Research reveals impact of Billy Graham’s Legacy

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Billy Graham will be laid to rest in a private memorial service and interment on March 2 at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C. following two days of lying in repose at the Graham Family home place and two days lying in honor in the rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.

In light of Graham’s worldwide influence, D.C. lawmakers asked Graham’s son Franklin if he approved the public Capitol viewing, only the fourth time a private citizen has been honored that way.

Almost 70 years after he began his public ministry, Billy Graham continued to impact the faith of millions with almost half of all Protestant churchgoers saying they have watched one of his sermons on television.

“Billy Graham was one of the greatest evangelists the Christian faith has ever known,” said LifeWay Christian Resources President and CEO Thom S. Rainer. “Throughout his life, it was obvious he wanted the focus to be not on himself but on one thing: the cross of Jesus Christ.”

recent LifeWay Research survey found Graham’s wide-ranging ministry influenced churchgoers through a variety of means.

Two-thirds of Protestant churchgoers had some contact with Graham’s ministry, according to LifeWay Research:

  • 48 percent watched a Billy Graham sermon on television.
  • 18 percent listened to one of his sermons on the radio.
  • 15 percent read one of his books.
  • 14 percent read a Billy Graham newspaper column.
  • 11 percent attended a Billy Graham crusade.
  • 8 percent watched a Billy Graham sermon online.

“While Billy Graham became famous through stadium-filled crusades,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, “he actually shared the good news of Jesus Christ with more people through TV, radio and print.”

Only 4 percent of churchgoers said they “have no idea who Billy Graham is.”

In a 2010 survey of Protestant pastors, LifeWay Research found Graham to be far and away the most influential living pastor at that time.

“Billy Graham was a gifted communicator in sharing the gospel,” McConnell said. “His greatest legacy may be the number of Christians he mobilized to join him in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Rainer, founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said Graham’s legacy is secure because of the focus of his ministry.

“I am saddened to hear the news of the passing of Billy Graham today,” Rainer said. “The message of the gospel was at the heart of his ministry. He understood the brevity of life. And he knew, when all is said and done, our relationship with Jesus Christ is all that really matters.”

Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, was Graham’s pastor for a short period of time when he pastored First Baptist Church in Dallas.

“He had the unique ability, mixed with humility that made everyone feel special.  He was gentle, attentive, curious, and always gracious,” Brunson remembered of Graham. “The things of God were never far from his thoughts and conversation.”

By LifeWay Research and Nicole Kalil, Florida Baptist Convention, February 26, 2018

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