89: Thomas Trask

89: Thomas Trask

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 89 •

Chair, Convoy of Hope Global Prayer Initiative; former General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God

When I was a pastor in Detroit in the early 1980s, I served as co-chairman of the Billy Graham Crusade at the Detroit Silverdome. It was a joy to work with the Billy Graham team back in those years. The care that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) put into the organization and preplanning of the crusade was remarkable. The association wanted to ensure that the churches that participated would follow up with the “inquirers” who came forward for salvation, rededication or reassurance of their faith commitment. Their names were distributed to the pastors so they could generate the follow-ups for those people and integrate them into the local churches. That spoke volumes about the care the BGEA showed for those who had come forward for salvation. It was a great testimony in itself.

There are so many people who have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as a result of Billy Graham’s crusades. It was a time in America that Billy Graham worked with God to bring the Gospel to this nation of ours and around the world. And in all those years Billy Graham’s character was impeccable. He moved among presidents, government officials, and church officials, but never did you hear anyone say an unkind word about the person, the Christian Billy Graham, and that’s a great, great testimony.

We have all seen men to whom God has entrusted great gifts, and who have risen to heights of popularity, but then their mistakes almost neutralize their message. Never did one hear that about Billy Graham. As a minister of the Gospel — and I served as General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God — it made me proud to identify with him and his crusades and ministry. You could speak about it in the marketplace, in the city, or wherever, and even men who had not come to know the Lord Jesus Christ had great respect and reverence for the man. I’m positive that God has been pleased, and I’m sure that’s one of the reasons that Billy Graham has enjoyed a long life. He gave himself to the Gospel and its propagation, and to the joy of being part of the Church of Jesus Christ. It has been one great testimony.

He brought people together across denominations. He reached denominations of every flavor and belief. I so appreciate that cross-denominational work that brought in not only the evangelical denominations but also the Methodists, the evangelical Lutherans, and others, including Catholics. The leadership of the Catholic Church was not always involved, but in some cases it was. It was a local decision. This cross-denominational work spoke so well of the Billy Graham Association. As Jesus said in John’s Gospel, “Lord, that they all may be one.”

When Billy Graham preached the Gospel he did not deal with the different doctrines of the denominations, which would have been divisive. As a result, men and women could gather around the Word of God itself, and that brought harmony and unity to the Body of Christ. Billy Graham’s ability to do this was born out of his relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. The Scripture says we are ambassadors for Christ. Billy Graham was an ambassador not for any one denomination or even his organization. He was an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ, which meant that men and women of different denominations could identify with the simplicity of the Gospel. They were able to be a part of it. Over the many years in which he modeled this presentation of the Gospel, it brought unity. It was not divisive but was as Christ would have been, and those of like heart and like faith could rally around it. I saw this spirit at work in the Detroit crusade, and it was a joy to be a part of it. For Billy Graham to be able to fill those stadiums was in itself a testimony. God’s hand of favor and blessing was upon him and the organization, which was made up of men and women of character and integrity and passion.

In his presentation of the Gospel and his messages, Billy Graham was uncompromising. He said it well, he said it clearly: there is a heaven, there is a hell, you can have eternal life, you can be lost. For some, that would be confrontational, and the Gospel is confrontational. But he presented it in a manner that was both passionate and compassionate, and people recognized what was at stake and that he had their eternal well-being in mind. It was truly a great testimony, carried on over many decades, without blemish.

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