Evangelist holds fast to the hope that he’s shared with more than 210 million people
Editor's Note: This article was first published in 2006.
After the Rev. Billy Graham completed a successful crusade in England in 1954, he received word that Prime Minister Winston Churchill wanted to meet privately with him. Though exhausted after addressing 100,000 people packed into London’s massive Wembley Stadium, the evangelist agreed to visit Britain’s elder statesman the next day.
"We sat down and he said, ‘I couldn’t fill Wembley Stadium even if I brought Marilyn Monroe here. How do you do it?’" recalls Graham, 87. "I told him it was the work of the Holy Spirit."
The conversation quickly turned serious, as Churchill cited newspapers filled with news of murder and war, leaving him feeling hopeless. "I had a New Testament in my pocket, and I took it out and read several passages to him," Graham says. As Churchill listened, Graham said a prayer for the world leader, acknowledging that the Scriptural promise of Christ’s Second Coming was the only hope for both the world and its people.
Although the world has changed drastically in the 52 years since meeting Churchill, Graham holds fast to the same great hope that he’s shared with more than 210 million people in more than 185 countries and territories during hundreds of evangelical crusades and missions. "My hope is based on the Scriptures, and the Scripture hasn’t changed," he says. "God loves you, Christ has died on the cross for you, and your sins will be forgiven; and you will know with certainty you are going to heaven. That is the hope that I share with millions of people who have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord."
After six decades of traveling the world to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Graham last year completed what he called his last crusade, attracting 230,000 people over three days in New York. Over the past few years, he’s slowed considerably, settling into at-home life with his wife, Ruth, 85, in their log house on 200 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Montreat, N.C. (pop. 630). Now, after being gone for months at a stretch each year for decades, he enjoys remaining mostly at home, preaching only on special occasions. Preaching is, after all, his calling—one that he will continue, in some shape or fashion, as long as he is physically able.
"I will preach as long as I have strength," he vows. "Nowhere in the Bible do I find any of God’s servants retiring."