Almost everyone I speak to, my age and older, knows of Billy Graham. A year ago today, Billy Graham died. His face was then printed in nearly every major newspaper and on was seen on almost every major news bulletin in the world. He was honoured by Presidents and Heads of State, with his funeral televised and streamed to hundreds of millions.
Of even greater significance, tens of millions of people from around the world stopped that day, as they heard the news, and they said in one way or another, “That man’s life changed my life for the better, forever.”
Indeed Billy Graham left one of the greatest legacies the world has ever known, having preached the gospel to more people than anyone else in human history, the simple message of the cross had reached millions worldwide. Marriages had been saved, families healed, drug addicts had been set free, and countless souls were snatched off the path to hell and pointed towards heaven.
(I myself am a direct benefactor of Billy Graham’s work as seen in this powerful video)
So how did he do it? How did the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham reach the world in such a way that millions were saved and millions more know his name?
He blazed a trail where many dared not, and he did not give up on the dream God had called him to.
When people recall Billy Graham’s success few stop to think of his sacrifices.
He paid a price at home. He wiped tears from his eyes again and again as he walked down his driveway heading out for weeks and sometimes months of preaching without his young children and his wife.
He paid a price in the opinion of the public. Many do not realize that Billy Graham preached in the former Soviet Union when many deemed such an act “career” suicide and he paid a high price in the media for such an act which some viewed as a betrayal to his own nation.
He paid a price financially. Billy Graham’s ministry may have many dollars now, but when he started out he started with dreams and dimes. He invested heavily into technology to get the gospel onto screens, which was truly ground breaking at the time. He invested into large tents, large venues, he put huge amounts of finance into disaster relief, and instead of building a bigger kingdom of possessions on earth, he invested into getting more people into the Kingdom of heaven.
He paid the price of sacrificing self-comfort. They remember his record setting stadium events, and the Presidents he dined with, but few realize he preached the love of God privately with the poor and needy where few could see, not simply publicly. He willingly entered disaster zones that people were fleeing from, to share the love of God, he visited at risk to himself. Few people appreciated the hard work he would have had to put in to lead his logistical teams, especially early on in his ministry, as thousands were coming to his events with very few staff to help. Few people think of the long hours he would have spent on planes, trains, buses and boats to get to where people needed the gospel.
He paid a price… he sacrificed, but on the other side, it was worth it.
My whole life I’ve been a pioneer, and just like Billy Graham, my highest priority has been, for many years now, the preaching of the gospel. In the nearly 12 years that I’ve been in ministry, pioneering, starting and leading ministries, and preaching the gospel, I’ve learned some costly lessons about pioneering. I’d love to share just three principles and encouragements around pioneering with you so that you can push on and push through!
1. Pioneering is often lonely, but you’re not alone.
For me, one of the greatest sources of discouragement in pioneering has been the isolation that I have felt. When I was leading the fastest growing ministry in my church pioneering new ways of engaging our Young Adults, rather than feel surrounded by a cheer squad, often I felt isolated as a leader, trying to be strong. I kept saying, “We are going to change this town!” I often felt like people were just waiting for me to fail and be let down. “Be realistic” was the cry of the day. (Few things make my blood boil more than being told to “be realistic”, for my God was raised from the dead and heals with just a touch and word!) When my wife and I were planting a church in America I felt completely out of my depth. Seminary couldn’t prepare me for how to navigate the complexities of a new church, and though I had an amazing team, I constantly felt alone, even when with my wife, when it came to the weight I carried juggling people’s lives, finance, vision and the way forward. Now as an evangelist everything above is only illuminated ten fold… there are few books on how to preach the gospel full-time, without an employer, and also win at home and at the same time. And yet I say this…
“BE ENCOURAGED. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!”
Jesus, Himself a pioneer, who understands how you feel, is with you.
He would have often felt alone;
- from His Father, who on the cross was hidden from Him,
- from His disciples who at times doubted Him, fell asleep on Him, abandoned Him and betrayed Him
He is with you.
2. Pioneering will cost you, but if it’s His will, it is going to be so worth it.
I’ve sacrificed precious time with my family. My wife and I have spent almost every dollar we have and have had on spreading the gospel. I’ve gotten sick, I’ve had guns shot off by my head a spear pointed in my eyes, and cried more tears for the lost than I could ever count. I’ve lost friends. I’ve been slandered and swept aside, lied to and betrayed and I’ve spent many a sleepless night trying to work out how to make things work…
AND… there are going to be hundreds of people in heaven (and God willing by the time I’m there too, millions), because of that sacrifice, from my wife, my kids and even myself.
Pioneering will not always thank you and it will always cost you. But if it is the will of God and it brings Him glory, all eternity will be your reward. Don’t give up.
3. Others will walk on the road you are laying and need you to keep going.
As part of my call to evangelism, I have had the greatest privilege, for the past 6 months, of having worked on “The Graham Tour” with Franklin Graham. I have witnessed first hand, the usefulness of the work Billy Graham put in back then, for his son, and the many employees of his organization. Franklin Graham and the entire Billy Graham Evangelistic Association walk on the path that Franklin’s father forged for him. Franklin Graham has preached to thousands in packed out stadiums all across Australia this past month, because Billy Graham didn’t quit preaching to groups of hundreds, when people said he should.
Now this new generation is pioneering again and I simply say this.
Keep Going! We need you and the generations to come will too!
Online evangelism. Facebook fellowships. One night tours instead of week long crusades. Preaching on planes. Mass evangelism on the streets. Walking across the road and meeting a neighbour. Forgiving an old friend. Stopping a stranger on the street to share the gospel. We need it all.
Keep pioneering friends. We need what you bring to the table. Whether Presidents honour you one day or not, know this, I honour you, and I know God will too, with a crown of glory as you stay faithful to His story.