86: Michael Tait

86: Michael Tait

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 86 •

Lead singer for the popular Christian rock band, Newsboys

With the other members of the band dc Talk, I first met Billy Graham when I was about twenty-five years old, in 1992 or 1993. This was after the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association decided to make Saturday evenings “youth nights” during Billy Graham’s visit to a city for a crusade. We were invited to perform on those youth nights, which we did several times.

One time we did a concert at a crusade that included a song we wrote called “The Hard Way.” Later, in his message, Billy used some of the words we wrote for that song. I remember sitting and watching Toby McKeehan (of dc Talk), and Toby was watching me. We both had tears coming down our cheeks because Billy Graham was using our words. We were just blown away. And people came forward that night in droves for salvation.

The Grahams must have thought that we were doing a good job, because they invited us to their home in Montreat, North Carolina. I was excited by the prospect of going to Billy Graham’s house. I was counting the days.

We took a flight and then drove a long way to Asheville and then on to Montreat. I was expecting a big White House-type home, but when we got there we found it was small and unassuming, like a little bunker in the middle of the gorgeous trees and hills of North Carolina. And I thought how humble it was for this man who has touched and changed the world with the Gospel to live in such a simple way.

One night, I was sitting at the table with Billy and Ruth. Ruth looked at me and said, “Michael, honey, you guys are so special.” I was thinking that her husband was the one who was special. She continued, “You guys stock the pond for Billy to go fishing.” Her remark went over my head at first. Then she explained, “What I mean is that during Billy’s crusades you bring the kids in, so Billy can go soul fishing.” I was honored to hear her say that. She was right in that we did bring the young people in. Every time we played at a Billy Graham event we broke the stadium records for attendance.

When I spoke to Billy Graham on that first evening, I called him Dr. Graham, but the next day, he said to me, “Michael, just call me Billy.” I said, “Okay, Dr. Graham.”

Another time when I visited, Billy was sitting there in an easy chair, and when he saw me his eyes lit up. He looked at me and I looked at him, and I got teary-eyed. “How are the boys?” he asked. He remembered us all.

Then he said, “I have a story for you, Michael. Last night President Obama was sitting in the chair you are sitting in.”

I was blown away. “What was he doing here, Billy?” I asked. (I was finally calling him Billy!)

“Well, he wanted to come and see me. He called from the Oval Office. The Secret Service was all around, you know, but he walked in by himself, sat down there, and we spent half an hour together.”

“What did you talk about?”

“We talked about the country, and this, that, and the other.”

“Do you think he’s a believer?”

“Well, I believe the man knows the Lord. We prayed together, and before he left, he asked me if he could pray.”

And Billy was impressed with the depth of the President’s prayer. We talked about that and about life and about lots of things. We had a wonderful time. My experience of Billy Graham has always been that he has a powerful presence, carrying the Gospel with honor and decency. You’ve got to respect that. He is also so unassuming, humble, and relaxed, he just disarms you. It was disarming for me because I had built up an image in my head. He was such a powerful man of the Gospel, and he mixed with presidents, met kings and queens, spoke all over the world. Movie stars admired him. He was the go-to guy. I thought he would be living in a castle, eating from silver plates and drinking from fifteenth-century goblets that kings had used. And you walk in and it’s not like that. He is so natural. And he looks good, too, still with a handsome, rugged face, and that beautiful gray hair.

Not only that, he takes a real interest in you. He understands people. I remember talking with him about how my father had been a preacher, and Billy asked the sort of questions a person asks when he really wants to know about you. He gave me his undivided attention. That’s why I call him my grandpappy. Who wouldn’t? He is like a second grandfather to me.

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