February, 27, 2018, Nairobi — The Rev Dr Billy Graham has passed from time into eternity.
“Oh, joyful day to the faithful soul
Who walks with Christ in His purity!
Life’s battle fought and the vict’ry won,
He shouts from time to eternity” (Warner, 1888).
Born 1918 and died 2018; a span of life has ended; oh what a life. No one may have asked, when he was born, whether he was Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. In his death, his identity is not in doubt, surely he was God’s prophet and apostle in this era. If there was one single most influential Christian in the 20th century, it was Billy Graham.
Billy Graham would be remembered for his open air crusades that drew thousands and hundreds of people and in every region of the world. Graham was ahead of his age in the use of the media; long before the current information revolution, Graham’s signature tune: “the Bible says,” reverberated the air waves of radio, film and television throughout the world. His message about what ‘the Bible says’ was spewed out of the printing press, in books and magazines and distributed far and wide.
This was how millions around the world were reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ, like no other disciple has done in the history of the Church. Surely, the world was indeed his parish. Like Jesus, Graham did not only proclaim the gospel, he had compassion on his audience. He reached out with a purse and care, like the good Samaritan.
An important watershed of Graham’s ministry was Lausanne 74—Congress on World Evangelization. The Lausanne Congress was defining moment for evangelicalism. Notwithstanding the ambiguity of American evangelicalism, this famous son of America (a scandal of particularity), peeled off the mask and made plain the true meaning of the word and people who identify themselves as evangelicals; based on the authority of Scriptures as the Word of God. He gave evangelicals around the world, voice and identity. Lausanne produced the sensus communis, a creedal affirmation for evangelicals throughout the world, in the tradition of the ancient ecumenical councils; i.e. The Lausanne Covenant and its sequel The Cape Town Commitments.
Billy Graham was not only a prophet and an apostle, he was ‘son of encouragement’ (Barnabas). Graham inspired his fellow evangelists throughout the world. If Lausanne helped establish evangelicals, Amsterdam offered encouragement and advanced training for itinerant preachers and evangelists, bringing together the most internationally representative gathering ever in 2000; following two previous meetings in 1983 and 86, respectively. Lausanne (1,2,3) and Amsterdam (1,2,3) and associated programmes like Schools of evangelism, among others (courtesy of Billy Graham), contributed in no small way to the phenomenal growth of the church in Africa.
In an era when many great church leaders cannot help but succumb to the lures and an invitation to a treat by the prince of the world, Billy Graham did his God and indeed God’s Church, proud by his steadfast faithfulness. He was American and with feet of clay, like all humans, and he would be the first to admit he was a sinner, saved by grace. He died a saint, to die no more.
The Association of Evangelicals in Africa offers its sincere condolences to the Graham family and joins the angels in heaven and saints around the world to applaud Billy Graham’s coronation and entrance into eternity. Glory to God.
By: Rev. Dr. Aiah Foday-Khabenje
AEA General Secretary