Billy Graham as a young man.

Evangelist to the World

Billy Graham, born a rural dairy farmer in Charlotte, N.C., four days before the Armistice brokered the peace to end World War I, rose from his obscure roots to become "evangelist to the world," proclaiming peace with God throughout an unprecedented ministry spanning six decades.

During this time, Mr. Graham preached the Gospel to more people than anyone in history; nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories across the globe. Countless billions more were reached by television, radio, literature and film. A unique confluence of timing and developments in travel and technology enabled him to become the first person with potential to fulfill the Great Commission of "preaching the Gospel to the ends of the earth."

Throughout his ministry, Mr. Graham repeatedly emphasized he had no plans to slow down and would continue to preach as long as he had strength, or until "God retired him." Indeed his final two crusades in Los Angeles and New York City, at age 86, were among his largest. Though slowed by age-related conditions, such as macular degeneration and hydrocephalus, he continued to stay engaged in ministry pursuits and was receiving regular ministry updates when he passed at the age of 98, while living in his mountain home in western North Carolina.

Church-based Crusades

As a "churchman," Mr. Graham had a unique relationship with and unprecedented access to the faith community, crossing racial, confessional, denominational and geographic lines. Within the common denominator of evangelism, he worked with — and had credibility and trust among — virtually every Evangelical, charismatic, mainline and other Christian group, including Catholics in recent years. Though his emphasis was evangelism, not ecumenism, during his travels, Mr. Graham met with and gained the respect of leaders of other faiths.

Mr. Graham's crusades had a unifying effect, mobilizing diverse groups to work together by emphasizing what they have in common, rather than issues that divided them. Beyond the millions of individuals who made faith commitments at his invitation to "come forward and make a commitment to Christ," his crusades brought unity, visibility and credibility to the local church that continued long after the meetings concluded.

Preaching with "a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other" constantly put Mr. Graham at the intersection of faith and culture. He always contextualized his message, showing how the Word of God speaks to personal and societal problems.

Media Statesman

Beyond his powerful preaching, one of the distinctive characteristics of Mr. Graham's ministry was his ability to make positive points for the Gospel in any media situation. Until the last few years of his ministry, when he was slowed by age and health, he maintained a personal policy of media engagement; numerous and unique news and feature opportunities provided expanded print and electronic forums for his message.

In the absence of an official spokesman for Evangelical Christianity, Mr. Graham was long-perceived as a senior statesman and the perennial "go-to" authoritative resource for the media on issues regarding evangelism and the Christian faith.

As most ministries became more activist in nature in recent years, Mr. Graham remained a "voice of moderation," providing an advocacy role for the Christian faith, and the importance of spirituality in individual lives and our culture.

At the same time, in all media situations, he stayed pastoral, rather than political, but never hesitated to address issues people perceive as political (or economic and social) from a spiritual perspective, speaking to matters of the heart.

In addition to his unprecedented impact as "America's Pastor" in times of crisis and "evangelist to the world," Mr. Graham had a unique influence as "Pastor to Presidents" and confidante of high profile individuals in virtually every arena — including royalty, government, entertainment, sports and business. His refusal to get involved in partisan politics enabled him to minister publicly and privately to all leadership and their constituencies — regardless of party affiliation or perspective on an issue.

Billy Graham with his wife, Ruth.

Some Interesting Facts About Billy

  • Born Nov. 7, 1918
  • Made his own personal faith commitment at a revival in the fall of 1934
  • Answered the call to preach in the spring of 1938
  • Was graduated from Wheaton College in June 1943
  • Pastored Western Springs church in Illinois
  • Started as an evangelist with Youth for Christ in 1945
  • Preached first city-wide crusade in Grand Rapids, Mich., September 1947
  • Became the nation's youngest college president (Northwestern School) in 1948
  • Conducted a total of 417 major evangelistic crusades, ending in New York City in June 2005
  • Preached to nearly 215 million people in live audiences in more than 185 countries and territories
  • Saw more than 3 million individuals make faith commitments at his organized crusades
  • Countless millions more were reached and responded through radio, television, film and the Internet
  • Authored 34 books
Billy relaxing at home.

Some Key Dates in Billy's Life

Billy Graham, born on a rural dairy farm in Charlotte, N.C., four days before the Armistice that brokered peace to end World War I, rose from his obscure roots to become "evangelist to the world." With a moral authority that stemmed from his signature phrase, "the Bible says," he was faithful to his calling to proclaim peace with God throughout an unprecedented ministry spanning more than six decades. During that time, Mr. Graham preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history — nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories across the globe. Countless billions more were reached by television, radio, literature and film around the world.

Preaching with "a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other" constantly put Mr. Graham at the intersection of faith and culture. He always contextualized his message, showing how the Word of God speaks to personal and societal problems. He appeared on the national scene shortly after World War II, when America was finding its faith; carried on through the turbulent decades when that faith was lost; and ended helping the nation find its faith again in a renewed search for purpose and meaning.

One of Mr. Graham's ministry distinctive was his identity as a "churchman," with unique, unprecedented access to the faith community, crossing racial, confessional, denominational and geographic lines. On his watch, Mr. Graham facilitated a global shift toward Evangelicalism and a renewed emphasis on evangelism — including among mainline and Catholic churches — and provided extensive worldwide training in that paradigm.

Mr. Graham also had a unique influence as America's Pastor in times of crisis; Pastor to Presidents over 12 administrations, from Truman to Obama; and confidante of high profile individuals in virtually every arena — including royalty, government, entertainment, sports and business.

Billy's Authored Books

  • 1947 — Calling Youth to Christ (Zondervan)
  • 1951 — America's Hour of Decision (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)
  • 1952 — Author of syndicated newspaper column — My Answer carried by newspapers both nationally and internationally
  • 1953 — I Saw Your Sons at War (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)
  • 1953 — Peace With God (Doubleday & Co.) — over two million copies sold in 38 languages, revised and expanded in 1984
  • 1955 — Freedom from the Seven Deadly Sins (Zondervan)
  • 1955 — The Secret of Happiness (Doubleday & Co.)
  • 1958 — Billy Graham Talks to Teenagers (Zondervan)
  • 1960 — My Answer (Doubleday & Co.)
  • 1960 — Billy Graham Answers Your Questions (World Wide Publications)
  • 1965 — World Aflame (Doubleday & Co.) — The New York Times and Time magazine Best-Seller Lists for several weeks
  • 1969 — The Challenge (Doubleday & Co.)
  • 1971 — The Jesus Generation (World Wide Publications)
  • 1975 — Angels: God's Secret Agents (Guideposts Associates) — Publishers Weekly & New York Times Best-Seller Lists (21 weeks each); Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) Platinum Book Award
  • 1977 — How to Be Born Again (Word Publishing)
  • 1978 — The Holy Spirit (Word Publishing) — ECPA Gold Book Award
  • 1981 — Till Armageddon (Word Publishing) — ECPA Platinum Book Award
  • 1983 — Approaching Hoofbeats: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Word Publishing) — The New York Times Best-Seller List; ECPA Gold Book Award
  • 1984 — A Biblical Standard for Evangelists (World Wide Publications)
  • 1986 — Unto the Hills (Word Publishing)
  • 1987 — Facing Death and the Life After (Word Publishing) — Christian Booksellers Association Best-Seller List (21 weeks)
  • 1988 — Answers to Life's Problems (Word Publishing)
  • 1991 — Hope for the Troubled Heart (Word Publishing)
  • 1992 — Storm Warning (Word Publishing)
  • 1997 — Just As I Am (HarperCollins)
  • 2002 — Hope for Each Day
  • 2003 — The Key to Personal Peace
  • 2005 — Living in God's Love: The New York Crusade (G.P. Putnam's Sons) — Reprinted as paperback in 2006 under the title The Last Crusade
  • 2006 — The Journey: How to Live by Faith in an Uncertain World (W Publishing Group)
  • 2008 — Wisdom for Each Day (Thomas Nelson)
  • 2010 — Storm Warning (Thomas Nelson)
  • 2011 — Nearing Home (Thomas Nelson)
  • 2012 — The Heaven Answer Book (Thomas Nelson)
  • 2013 — The Reason for my Hope: Salvation (Thomas Nelson)
  • 2015 — Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity and Our Life Beyond (HarperCollins)