It was sad to hear that Billy Graham had died. I never had the opportunity to hear him preach in person. I attended one of his crusades but he was sick that night and someone else had to fill in for him.
But that is not to say that Billy Graham had no impact on me. In fact, he was a significant influence on my Christian faith.
I grew up attending church but it was not much of a personal faith. In my mid-teens I stopped attending church and became an atheist. I regained belief in God in my early twenties but was not ready to embrace Christianity or any other religion.
I began to reconsider Christianity and decided to start attending my old church again, although I wasn’t ready to fully commit. One Sunday, our minister mentioned Billy Graham in his sermon and spoke of him with respect. That surprised me. For one thing, our minister was on the liberal side. But this was also the early 90s and close to the time of the falls of Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. I had just assumed that Billy Graham was pretty much the same as them.
One evening I was flipping through the TV channels and I came across a Billy Graham Crusade. I was familiar with televangelists and so I thought I would watch for fun and count how many times he would beg for money. But he didn’t beg for money. In fact, there was nothing really about Billy Graham to make fun of.
For some reason, there was quite a few of his Crusades on TV in those weeks. I would tune in as I found his preaching interesting and his presentation of Christianity to be very clear. It was preaching like I had never heard before.
The only problem was that when he did his altar call, I felt like God was calling me to make a commitment. That made me feel uncomfortable. It got to the point that I would listen to his sermons and then shut the TV off before the altar call. Eventually I gave up fighting. I contacted the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and they sent me some information. I prayed to accept Christ and my life has never been the same since.
Billy Graham had a huge impact on me and thousands of other people. We will never see someone like Billy Graham again.