44: Craig Groeschel

44: Craig Groeschel

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 44 •

Pastor of LifeChurch.tv, the second largest church in the U.S. with fifteen locations and an Internet campus

In the spring of 2012, I visited Mr. Graham at his home along with Bobby Gruenewald, my colleague at LifeChurch.tv. Will Graham, Mr. Graham’s grandson, took us there.

I was struck by the simplicity of where and how Mr. Graham lived. He greeted us warmly, like family. It was as if he were a granddad I’d known my whole life. He knew about our ministry, which surprised me, and he also knew details about me that a lot of my staff members don’t even know, like where I was born. He had apparently prepared himself for our meeting.

At ninety-three, he was not able to hear well or see clearly, but his mind was 100 percent perfect in every way. Bobby and I gave him his first iPad. If Apple had been there with a video camera it would have been the best commercial in the world. He had never seen or heard of an iPad, and we had installed the free Bible app that we created at our church. He was blown away by it.

While we were with Mr. Graham, we put the Bible in the biggest font available so that he could make out the words, which he hasn’t been able to do with a printed Bible for years. The verse that came up was John 3:16, and that was really moving to him: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We also showed him how to change versions, from the New International Version to the King James Version to the American Standard Version along with 300 other versions.

When we told him we had given away over sixty million of these digital Bibles he got really choked up and said, “Do you have any idea what this means to the world, that you can give God’s Word away for free? I don’t understand all this technology, but I do understand this is something that is going to impact the whole world.” He was visibly moved by having the Bible available in this new form, and he told us to keep preaching the Gospel and the Word.

I’ve met presidents, prime ministers, and other world leaders, but nothing has meant as much to me as meeting him. Everything else pales in comparison. He has been such an influential figure for me. His autobiography, Just As I Am, was the biggest faith-building book I’ve read outside the Bible. I was so moved by how God could take an ordinary man who was willing to remove himself from the picture and be completely obedient. It was wonderful to read of how God opened the doors, how God built his platform, and how God drew the crowds. Whenever his ministry had a need, God met the need; whenever there was an obstacle, God removed the obstacle. It felt like I was reading the Book of Acts, only it wasn’t the first century, it was the century I live in. The same type of miraculous presence was working through Mr. Graham. Reading Just As I Am gave me the faith to believe that if God can do that through him, then maybe God can do something special through me as well.

Seeing Billy Graham’s passion for preaching the Gospel around the world inspired me to do the same in a church setting. I realized that you could invite non-Christians, people who were not normally churchgoers, to the service and preach the Gospel to them every week. That was a revolutionary idea to me at the time and it has resulted in lots and lots of people coming to Christ. It was Billy Graham who moved me to say, No matter what, I’m going to present the Gospel. We started a church inside a two-car garage and wound up establishing fifteen different LifeChurch.tv locations across five states, plus an Internet campus and more to come. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the influence of Billy Graham.

Before we left that day, Bobby and I had a photograph taken of us with Mr. Graham. In the photo, he holds the iPad we gave him, which itself is showing a photograph of him in his prime, holding his own Bible aloft as he preaches. It’s a photo I will treasure as a reminder of a day when I met a man who brought so many thousands of people to Christ over so many decades and who refused to take any personal credit for it, offering all the glory to God. It was such an honor to meet him.

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