Billy Graham Glorifies God for 60 Years of Ministry

By   •   November 17, 2010

Flanked by long-time ministry partners Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea, Mr. Graham reminisced about special Crusade moments and expressed gratitude to God during an event celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
View photo gallery in Multimedia area at left.

“The thing that I remember most from all these years is that our God answers prayers,” said Mr. Graham. “We did all of this for only one reason– to glorify Christ, to present the person of the Lord Jesus Christ to people who needed Him. I want to thank Him again tonight for what He did on all those occasions.”

After a number of influential revival meetings, including the 1949 “Christ for Greater Los Angeles Campaign” that lasted eight weeks and vaulted Graham and his associates into the national spotlight, the team decided to formally incorporate in 1950 as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).

Its headquarters were in Minneapolis, Minn., where Graham was then serving as the president of Northwestern College. The organization moved in 2003 to Graham’s hometown of Charlotte.

None of the men that helped Billy Graham launch BGEA in 1950 – George Wilson, Cliff Barrows, George Beverly Shea, T.W. Wilson, Grady Wilson and others – had any idea then that it would one day become one of the largest and most established evangelistic ministries in the world.

“I never even expected to be a gospel singer,” said George Beverly Shea, his eyes twinkling and voice booming at 101. “I was just a radio announcer. It’s been a great privilege to be part of BGEA. I can’t describe the thrill of it. I am grateful that the Lord has enabled me to do this.”

Cliff Barrows said, “We’ve had marvelous fellowship as a team. We’ve been knit together with Bill’s heart. The apostle Paul said, ‘We, then, as partners together with Christ….’ Well, we have been a team of partners. That has been one of Bill’s great strong points. He needed people who shared his conviction, his calling and the desire to preach—or sing—the Gospel.”

Barrows jokingly one day said to Mr. Graham: “When we get to heaven, you’re going to be out of a job, but Bev Shea and I won’t. We’ll go on singing.” Then Bill smiled and replied, “When I get to heaven, I am going to sing like Bev Shea.”

“It’s a marvelous thing to be knit together in heart,” Barrows continued. “I’ve been with Bill 65 years and we’ve never had one word of disagreement or one argument. Now that’s an amazing thing. That’s his grace and God’s goodness and I praise Him for it. To have the fellowship of the team means everything, because we encourage one another. We are so privileged to be co-laborers together with Christ. Bill has a great heart for team ministry and BGEA is a ministry built on a team relationship.”

Memories

As the men reunited on stage, Barrows asked Mr. Graham to share memories about past Crusades. Talking about the New York City meetings in 1957, Graham acknowledged he struggled with tremendous fatigue about half way through the long summer.

“I would ask the Lord for strength for just one more day and He would give it to me,” Graham recalled. “I had the prayer support of the team – and we were a team. It was a wonderful experience to go to that platform and know that these men were back there praying.”

Graham continued, “One thing I’d like to say is that all the glory and the praise for anything we have done or will do goes to Jesus who died on the cross and rose again and who is standing to welcome us to heaven. I am looking forward to that day when I’ll be in heaven and I’ll see Ruth again. How I loved that woman. She had a big part in all of this that we are celebrating tonight.

“She was the most wonderful woman who ever lived,” he added. “She walked with God and she loved Him with all her heart. She lived for the Lord and lived in the Word. And she taught her children too what it’s all about to follow Christ.”

Graham said he was proud of all his children. “I am very proud of Franklin. I thank God for his leadership. It’s been tremendous the influence he has on my life and on thousands of others all over the world. I am thankful God gave me Franklin.”

Continuing to thank those who have made a difference in the past 60 years, Graham said he especially wanted to thank anyone who has contributed financially and supported the ministry in prayer. “I want to thank everybody concerned. People like you who have contributed through your gifts and your prayers–that made it all possible. God bless all of you. I love you.”

The Next 60 Years

As his father concluded speaking, Franklin also expressed gratitude: “We thank God not only for what He has done in the past 60 years, but also for what He will do in the next 60 years if the Lord tarries–for the opportunities we have to preach and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ literally around the world.

“The whole purpose of the BGEA–for my father and his team over these years–is to take the simple message of God’s love and share it with a world that does not know. And we have seen over the years millions of people give their lives to Christ. We give God the honor. We give Him the glory.”

Barrow pointed out that in the BGEA headquarters, “We have the names of over 9 million people who have made decisions for Christ. That’s what our BGEA is all about. Franklin has made that very clear. We are grateful for the Good News. The Gospel is good news.”

Will Graham–Franklin’s son and Billy’s grandson–is grateful for that wonderful heritage. “The early team helped put that foundation into place and God, I believe, has honored that foundation. God’s grace has allowed this ministry to continue. These men put Jesus first in all that they did, early in their careers, and faithfully proclaimed the Good News.”

For the next 60 years and beyond, said Will, “I hope each and every day at the BGEA, we’ll take time to win at least one person for Christ. To take every possible means that we can, whatever medium we can, and proclaim the Good News.”

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111 Comments

  1. Ronald says:

    Dr. Graham, I remember when I first heard you preach. It was in the Warner Park Field House (new at the time) in Chattanooga, TN. And I'm pretty sure the year was 1952. Thank you, Cliff and Bev for your commitment and steadfastness for Christ.

  2. kelly says:

    Hello Mr graham I just want to say you saved my live of sin. All my family while growing up would call each other when you preached. I grew as you grew. I saw your sermon while I was in a dark time in my life just by luck. I have never looked back since and now happily married to a wonderful christian woman. God had many reasons for your purpose and I was 1 part of the reason I am thankful for that. God always bless you and keep you for us.

  3. Donna says:

    Dear Dr. Graham: What a humbling honor it has been to listen to your powerful teachings over the years. I first saw you as a young girl in Dallas, Texas back in the 70's I had just received Christ into my Life and I must say I will never forget seeing you and llistening to your preaching was so powerful I will never forget it. I truly am thankful for your Life Devotion of Serving God and Spreading the Word; God Bless you and your Family and Mrs. Graham was truly a “Lord's Lady”. I just watched tonight the classic Crusade in Memphis, Tenn, with Ethyl Waters singing the Sparrow Song, What a Blessing that was to hear her again. And as she said I will see you in Heaven, I'll be waiting. Thank you Thank You Dr. Graham, you have been an Angel on this Earth; God Bless You and Keep you Safe Always. Franklin is doing a wonderful job, and I hope to reach out to help in some way in the future if it is God's will. I am going to find your Book on Angels that you spoke about, I can't wait to read it. I hope you are feeling better and take care.

  4. EILEENalana says:

    I first saw Rev Graham at Haringey Stadium when I was a child and have followed his ministry ever since- I am now 70 years old and have travelled the world with my own small ministry- God is good and always sends us examples to follow and listen to, but we must all play our own part, Jesus is alive in us all and we rejoice with the miracle of Christmas. God bless all who work for the BGEA and long may it coninue to inspire.

  5. Belinda says:

    Dr. Graham, I enjoyed reading about the 60th anniversary of BGEA. I rejoice with you over the millions of lives changed by God's most generous gift of His Son! Your comments about your precious Ruth were very touching. You must miss her terribly. Just wanted to let you know, that when you DO make your way to her and the Savior, I and the WORLD will miss you until we meet again. I can't imagine this world without you in it! THANK YOU for giving your life to His work. I love you my precious older brother. Meet you in heaven one day!!

  6. Ptr. Billy says:

    I praise God for you my mentor , my nurturer, my discipler, my father's friend. The Lord bless you more…

  7. Daphne says:

    Dear Dr. Graham, I would like to wish you a belated (92) birthday. I am privileged we share the same birthday. I once filled out a questionnaire; one question was “name two living people your most admire; one has now passed away (work colleague) and you are the other. I wish it were possible. Thank you for who you are and allowing God to use you to glorify Him as you do!

  8. John says:

    I first met Billy Graham at the 1963 Los Angeles Crusade at the Coliseum. I have had the privilege of being part of the 25th anniversary crusade at the Hollywood Bowl and the two crusades held at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. What a joy it has been to pray for Billy Graham and all the team for the past 47 years. God is so Good! Thank you Billy for your Faithfulness.

  9. Yvonne says:

    I am proud of Dr. Graham. There have been so many spiritual leaders, in my life time, bringing dishonor to God through immoral life-styles, Dr. Graham has shown what God can do through a life committed to Him. He has been a continuous joy and inspiration to me for more than 50 years. I pray that God will continue to sustain him and allow him to preach one more sermon before He calls him home.

  10. Carolyn says:

    Dr. Graham, I grew up with you. I was eight years old when I accepted Christ. I have watched crusades, prayed, read your books and followed you and BGEA. I love you as my brother in Christ. I asked God to let me please to come to one of your crusades, and He did. He placed me very close to where you spoke. I cried and thanked God for a dream come true. I saw you in Wash D.C. Happy Birthday Dr. Graham. I loved Ruth too. I read her books too. Franklin, “The Rebel With a Cause” Beautiful family. I love you all and may God continue to Bless You All.