Reflecting on the 40th Anniversary of Franklin Graham’s Ordination

By   •   February 11, 2022

Billy Graham prays over Franklin Graham and Jane Austin at the 1982 ordination service for Franklin Graham.

Franklin Graham was ordained to the ministry before an overflow crowd of 3,000 people at Grace Community Church in Tempe, Arizona, on January 10, 1982.

Billy Graham had been ordained at a country church in Florida, and on this Sunday some 40 years later, he introduced his 29-year-old son Franklin and his wife Jane Austin to the podium, calling it “one of the great privileges and honors” of his entire life to be a part of the service.

It was a remarkable moment for Billy Graham, his wife, Ruth, and their oldest son Franklin, whose rebel years were defined by drinking, drugs, smoking, and fast driving. When Mrs. Graham paid tribute to her son during the ordination service, she reminded the crowd, “No boy is hopeless.”

Franklin Graham’s sermon focused on the distinguishing marks of a successful Christian life. He emphasized the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and living fully surrendered to God. He also outlined the necessity of having a life that is clean within and without, and being dedicated to perseverance and prayer.

Guy Davidson (right), the pastor of Grace Community Church, was a close friend to Billy Graham and also served on the board for Samaritan’s Purse.

The part of Graham’s message that drew the strongest response came after he told a story about the significance of prayer. Graham said he saw this in a special way when a woman came up to him in Texas where he had been preaching at a church.

Graham recalled, “She pointed this little finger at me and she said, ‘You know, I’ve got a piece of your life!’ And I kind of backed up; I thought maybe she was crazy. And I said ‘Well, ma’am, that’s interesting. I’m real glad to hear that. But what do you mean?’ She said, ‘Your father used to send out Christmas cards, and on the Christmas cards would be pictures of you children. And me and my husband, we pointed you out; and we decided we were going to make you an object of our prayer. And we have been praying for you now for all these years. I just wanted you to know, young man, we’ve got a piece of your life!’”

One of the most defining moments in the message came when Graham outlined his life’s mission before the crowd.

He said, “As an ordained minister, I will proclaim the name of Jesus Christ throughout the world wherever I go in connection with my work. My whole purpose in my ministry is to tell others about Jesus Christ through the avenues which He gives to us.”

In the 40 years since Graham shared those words, he hasn’t wavered from his commitment. He has continued to proclaim the Gospel through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, sharing the hope of Christ through hundreds of evangelistic outreaches in over 50 countries and territories and in all 50 states.

As president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham has also worked in more than 100 countries to provide spiritual and physical aid to victims of war, poverty, disease, famine, persecution, and disaster with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.

When Graham reflects on the decades of ministry that have taken him to the far corners of the globe, he’s careful not to take credit for any of it.

“All that has been done, God has done it, and I thank Him for everything.”

Looking forward to the work ahead, Graham continued saying, “The culture and the circumstances around us may change but my mission hasn’t. My whole purpose in ministry simply remains to tell others about Jesus Christ. More than ever, the world needs to hear the message of hope and truth that is only found in the Gospel.”