Billy Graham had a life-long influence on me as a person and as a pastor. It began in my childhood with my grandmother. My grandmother told me, “I pray for two people every day. I pray for Billy Graham, and I pray for you.”
She always wanted me to be a pastor. Today, I have no doubt that her prayers and the fact that Billy Graham was in our home every month with Decision magazine and every week on the radio did much to influence the direction my life took.
As I grew older, I began to understand Graham’s commitment to keeping his character clean. As a young pastor, I understood why he and his staff made the “Modesto Manifesto,” a covenant to ensure the integrity of his ministry. Later, when I started Saddleback Church, our staff made similar covenants—the Saddleback Staff Ten Commandments—based on the same idea.
The goal in everything we do at Saddleback is to make it easier for us to bring people to Jesus. You build bridges of friendship from your heart to theirs so Jesus Christ can cross that bridge into their life. Reaching out to those outside of evangelical bounds is a key lesson Graham taught me.
Graham realized that the whole gospel must be taught. In so many ways, he was a pioneer. Long before churches were ready for racial integration, he integrated his crusades. That’s broadening the agenda. The great evil of that generation was segregation. He took it on.
He was primarily an evangelist, but he used his enormous influence to say the church has to care about issues other than evangelism. Like Graham, we believe strongly in the primacy of evangelism. But also like him, we’re just foolish enough to take on issues that show Christian love to a hurting and confused world.