64: Miles McPherson

64: Miles McPherson

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 64 •
MILES MCPHERSON

Pastor of the Rock Church Academy in San Diego, California; motivational speaker and author, president of Miles Ahead Ministries

My very first exposure to Billy Graham occurred many years ago. I was about ten years old, and I happened to see part of a Billy Graham crusade at New York’s Yankee Stadium on a black and white television. I remember thinking, Who does he think he is? What is that all about?

But now I get it. Billy Graham stuck to his task. And watching those old tapes now, I see that he was on fire. He was fighting a battle, speaking forcefully, jabbing his finger. I get fired up now just looking at it.

Billy Graham became an example to me as an evangelist. He didn’t go off on tangents and get involved in things that weren’t focused simply on the Gospel.

I do altar calls very regularly, and they don’t change. The essence of them hasn’t changed in 2,000 years, and seeing Billy Graham be faithful to that same simple message has been an encouragement to me to stay focused as well.

I met Billy Graham in 2003, at the crusade in San Diego. I was the chair of the group working with young people, so I was involved in organizing the youth night and I was there every day. He was such a down-to-earth, straightforward guy.

I realize now that there are certain people throughout history who have been called to perform certain tasks, and all the stars aligned to make them bigger than life. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, for example. People like that come at very specific times when the culture needs them or wants whatever they have to offer. Billy Graham is one of those people. God used him in a very specific way, and at a time when our society was ready to have crusades night after night, filling stadiums.

It was a different time then. God needed a guy who was willing to make personal sacrifices. The crusades were long, and Billy Graham was gone from home for long periods at a time, yet he gave his life to that enterprise. He showed his commitment to the Gospel.

We are in a different era now. I could sit in my home and type something on my computer and reach the world. People don’t go to crusades as much as they used to. They don’t have to, as evangelists have other means to reach them. So it’s a very different era.

Back in those days, when there were huge crusades, Billy Graham knew exactly how to speak to a vast crowd. The spirit of God speaks to everybody individually, and so did Billy Graham. He knew that a crowd is just a collection of individuals. All he had to do was talk. He just spoke the Gospel, and people were drawn to it. They were just waiting for the altar call. Some were already convinced they were going to get saved, and others had a revelation when they were there. When he spoke at those crusades, the Holy Spirit grabbed people’s hearts and prepared them to make that decision. I believe that the preparation had actually started months and years before they even got there. So Billy Graham just had to speak and give the altar call, confident that God had prepared him to deliver the message. He was just there to do his part.

God uses people in certain ways. A lot of times we may think, in explaining someone’s success or the direction they took in life, well, this person had the personality; this person had the sense of humor, and so forth. Sometimes people say, “I have a big church because I was a professional NFL football player,” but that is an insult to God. It’s really the work of the Spirit of God and is the province of God.

So too with Billy Graham. The power he had in his preaching days was God-given, whether it was his personality, his humble spirit, his tone of voice, or other personal qualities. It is all God-given. What counts is how the spirit of God flows through each particular personality, and how faithful the person is to the mission.

Billy Graham was devoted to his mission. Golf pros will tell you that you can’t win a golf tournament on the first day of the four-day tournament, but you can definitely lose it on the first day. So too, there are things that a minister can do to disqualify himself, even near the end of his earthly ministry. A lack of devotion can quickly destroy a lifetime of work. It’s devotion that has kept Billy Graham in the game for all these decades. He must at some point have had some disappointments, like we all do, but he just stuck to it. I so admire that. His devotion is amazing, and for me, he will always remain an example of a true evangelist.

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