, “I guess you heard about Billy Graham,” and continue with, “Did you know he preached basically the same message for 60 years?” Then, a conversation about the death of a great man leads to a conversation about the greatest man — who not only died for our sins but rose from the dead! I believe many people have been prepared during this time to hear — with more than just a passing interest — the gospel message.
Samson was a mighty man of God who succumbed to temptation and fell into disgrace. As a prisoner of the wicked Philistines, he was mocked and blinded. As they gathered to offer sacrifice to their god Dagon and boasted that “our god has given Samson our enemy into our hands,” Samson began to pray.
About 3,000 people, including the Philistine elites, had gathered to watch and mock their former antagonist. According to Judges 17, God gave Samson strength, and Samson pulled the main pillars of the building down, giving his own life and taking the lives of the Philistines. Judges 17:30 says, “So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life.” In a similar way, wouldn’t it be great if God’s people, even in their grief, captured this moment in history and carried forward the mission of our beloved Billy Graham?
One professor, evaluating Graham’s sermons, noted, “Regardless of what he preached, he always headed to the cross.” Let us use this open door God has given us — in the death of perhaps the greatest evangelist in history — to reach the multitudes Graham so passionately desired to reach. How remarkable that his death can become a tipping point for many to investigate the power and meaning of Christ’s resurrection. Though they are grateful for God’s man — Billy Graham — they may come to faith through the abiding witness of God’s eternal redeemer — Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed to men once to die.” The timing of Billy Graham’s death was no accident; it was appointed by God. Someone once said, “With God, time is irrelevant, but timing is everything.” Touch someone with the gospel during these few days of tremendous opportunity — while mourning the death of a great man and yet celebrating the resurrection of God’s Son, whom that great man loved. The timing is providential.