59: Mike Macintosh

59: Mike Macintosh

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 59 •

Pastor of Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego, California; founder of Horizon College

On September 9, 1983, in the midst of the heavy demands of the Sacramento crusade, Billy Graham met with me privately for about two hours. Spending that amount of time with me was most unusual, especially when he was so busy and tired, yet throughout the interview he remained totally present. He had no “edginess” about him, and I had no sense that he was thinking about other meetings he had to attend. He confided, “I have many friends and family, many meetings and many people who want to meet with me, but Mike, I enjoy every meeting.” He was utterly at peace, unrushed and unworried. I found out afterwards that he had been with Ronald Reagan before me that morning. Here was a guy who went from a President down to this kid who was just trying to figure out his way in evangelism. That’s his spiritual spectrum. He was as gracious to me as he was to the most important people. His heart was fully open to everyone.

I try to do this myself, and it takes a lot of dying to self, giving up your selfish needs for spiritual ones, to be in that place. Billy isn’t just an evangelist who goes out and preaches and becomes famous. He’s a man who knows the Lord. I don’t think I have ever met another man, even in latter days, who is so open to being a vessel of the Holy Spirit. He is a man who knows his calling and why he is here, a man of love.

I came to the meeting curious to know whether Billy Graham was as real as I had heard. My first impression was that spiritually, he was almost transparent; he was so real it caught me off guard. Relaxed, calm and soft-spoken, he was a totally gracious host. As we began to talk, he seemed much like a father or grandfather to me, and when he spoke, he showed genuine concern for me. After a short time, I told him that I wasn’t really there for an interview, but because my heart was seeking God and I wanted to hear from him.

When Billy recognized why I had come, that I loved evangelism and was trying to find my way, he really loosened up. Among many other gifts, he advised me not to condemn, complain or criticize, and then said; “Only he who can see the invisible can do the impossible.”

At one point, I told him: “I would like to give you my allegiance in evangelism.”

He immediately snapped back: “Don’t give me your allegiance. Give your allegiance to Jesus Christ.”

Three or four of my questions seemed to embarrass him. When I asked him what it felt like to be one of the most famous men in the world, he actually hung his head. He didn’t like talking about himself at all, but he knew that I needed to learn this, and he explained, “Mike, do you know why Queen Elizabeth has me to the palace, or any of these famous people have me at their homes or whatever?”

I replied, “Well, of course, Mr. Graham, it’s because you’re a celebrity like they are. I’ve always seen you listed as number one or two of the world’s most admired men. That’s why they have you.”

“No, not at all,” he clarified. “They only have me because of Jesus. You see, people in these positions have so many burdens and they can’t talk even to their own pastor if they have one, so they need a friend who is discreet, who they know they can trust, and that’s a great responsibility I have. Mike, I am nothing but a North Carolina farm boy, and the day that I forget that, the Lord will stop using me.”

I asked Billy about his prayer life and I have used the reply he gave me ever since. He revealed that he had been sitting there and praying for me throughout our meeting, asking the Lord what he could do to help further His goals for my life. Billy shared, “I don’t necessarily always have long bouts of prayer, but I learned over the years, because of my schedule, to pray from the moment I get up, until the moment I go to bed. I try to pray for every meeting and everyone I’m sitting with. If I’m home, Ruth and I kneel down beside the bed and pray for every one of our children and their needs, and for every grandchild by name. Then Ruth lays her hands on me and prays for me, and I do the same for her. We pray again at night like that when I’m home. When I’m out of town, we talk on the phone every day. We do the same devotional so it allows us to share spiritual things that we learned from the Lord that day.”

I was amazed at his humility, so I asked him what his personal relationship with God was like. He described it as internal. He felt God speaking to him as a sense of peace that guided him. When he lacked that feeling of peace, he knew that it was the Lord’s will for him not to do something. He had the greatest trouble feeling God’s guidance about where he should speak. He had so many invitations — sometimes 200 for a crusade — that he had to be very careful about only accepting the speaking engagements that the Lord gave him. He couldn’t listen to his staff, wife or friends’ advice about this. He just waited for that inner peace, which was how God communicated with him. He trusted the Lord for everything.

Ruth had supported him to go and preach in the early days while she took care of their home and children. I had a chance to talk with Ruth over dinner in Portland, Oregon, at the end of a crusade there, while Billy took off to meet with Gorbachev about launching the first crusade in Russia. I asked, “Mrs. Graham, what’s it like to be going to your hotel while your husband departs for Moscow?”

She replied simply, “Well, it’s nothing new at all. Generals don’t take their wives to war, and Billy is a general. I know my role is to keep the family strong so that he can go do God’s work.”

Recently, I was speaking at the same conference as Billy’s daughter Anne, who is my good friend. It reminded me of the time that I mentioned his claim that her mother was more spiritual. Anne denied this, offering an illuminating picture of her father. “You watch your father in the living room sitting on the couch watching the news on television. The telephone rings, and as he stands up to walk across the room to answer the call, he is praying, asking God for the words he needs to say for whoever is on that line. How can you be more spiritual than that?”

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