Tag Archives: Will Graham

Will Graham: 4 Ways to Support and Encourage Your Pastor

By Will Graham, Cove Executive Director

People often compare me to my grandfather. They may say that I look a little like him, or that I sound like him. They ask if I study his preaching style to make my delivery similar to his.

Wil and Billy Graham

Not many people, however, pick up on one similarity that has nothing to do with genetics. Before beginning our evangelistic ministries, both my grandfather and I served as pastors of local churches.

In the early 1940s, after graduating from Wheaton College, my grandfather became pastor of a church in nearby Western Springs, Ill. He preached whole-heartedly and watched his congregation grow, even as he understood it was temporary and felt a growing passion in his heart for evangelism.

Similarly, as I was finishing my studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., I was called to lead Wakefield Baptist Church, a church plant of Bay Leaf Baptist Church, where I had been a pastoral intern.

I must admit that I did not want to be a pastor. I committed my calling to God and told him, “Whatever You want me to be, whatever You want me to do for the Kingdom, I’ll do it. But please don’t make me a pastor!”

It’s not that I didn’t respect the pulpit and pastorate. Far from it! I have always had a great admiration for the saints who lead their flocks week in and week out.

But from my perspective, pastors were underappreciated and underpaid, serving long and thankless hours only to hear complaints because the message was too long or too short, the music was too contemporary or not contemporary enough. You get the picture.

Despite my misgivings, when Dr. Ron Rowe, a wonderful friend and mentor of mine, suggested I become an intern in his church, I listened to his counsel. He suggested that I may eventually end up working for my father at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) or Samaritan’s Purse, and that both organizations work closely with the local church. He thought that serving in a church would give me a good understanding and help me later in my ministry.

I became the reluctant pastor. And, my friends, I loved it! I loved almost everything about being a pastor; the congregation, the staff, the deacons and leadership teams, and opening up God’s Word every week to boldly proclaim His truths.

When the day came that I felt called to leave my church and help my father at the BGEA, I sat down at my desk and wept. Here I was in a calling I had done my best to avoid, and now I could hardly bring myself to leave. But when God tells you to go, you go.

Why am I sharing all this? It’s because October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and – as a former pastor – I want to encourage you to go out of your way in the coming weeks to encourage and uplift your pastor.

Have you ever considered how much your pastor gives, and the sacrifices that he and his family make? In many churches, the pastor is not just the preacher, but also the accountant, janitor, chaplain, librarian and counselor. He rejoices with young couples as they pledge their lives to each other, beams as he cradles an infant for dedication, and cries with families who have lost a loved one. He’s on-call 24/7/365.

Burn out is a real thing, and a real risk, when we go too long without rest. It’s no different for your pastor. He needs time to be alone in the Word, not just working on a sermon, but being filled with the Holy Spirit and the full counsel of God. He needs time away with just his wife and family to recharge and be rejuvenated for the sake of the ministry.

There are several things you can do to support and encourage your pastor this month:

  1. Pray. I’m sure most of you pray for your pastor. Thank you for doing that. If you aren’t making your pastor a focus in your prayer time, commit to do that this month. Tell your pastor that you’re praying for him.
  2. Say something. A word of affirmation and encouragement costs you nothing, but I guarantee it means so much more than you can imagine to your pastor. Tell him how much you appreciate him and his family.
  3. Break down the walls. Disagreements can arise that build up walls between people in the congregation, and between people and the pastor. I had to deal with it in my church, and my grandfather dealt with it in his church. Make Pastor Appreciation Month a time of reconciliation, where you put aside the differences and focus together on the Gospel.
  4. Provide an escape. If possible, show your pastor how much you appreciate him by surprising him and his family with a brief time of renewal. Perhaps you have a deacon in the church who can preach for a Sunday, or maybe you can offer an extra day off during the week along with a hotel stay in a nearby city that will allow him to get away to relax.

At the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, we’ve decided to make pastors a priority as well. We’ve developed Leadership Renewal Retreats which are three-day events specifically designed to refresh and rejuvenate pastors, encouraging them in their ongoing ministries. The program, lodging and meals are all free for qualified pastors and spouses. We hope that your church and pastor can take advantage of this great opportunity.

My friends, as a former pastor I can attest the great blessing it is to lead a congregation, but I can also stand here and say clearly that it isn’t easy. There are struggles. This month, show your pastor how much you appreciate him in whatever ways you can.

Will Graham
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Click here for more information  and to register for a Leadership Renewal Retreat or a Pastors’ Institute (both free for pastors and their spouses) at The Cove.

If you would like to be a blessing and give to the Leadership Renewal Retreat project, click here.

 

What’s Happening at The Cove – August 2015

COMING TO august

I lift up my eyes to the hills. from where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord,  who made heaven and earth. The Lord is your keeper;  the Lord is your shade on your right hand.  The sun shall not strike you by day,  nor the moon by night.”
Psalm 121: 1-2, 5-6

Make plans to attend a retreat or  The Cove this summer. Click on an event for more information and see what’s happening here during the month of August!

PERSONAL SPIRITUAL RETREATS(1)

Click on the link below for August dates or call 1-800-950-2092.
August Personal Spiritual Retreats
Guided Personal Spiritual Retreat with John Parrish,  August 3-6, 2015

PERSONAL SPIRITUAL RETREATS

An Evening at The Cove –  Join us for dinner, concert and meet & greet with Laura Story,  August 6, 2015

When People Whine, A Prophet Prays, and God Speaks 
with Will Graham,  August 7-9, 2015
Lodging is full for this event, but we do have seats available in the auditorium.

Finding Power for Life 
with Jonathan Falwell,  August 11-13, 2015
Lodging is full for this event, but we do have seats available in the auditorium.

Grace Upon Grace
with Lloyd John Ogilvie,  August 14-16, 2015
Note: This event will mark Dr. Ogilvie’s final time speaking at The Cove, so we plan to make this a special time of celebration for him.  

SeniorSalt Impact Hymn Sing
Ron Whittemore with David Gaines,  August 18, 2015

The Unexpected Adventure of Being Salt and Light
with Lee Strobel,  August 19-21, 2015

Seasons of the Soul: Overcoming Trials and Dealing With Tension 
with Pedro Garcia,  August 21-23, 2015
Lodging is full for this event, but we do have seats available in the auditorium.

An Evening at The Cove –  Join us for dinner, concert and meet & greet with Jason Crabb,  August 23, 2015

Not I, But Christ
with Wayne Barber,  August 28-30, 2015

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Want to get away with God, but can't(2)

Click here to visit our resources page.

A Father’s Day Message from Will Graham

Wil and Kendra Graham and family pic 2013
Will and Kendra Graham and their three children.

Never Take Fatherhood Lightly
Will Graham, Executive Director at The Cove

Fathers, ours is one of the most awesome and rewarding callings in life.

There are so many blessings that come with being a daddy: watching our children grow; teaching them (and having them soak up those lessons like little sponges); seeing their personalities begin to take shape; and the beautiful fleeting moments throughout the day that make you smile and thank God for your family.

I love my wife and three children with all of my heart and can’t believe how blessed I am to be a husband and father. I know you feel the same way.

Hopefully you already model your parenting after our Heavenly Father, but – on this Father’s Day – I thought it would be worthwhile to go back and look at a few of the traits that God exemplifies, which we as the earthly caretakers of our children, should emulate.

First, God loves us, just as we should love our children. God loves us with an all-consuming, sacrificial love that knows no bounds. He sent Jesus as a living sacrifice because of how much He loves us. Do you love your children with a sacrificial love?

Would you be willing to lay down your life for your son or daughter? In Romans 8, Paul writes that there is nothing on earth or in heaven that can separate us from the love of God. I find God’s love for broken sinners like us to be an incredible thing.

Second, God provides for us, just like it’s our responsibility to provide for our children. I understand that times get tough, but we also realize that our role as fathers is to make sure our kids have what they need (not what they want, necessarily, but what they need).

Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (ESV) In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us not to be worried or anxious, because God will provide for us. We as fathers, in turn, should not take lightly the responsibility of providing for our own children.

Third, God disciplines us, just as we must discipline our own children. Discipline is not an easy topic, is it? Of all the things I love about fatherhood, discipline is not really one of them. You want your child to be happy and care-free, but a loving father also must discipline his child in order to raise him correctly.

Again, God is our example in this: “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11-12, ESV). In fact, there are many verses in the Bible which show that – when done correctly – discipline isn’t an act of aggression, but an act of love that could ultimately save your child’s life.

Finally, God comforts us, just as we should comfort our own children. How many times has your child come up to you crying and hurting, either with a physical wound or an emotional one? You’ve lost count, right?

Sometimes it’s necessary to use the opportunity to encourage them to be strong, because life will not always be easy. But often we have the wonderful blessing of simply wrapping our child up in our arms, holding them tightly, and comforting them. It’s this image that I picture when I read Psalms like “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” (9:9, ESV) and “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (46:1, ESV)

Our heavenly Father is the rock to which we cling. Are you the same for your child?

Our heavenly father loves, provides, disciplines and comforts us, and this is just a start. Entire books have been written about God being the perfect example for us as fathers raising our families.

My friends, just as God loves us so much that He pursues us relentlessly despite our human wickedness – so much so that He sent Jesus to die on our behalf – I encourage you, most of all, to love your children and view them as a precious gift worthy of all you have.

Never take this honor of fatherhood lightly.

Will Graham to Preach the Gospel in China

By Will Graham
Executive Director, The Cove

In 1916, a young American doctor named L. Nelson Bell and his wife arrived in what is now known as Huai’an, China.  He would spend the next 25 years as a Presbyterian medical missionary, raising his family in the medical compound and offering healing of both the body and soul. He’d tend to people’s wounds, while never neglecting to also share the hope of Jesus.

Over the course of their quarter-century in China, the Bells would bear four children: Rosa, Virginia, Clayton, and my grandmother, Ruth.

Bell family China small
The Bell family in China

My great-grandfather spent years sowing the seeds of the Gospel in China, but – frankly – did not get the opportunity to see much of a harvest.  Despite his years in missionary service there, precious few found their eternal hope in Jesus through his efforts.

However, his sacrificial work cultivated the ground and he is still warmly remembered in that city.  Many in Huai’an still consider my grandmother, who was born there, to be Chinese; to be family.

Billy and Ruth Graham in front of her childhood home in Huai an China
Billy and Ruth Graham in front of her childhood home in Huai’an, China.

My great-grandparents and my grandmother are all in Heaven now, but they would be thrilled to know that I will be returning to Huai’an next week, not just to visit the place of my grandmother’s birth, but to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In addition, I’ll also hold a pair of Gospel celebrations in the city of Wuxi.

The Christian faith is growing quickly now in China, and doors are opening for the Gospel.  I’m visiting at the invitation of the Jiangsu Province Christian Council with the approval of the Chinese government.  They’ve been very hospitable, kind and easy to work with.

I anticipate that this trip will be a blessing, but also a very emotional time.  To visit a grandparent’s place of birth in a foreign land is an amazing opportunity as it is, but to carry on the legacy of my family is an even greater honor.  My great-grandparents and my grandmother loved – dearly loved – the people of China, and now I will be able to share with them how they can find their hope and purpose in Jesus.

Please pray with me that the work begun by my great-grandparents nearly 100 years ago would bear amazing fruit over the coming days.  Pray that the children and grandchildren of those same people to whom my great-grandfather ministered would hear clearly the call of the Holy Spirit on their lives.  Above all, pray that Jesus Christ would glorified and many would surrender to Him!

You can find Will Graham on the following social networks: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Free Lodging at The Cove in 2015

PILGRIMS INN
One of our lovely rooms inn rooms.
Plan to stay for FREE in one of our cozy inn rooms for 2015! We are offering six 3-day seminars with free lodging  at The Cove this year.

Just register and pay the program fee of $284 per person (meals included) and your two nights of lodging are completely free.

Take a look at the seminars listed below to decide which you would like to attend, give us a call at 1-800-950-2092 to register.  We look forward to serving you on your visit to The Cove in 2015! 

Jonah: The Prophet Who Hated Success (Lodging for this seminar is full at time of publishing this post.)
with Larry Crabb, February 27- March 1, 2015
When God’s instructions make no sense, either we tremble and trust or resist and run.

Believing Big- God’s Blueprint for Supernatural Outcomes
with Ron Hutchcraft, March 16-18, 2015
The little-traveled book of Ezra is a mirror of our times— Come and discover this often overlooked but powerful road map of how God moves in our lives including divine interventions, standing when others are retreating and reigniting your passion for Jesus.

The Cause: Strengthen Your Faith for College!
with Sean McDowell, July 10-12, 2015
Come learn how to defend your faith confidently, yet respectfully, with biblical truth supported by scientific facts and historical evidence.

When People Whine, a Prophet Prays, and God Speaks
with Will Graham, August 7-9, 2015
Better understand why we often lose our focus on Him when the future looks uncertain and take confidence in how He always provides a way for our return to the safety of His provision.

Finding Power for Life
with Jonathan Falwell, August 11-13, 2015
Come take a life-changing look at the power of God’s presence, the power of prayer, the power of God’s purpose, and the power of the Gospel’s proclamation. Surrender to His Lordship and live victoriously in His Spirit.

Seasons of the Soul: Overcoming Trials and Dealing with Tension
with Pedro Garcia, August 21-23, 2015
Come find lasting comfort in God’s Word through the wisdom of His prophets and the stories of His kings. Gain perspective-changing insight into hardship and how God uses it for your good and His glory.

Pilgrim inn

View of Pilgrims Inn

BGEA_TCFrontNight_high_res

The Billy Graham Training Center at Dusk

Not able to make it?  Tell a friend or family member.  This would be a nice opportunity to introduce The Cove to your loved ones!

Visit our website here for a complete listing of all 2015 events.

 

The Power of Christ in Louis Zamperini’s Life

By Will Graham, Cove Executive Director

Several decades ago, an Olympian turned soldier survived a plane crash in the Pacific Ocean, journeyed at sea in a small raft for 47 days, and was finally thrown into a Japanese prison camp; a place where he probably should have died of starvation and constant torture.

This man – Louis Zamperini – beat the odds and made it home. His incredible tale of determination, bravery and survival is excellently portrayed in the feature film “Unbroken,” which is in theaters this week.

There’s an interesting challenge when it comes to movies, though. There are only so many minutes to go around and you can’t tell everything about a man’s life in the space allowed, especially someone like Louis who lived through so many incredible experiences.

The name “Unbroken” definitely fits for the hero who returned victoriously from war, but something happened to Louis when he was back in the U.S., something that isn’t shown in the film.

You see, he survived, but Louis was not unbroken when he came home. Rather, by his own admission, he struggled with alcoholism as he attempted to overcome the memories of his experiences. He was inflicted with horrible nightmares of “The Bird,” the brutal guard who mercilessly antagonized and beat him in the prison camp. At one point Louis woke in the middle of the night from a vivid dream to find himself strangling his wife, envisioning her as his captor.

Louis’ world was spiraling out of control, and his marriage and life were falling apart. He was, indeed, broken.

If this was the end of the story, it would likely be a grim one, but something else happened. Jesus Christ grabbed hold of Louis and changed his life forever, for eternity!

In 1949, a young evangelist named Billy Graham – my grandfather – held a Crusade in a tent at the corners of Washington and Hill streets in the city of Los Angeles. Louis’ wife went to one of the meetings and committed her life to Christ. She returned home and told her husband that she was no longer planning to divorce him because of the decision she had just made in following Jesus. She asked him to come with her to hear Billy Graham the next night.

Louis did go to hear my grandfather, and – ultimately – remembered the promise he’d made to God when he was adrift in the ocean, when he promised to serve Him if allowed to survive.

Billy Graham and Louis Zamperini
Louis Zamperini and Billy Graham first met at the 1949 Los Angeles Crusade. This picture was taken over 60 years later in 2011 at Billy Graham’s home in Montreat, NC.

Louis walked forward, committed his life to Christ, and allowed Him to mend the broken pieces of his life. The nightmares and the thirst for alcohol were gone. His marriage was restored. He was even able to forgive “The Bird.”

I never personally met Mr. Zamperini. I wish I had, but he passed away earlier this year. He was to be the Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day, and – even though he’s gone home to be with Jesus – the parade is still honoring his life and legacy. I’m very humbled to represent my grandfather and his role in Louis’ life on the City of Torrance float, which is dedicated to their hometown hero.

Perhaps you aren’t a war hero. You are likely not an Olympian. In remembering Louis, however, I’d like to ask you – the reader – a question. Is your life broken, like Louis’ was when he returned from war? Are you battling against things that are out of your control, captive to sin and pain? If so, I believe that Jesus can do for you what He did for Louis some 65 years ago. He can set you free, and make you unbroken! I invite you to visit www.PeaceWithGod.net to learn more.

On Christmas day, Dec. 25, 2014 the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association released a half-hour documentary telling the rest of Louis Zamperini’s story, the part that is left untold in the major Hollywood production of “Unbroken.” Watch the program at www.BillyGraham.tv, and order a DVD copy by giving a gift of any amount to the BGEA at www.BillyGraham.org/unbroken

A Word of Thanks From Will Graham

Dear Friends,

We have much to be thankful for this year at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. We’ve been blessed beyond measure, and we are grateful to God and to each of you for that.

Autum shot 2

Over the past several months at The Cove, we’ve had outstanding speakers who have shared with us clear and inspiring truths from the Word of God. Attendees at the seminars have commented to us that they felt the presence of God in this place, and their faith was deepened and enriched through the teaching here. They’ve left feeling more equipped than ever to walk in righteousness and reach those around them who need to hear of the hope of the Savior.

This is exactly what my grandparents, Billy and Ruth Graham, envisioned when they built this beautiful place, and I know that my grandfather is moved when he hears of what is happening here.

In addition to the seminars, we’ve had several concerts with nationally-known musicians who take time out of their busy schedules to stop in for an intimate performance at The Cove. Thousands have taken advantage of these events – called An Evening at The Cove.

One of the most moving events that has taken place this year was the National Law Enforcement Retreat in October, sponsored by the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. Police officers from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom took time away from their very stressful duties to learn how to deal with the emotional and spiritual challenges they and their families endure on a daily basis. This was a wonderful time of ministry. Men and women who have seen and lived through things most of us could never even imagine, were able to let their guard down and pray, worship and heal together. Marriages were reconciled and families strengthened.

As we approach the end of November, we’re now looking forward to one of the prettiest times of the year: Christmas at The Cove. We hope you’ll have an opportunity to visit us in the coming days to see the beautiful decorations and take in some of the exciting events and sing-alongs on the schedule in the waning weeks of 2014.

cove creche
The beautiful creche at The Cove.

My friends, at Thanksgiving, I’m so thankful for you. Each of us who have the blessing of working at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove realizes every day the importance of your prayers and support. None of what I’ve just mentioned would be possible without you and God’s blessings. We are eternally grateful.

May you and yours have a happy Thanksgiving and a blessed Christmas!

Will Graham
Executive Director, The Cove

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Click here to visit our website.

Join Will Graham As He Teaches on the Book of 1 Samuel

1samuel

By Will Graham 

Epic battles, the prophesied deaths of an entire family, the earthly embodiment of the holiness and presence of God carried away by captors, a nation judged by the Lord – Nobody can say that 1 Samuel 4 lacks action and drama!

Last year at The Cove, I hosted a seminar in which we began the process of working through the entire book of 1 Samuel, verse by verse. We progressed through the first three chapters of 1 Samuel, and things were looking pretty good for Israel. Samuel was being used by God in incredible ways as the Word of the Lord went across the entire nation. We’re told that God did not let a single word of Samuel’s “hit the ground.” In other words, everything Samuel said on behalf of God was impactful and came to be because he only spoke when and what God told him to speak.

Now, when things are going really well, doesn’t it always feel like something negative must be lurking around the corner? You’re on the peak of the mountain, but you’re still surrounded by valleys of darkness. When we return to 1 Samuel for my seminar in August of this year, that’s where we’ll find Israel. Things are turning bad.

You see, God had already spoken against the priest Eli and his family in chapter three, saying He would do something so amazing it would make “ears tingle” in judgment of the sin in the house of Eli, particularly with his two sons.

That fateful day of judgment came in chapter four as the Israelite army went out to battle the Philistines. The battle raged, the Israelites were defeated and lost 4,000 men.

While the soldiers of Israel were tending their wounds and trying to figure out why they suffered such great losses, they had an idea. They would send for the Ark of the Covenant. It was almost like they were treating the presence of God as a magic box that would guarantee military success.

So Eli’s sons took the Ark of the Covenant from the temple into the battlefield, and – in fact – the mere presence of the Ark and the thunderous roar it drew from the Israeli camp did initially intimidate the Philistines. However, they readied themselves for battle.

When the fighting was over, 30,000 soldiers from Israel, as well as Eli’s two sons, were dead. Worse, the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines. It was a dark, dark day for Israel as the judgment of God fell upon it.

We’re told that Eli was anxiously waiting for word about the Ark; not about his sons, but about the Ark of the Covenant. A weary survivor ran back to Eli and told him his sons were dead and the Ark was captured. When he heard this, Eli – who we’re told was old and heavy – fell out of his chair, broke his neck and died.

His pregnant daughter-in-law, upon hearing that Eli and her husband had died, went into labor and gave birth to a son. The life began to slip from her as well due to complications from the birth, but with her last breath she named her son Ichabod, saying “The glory of God has departed from Israel.”

I know, this is some pretty heavy stuff, but have you ever noticed that we learn more about the love and hope of God as we go through hardship? I believe that will be the case with the lessons we’ll draw from the next few chapters of 1 Samuel.

We’ll look at parenting, for instance. Eli had two sons who were lost in sin, but he didn’t do anything to discipline them and bring them back to God. He’d speak against his sons, but he didn’t deter them. In some ways, he had become as bad as them. He had his choice of meat in the temple and had become spiritually lazy. We’ll look at being a good example for your children and grandchildren.

We’ll also look at the idea of Ichabod. What’s Ichabod in your life? In what ways does it feel like God has departed from you, and how can you get the glory of the Lord back in your life as it was in Israel before God’s judgment on the nation and the family of Eli.

And, of course, we’ll look at the holiness of God. You see, God’s judgment is real, and His holiness is not a joke. When idols were placed in front of the Ark of the Covenant, they fell and physically broke. When people touched the Ark, they died. In fact, the Philistines couldn’t even keep the Ark of the Covenant – their great trophy from battle – because God inflicted their people with tumors just for being near it and possessing it.

There is power in the holiness of God, and this seminar will be an opportunity to hear the Word of the Lord, allow it to work in your life, let it take root and turn you back to Him. We’ll see that God’s love for us compels Him to chase us, even through our own wickedness.

And, spoiler alert, by the time we get to the end of the seminar, the Ark will be back in Israel…

God bless you, my friends –I hope to see you in August!

Click here to register for Will’s seminar at The Cove August 15-17, 2014.

Watch here as Will shares his excitement on teaching from 1 Samuel. 

A Moment in History That Changed Billy Graham’s Life Forever

By Will Graham, Cove Executive Director and grandson of Billy Graham

On a daily basis I’m blessed with memories and stories of the many ways God chose to use my grandfather to reach people around the world over the course of many decades. Nearly everywhere I go people stop to tell me about how entire families and generations were impacted by his ministry. It’s humbling.

What many people may not know is that it almost didn’t happen. Everything we know of the ministry of Billy Graham from the late 1940s on – the massive stadium events, the evangelistic movies, the radio programs, the counseling of presidents and kings – hinged on a singular moment in history that took place at the California retreat center of Forest Home.

I visited Forest Home last year to get a fresh perspective on my grandfather’s story, and I’m returning there next week to speak at their annual Summer Family Camp.

As such, now seemed like the right time to share the story of the evangelist named Billy Graham, a discouraged young man searching for answers and direction in his life, unsure of God’s plan for him.

At the mid-point of the 20th century, he had already been an evangelist with Youth For Christ and had preached across Europe in the aftermath of World War II. He had held his first “Billy Graham Crusades” in places like Charlotte, N.C, and Grand Rapids, Mich. He was also the president of Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minn., the youngest college president in the country.

Not everything had gone as planned, however. His crusade in Altoona, Pa., had been – in his own words – “a flop.” It was spiritually difficult and he felt things had gone poorly, and it left him questioning whether or not evangelism should be his focus.

At the same time, a very good friend and contemporary of my grandfather’s, a man named Charles Templeton, had begun challenging my granddaddy’s way of thinking. Mr. Templeton, who had preached with Youth For Christ as well, had gone on to study at Princeton, where he began to believe that the Bible was flawed and that academia – not Jesus – was the answer to life’s problems. He tried to convince my grandfather that his way of thinking was outdated and the Bible couldn’t be trusted.

My grandfather had more questions than answers.

As a young man in his early-30s, all of these things were swirling in his mind when he traveled to California in 1949. Should he invest fully in the college, which he knew meant seeking further education for himself? At the time Northwestern wasn’t accredited, and for it to become so he – as president – would need to get an advanced degree, which would require taking several years off from preaching.

Should he leave the school and follow the calling of an evangelist, even though Altoona had gone so poorly?

Did he even believe the Bible from which he was preaching, or should he follow Templeton in questioning its validity? 

It was at this time that my discouraged grandfather reluctantly accepted the invitation of Henrietta Mears to visit and speak at a Christian retreat center called Forest Home. Mears had worked at First Baptist Church in Minneapolis for Pastor Riley, who was also my grandfather’s predecessor at Northwestern, and she was a very well-known and godly woman. She would end up having a huge impact in Hollywood, Calif., as she served as the director of Christian Education at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. She took grief for inviting him to speak because he was not part of the camp’s denomination, but God had a plan in all of this.

As I toured Forest Home last year, it moved me greatly to walk the paths that my grandfather walked as he struggled with the Lord, and ultimately had the experience that would change the course of his ministry and the eternities of millions.

You see, while he was at Forest Home, he spent a great deal of time studying the Bible, and he kept seeing the same phrase pop up. “Thus sayeth the Lord… Thus sayeth the Lord…” While my grandfather had always accepted in his head the authority of the Scripture, this became the turning point as he realized in his heart that God’s Word is divinely inspired, eternal and powerful!

Forest Home Bible on Tree Stump smallOne night at Forest Home, he walked out into the woods and set his Bible on a stump – more an altar than a pulpit – and he cried out: “O God! There are many things in this book I do not understand. There are many problems with it for which I have no solution. There are many seeming contradictions. There are some areas in it that do not seem to correlate with modern science. I can’t answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions Chuck and others are raising.”

And then, my grandfather fell to his knees and the Holy Spirit moved in him as he said, “Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word—by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word!”*

My granddaddy wrote in his autobiography that as he stood up his eyes stung with tears, but he felt the power and presence of God in a way he hadn’t in months. “A major bridge had been crossed,” he said.

Forest Home pic Billy on mountain smallThe resulting change did not go unnoticed. The next day my granddaddy spoke at Forest Home, and 400 people made a commitment to Christ. Henrietta Mears remarked that he “preached with authority” that she hadn’t seen before from him.

This was August 1949, and mere weeks later Billy Graham would go on to hold the historic 1949 Los Angeles Crusade in the tent erected on the corner of Washington and Hill Streets. That outreach was scheduled to last three weeks, and ended up going for eight weeks as people packed the “Canvas Cathedral” and media outlets nationwide began talking about the upstart evangelist.

Because of that moment kneeling by a stump at Forest Home, I get to hear stories of lives changed through my grandfather’s ministry. Because of that moment, my father and I are invited around the world to share the same hope of Christ that my grandfather preached in Los Angeles and hundreds of other locations both near and far. That moment not only changed Billy Graham’s ministry. It impacted eternity.

*Just As I Am, Billy Graham, 1997
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Click here for information on Will Graham’s seminar at The Cove Agust 15-17, 2014.