“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
For 99 years God graced this earth with the presence of Billy Graham. He was a sinful man, but one that was faithful to the calling God gave him to preach and to preach to millions of people. Billy had beautiful feet, that is to say his feet carried the mouth that proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ, the grace, mercy, love, and justice to the world (Rom. 10:15).
Billy was the Pastor to America, he counseled presidents, filled stadiums, and preached to all who would listen. Billy's message was simple, we are sinners in need of the grace and atonement offered through Jesus. As I sit here and listen to one of his sermons I am reminded that he was not shy about preaching about sin. He didn't preach self help, he didn't preach how to, he didn't tickle peoples ears; no, he preached sin, Jesus, redemption, salvation. Oh, that my preaching would be half as good as his. His passing represents a change in the guard. The culture he preached to is different than today's, the church he was part of is different than todays, the world he lived and preached in is different from today's. Nevertheless he recognized that the gospel doesn't change. He once said, "The message I preach hasn't changed. Circumstances have changed. Problems have changed, but deep inside man has not changed, and the gospel hasn't changed."
No longer are preachers filling stadiums. No longer is there at least some kind of basic understanding of the message Scripture. People have been inoculated, in many ways, to the message of the gospel. Culture has turned its back on the teachings of Scripture that it once embraced even if it did so unintentionally. Who is America's Pastor today? The truth is there isn't one. He hasn't been actively preaching for the last 7 years and he hasn't been his most effective for 20 or more years. During that time America has continued down the road of secularization rejecting truth, morality, and the Judeo Christian worldview as a whole. The world has changed.
The church has also changed. Many churches, in fact some of the most prominent churches, have turned from preaching the gospel, from preaching Scripture, to preaching self-help filled with religious language (1 Cor. 6). Some parts of the church have rejected fundamental truths found in Scripture embracing sinful behavior like homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, and even the killing of the unborn. Evangelicalism is changing as well. In many ways it is becoming undefinable. The validity of Scripture is being questioned along with some of the fundamental truths of the faith, at least in some circles. The church and evangelicals are being maligned and marginalized by media outlets. They are condemned when they do preach Scripture and hold to Biblical truths. People who attempt to live acording to their religious convictions are sued and taken to court and forced to violate their convictions (Masterpiece Bakery and many others).
The page has been turning for some time, but the death of Billy Graham, at least symbolically, completes that page turn. What will the church become? Who (probably more than one who) will lead the church? Will there be a return to Biblical values in culture or will God judge America? Will we preach the gospel with all our might like Graham and Spurgeon before him or will we fade into irrelevance?
Thank you God for giving us Billy, now give us the fortitude, conviction, and backbone to return to preaching the truth of Scripture no matter what the cost. Give us hearts like Stephen, Peter, Paul, Luther, Whitfield, Wesley, Edwards, Spurgeon, and Billy.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.