What makes Rev. Billy Graham so influential today?

By Markus Bachman

The Rev. Billy Graham in prayer (photo courtesy of unwsp.edu).

The Rev. Billy Graham is arguably one of the most influential, if not the most influential, evangelists of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Millions of people accepted Christ through the sermons in his decades-long career.

Before COVID-19 hit, I did not know much about Rev. Graham except that he was a famous evangelist and the University of Northwestern–St. Paul’s second president. Shortly after the country shut down from the pandemic, I came across a 50-second clip from one of his sermons. I was not prepared at all for what would follow.

By the end of the clip, I did not know what to think. My mind could not process all that Rev. Graham said in that brief moment. I must have replayed it at least six times before I moved on. Later, I would put this video on repeat time after time on YouTube.

Though this was from a sermon that was more than 40 years old, it could not have felt more relevant. It helped remind me that God still reigns supreme, even when the world seems to be in utter disarray because of COVID-19.

Little did I realize, though, that this clip would lead me to listen to so many of his sermons in the ensuing months. Today, I listen to his sermons at least once a week because they are all so riveting and powerful.

Maybe it is because of the way he preaches, tying everyday life into his sermons to help people understand a passage. Maybe it is because he speaks with so much authority, a gift from God, that it is hard not to listen. Maybe it is because something is being stirred within me. It could be a combination of all of these or something else.

I think I partially understand what made Rev. Graham so popular and significant in the evangelistic and Christian world.

His ability to communicate the Bible in layman’s terms while avoiding sugarcoating the message are part of what I believe made him so popular in his time and even today.

Another aspect that makes him so riveting is that his sermons are timeless. Most of the sermons I have listened to are from the 1970s and 1980s. Regardless of the time the sermon was preached and recorded, his messages still apply to people in 2021.

Lastly, his sermons are not too long. Each YouTube sermon is a little under 30 minutes, but the actual sermons are closer to 20 minutes. Most of the remaining time is dedicated to the alter call he would make after each sermon, followed by a word from his son, Franklin Graham, at the very end.

Today, about a year after I heard that original clip, I am glad I dove into Rev. Graham’s sermons. Each one has a message, while some feel so relevant it scares me.

I would encourage people to give a Rev. Graham sermon a try. I do not think people will regret listening to him.

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