AG Leaders Fondly Remember "America's Pastor"
William Franklin “Billy” Graham, the most prominent evangelist in U.S. history, died Wednesday at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, at the age of 99. He had been in ill health for much of the past decade.
Considered by many as “America’s pastor,” Graham's impact upon the evangelical community, the United States, and the world for more than 60 years has no comparison. Through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, he held over 400 crusades around the world, ministering to nearly 215 million people — from paupers to presidents — and leading millions to salvation in Christ.
“Billy Graham was a catalyst for bringing different denominations together for the cause of evangelization,” says Assemblies of God General Superintendent Doug Clay. “Many Assemblies of God adherents can trace their salvation experience to a Billy Graham crusade.”
From 1947 to 2005, Graham preached the gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history in over 185 countries and territories. He also reached hundreds of millions of viewers and listeners through television, video, film, and webcasts.
“What a faithful servant of God, and what a powerful partner with every missions-minded Christian fellowship,” says Greg Mundis, executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions. “ Dr. Graham shared the simple message of salvation around the globe with billions of people during his decades of ministry. May his death remind all of us of our responsibility to pick up the mantle of Great Commission service.”
A Baptist by name, in 1982 Graham accepted an invitation by then-AG General Superintendent Thomas F. Zimmerman to visit the Assemblies of God national office in Springfield, Missouri, and to speak to the student bodies of Central Bible College, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, and Evangel University at the Evangel chapel auditorium. Graham said during the address there was “no churchman I love and admire more” than Zimmerman.
“Billy Graham had great foresight in investing his energy, time, and resources in preparing the next generation of gospel ministers,” says George O. Wood, who served as AG general superintendent from 2007-17. “He believed in the value of seminary preparation for ministry and providing training opportunities for ministers and lay people across the world to enhance their ability to evangelize and disciple. Even though his name is one of the most recognized in the world, he set an example of humility and transparency that brought credibility to the message he preached. In addition to evangelism, he worked to bring Christians together in the common purpose of bearing witness to Jesus.”
In addition to his crusades, Graham’s accomplishments included founding Christianity Today magazine in 1956 and the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in 1988. In 1995, the BGEA tabbed Graham’s elder son Franklin as his successor.
In 1996, Graham received a Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Graham has been listed by the Gallup organization as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World,” since 1948. He made an unparalleled 61st appearance and 55th consecutive appearance in 2017.
IMAGE - Billy Graham with Assemblies of God General Superintendent Thomas F. Zimmerman, 1962.