“When God has called me into different aspects of ministry, He’s usually called me from my own experience,” says Anne Graham Lotz, founder of AnGeL Ministries. “In other words, what I’ve been going through personally then develops into a call.”
Although Lotz was born the daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham, she never foresaw her calling into an international ministry of speaking and Bible exposition. Instead, in her late 20s, Lotz found herself married and staying at home with her three young children.
Losing her patience with them, Lotz realized that she was failing to cope with the frustrations of motherhood. She grew concerned about her character.
“I had observed my mother doing such a great job,” Lotz says of mother Ruth Bell Graham, “and knew that she drew her strength from scripture and from prayer, and I just didn’t have the discipline to get into God’s Word like that.”
In order to find that discipline, she took the opportunity to establish and lead a Bible Study Fellowship class in her town of Raleigh, N.C. Teaching the class required her to learn the Biblical texts in detail.
While she taught the first part of the study about the book of Genesis, Lotz discovered the Biblical narratives coming alive for her. Within one year’s time, the class grew to accommodate more than 500 participants, with a waiting list.
“I felt like Abraham walked right off the pages of my Bible into my life,” she says. “Three times in scripture it says Abraham is a friend of God from God’s point of view. So I decided to set that as my life goal–that I wanted to be God’s friend from His perspective.”
DISCOVERING THE POWER OF GOD’S WORD
At the same time as she prayed, studied, and sought to become a friend of God, Lotz taught the Bible class for 12 years.
“I never missed a class because I didn’t want to miss anything that God had for me.”
But all the while, she thought about believers beyond Raleigh, those worldwide who also wanted to be led into a closer walk with Jesus Christ.
“I became burdened by what was offered to women because I feel like women tend to be dumbed-down in what’s given to them, especially in large meetings–it is either very emotional, experiential, or entertaining. I just felt like women could be disciples,” Lotz says.
She handed over the leadership of the Bible study to other teachers, and for the next 12 years Lotz embarked on a journey of itinerant ministry all around the world. She was honored to accept invitations to speak at churches and seminaries, and later, the United Nations as well as the Amsterdam 1983, 1986, and 2000 conferences, multi-national gatherings for evangelists.
According to Lotz, she serves as a “scriptural messenger,” like an angel–an idea that inspired the name for her nonprofit ministry, AnGeL Ministries (that also uses her initials) which she founded to organize her ever-increasing speaking engagements.
“More than calling myself a preacher or an evangelist,” says Lotz, “I’m a messenger. God gives me a message from His Word, and I seek to deliver it as faithfully as I can.”
A TESTING OF FAITH
While Lotz traveled the world, she could not shake a growing dissatisfaction with her own knowledge of Scripture.
“Looking back, at the time, I feel like God was giving me a heart’s cry for revival. I needed God to just come down in a fresh way into my life.”
But instead of spiritual refreshment, Lotz faced heartbreak and pressure. Her son, who was about to celebrate his wedding day, called her to say he had been diagnosed with cancer.
During the same two-year period, her husband’s dental office burned, her three children married, a hurricane ravaged the Raleigh area, and her mother was placed in the hospital five times with life-threatening conditions.
Lotz leaned on her faith in Jesus Christ. Still craving to learn more about God, she started a personal journey of Bible study, where she took extensive notes on Jesus’ interactions with people in the Gospel of John.
For “every single” book that she has written, Lotz says, “I could give you my personal testimony that provoked it. For my little book, Why, that was when my son was going through a divorce, and Heaven, that was after the deaths of my brother-in-law, John Lotz, and our beloved ‘Uncle T’ [T.W. Wilson, Mr. Graham’s longtime friend].”
All nine of Lotz’s books have been birthed out of her life experience, an organic process that she believes is God’s way of giving people their individual callings to ministry.
LOOKING INTO SCRIPTURE
In explaining the process of being called, Lotz cites the Old Testament story where God tells the prophet Jeremiah to buy a linen belt, bury it, and then dig it up after a period of time. When Jeremiah unearthed the belt, it had rotted.
In scripture, God says to Jeremiah, “People who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the stubbornness of their hearts … will be like this belt–completely useless! For as a belt is bound around a man’s waist, so I bound the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah to me … to be my people for my renown and praise and honor”
(Jeremiah 13:10-11, NIV).
After this encounter, Jeremiah set out on his ministry to warn people of their stubbornness and call them to repentance.
“Jeremiah’s experience became his message,” Lotz says. “And for me, my life’s experience becomes my ministry and my message. I feel like people that are wanting a ministry shouldn’t look at other people and what other people have done, but look into their own life’s experience and see if God would open a door that is compatible with that.”
Soon God opened up an opportunity for Lotz to impart her wisdom from the Just Give Me Jesus study. She would share her passion for God’s Word in large revival events, unlike what she had done before.
Just Give Me Jesus revivals, which charge no admission fee, were extended around the country to overflow crowds. Even though times were stressful for her family, Lotz grew from the trials and embraced the opportunity to share what she had learned.
“I believe that God allowed me to go through those experiences so that when I stand on a platform for Just Give Me Jesus, I’m not pointing my finger at them, saying, ‘You need Jesus.’ I’m telling them, ‘I need Jesus, and this is how I found Him, and this is who He is to me,'” says Lotz.
AnGeL ministries had been holding Just Give Me Jesus revivals for five years when Lotz began to sense a personal unhappiness, a sentiment that caused her to feel guilty. After all, the revivals were sparking prayer and growth in communities around the world–Norway, Panama, Ukraine, United Kingdom, South Korea, and across the United States–but Lotz was eager to learn more.
“I wasn’t satisfied anymore with Just Give Me Jesus or what I had discovered about Him in the Gospel of John, and I wanted more,” she says, “but I was embarrassed to tell the Lord because I thought that would mean I wasn’t satisfied with what He had given me.”
At the time, Lotz was preaching in Northern Ireland, and she received a call about her father, Billy Graham. He had been rushed to the hospital and required an operation on his brain. She flew to Minnesota, where Mr. Graham lay in the Mayo Clinic.
“I just sat beside him so he could see me when he woke up. He was still under anesthesia,” she says. “Tears just began to come down my cheeks because I thought, ‘I know he’s ready to go to heaven,’ but I just didn’t want to let him go.”
The time she had spent with her father was not enough.
“Then it struck me: When you love somebody with all of your heart, you just want more,” Lotz says. “I thought, ‘Whenever my Daddy goes to heaven, I’ll always wish I had more.’ So that just opened my eyes to what was going on in my life with Jesus because it wasn’t embarrassing to want more of Jesus. I decided I would always want more of Him. I would never get enough until I see Him face to face, until I know Him not through a glass darkly.”
Her dissatisfaction was not shameful; instead, it was the natural desire of a Christ-follower to yearn for more of Him. C.S. Lewis speaks of this discontent in his sermon, The Weight of Glory, saying, “We remain conscious of a desire which no natural happiness will satisfy.”
Lotz says, “I just set out on a journey to pursue more of Him.”
“Pursuing More of Jesus” became the name of Lotz’s newest ministry events, intentional breakaway sessions that not only teach women about the Bible but equip them to go out and teach the scriptures themselves.
FINDING A PLACE
Just as Lotz wrestled with the idea of pursuing more of Jesus, she finds that believers around the world also hunger to learn more about Him. Those who have attended her Breakaway sessions and revivals are equipped to go back and minister to their communities.
As believers look into their own lives and listen to what God is calling them to do, Lotz says, they will find a ministry that falls in line with God’s own desire.
“When I look around I see people making ministries for themselves.” Lotz says. “I know God can use His Word, but I just wonder if when they get to heaven, they’re going to find out that God had something for them: maybe it was a Bible study in a rest home, maybe it was just a neighborhood Bible study, or maybe it was just praying on their own every day for missionaries. That’s what God had for them, and they went out for the big, flashy, glitzy, celebrity kind of thing and totally missed the ministry that God had preordained that they do. For myself, I don’t want to miss that.”
Lotz never forgets the importance of the first Bible study that she taught. That study answered her first desire to find out what the Bible had to teach her as a mother.
Today, as she continues to apply the Bible in her life, she finds new opportunities to teach and train others.
“I have to fill up. I have to work out the scripture in my own life before I impart it to others, and then when I do, I speak with conviction and passion because I know it, it’s true to me; I’ve lived it,” Lotz says. “Some of the lessons have been very hard, but sometimes the hardest ones are the ones worth learning.”
EXPLORE ONLINE BIBLE STUDIES BY ANNE GRAHAM LOTZ:
All Things Made New »
Well Rested »
The Risk of Faith »
How to Seek God’s Guidance »
Outcast But Not Forsaken »
Guarding Against Burnout »
Changing the World–One Person at a Time »
His Nearness in My Loneliness »
Make an Impact on Your World »
More books by Anne Graham Lotz: