As a child, I had many heroes on whom I fixed my gaze for inspiration. My father was number one in that category. He was my hero among heroes. The football field, the boxing ring, the baseball diamond, and the basketball court provided many of the other personalities and talents I wanted to emulate.
But when it came to the spiritual life, at least in my early years as a Baptist, there were two men I wanted to imitate more than any others: my pastor, Eugene Foreman, Pastor of Boulevard Baptist Church in Falls Church, Virginia, and Billy Graham.
Both were great men and great preachers. But Billy Graham was without peer. My mom tells me I never missed him when his sermons were televised on WTTG TV back in the mid-seventies. And I remember watching his hand gestures and facial expressions while imagining myself standing and preaching in his place. I truly wanted to be like him.
There are three main things I remember about Billy Graham that drew me to him and to the gospel he proclaimed. First, he had a profound faith in Our Blessed Lord and understood every person’s individual need for Jesus Christ in his life. And he proclaimed that simple truth in every sermon, article, book, or interview. The Lord used him to instill that sense in me, and for that I will be eternally grateful.
Second was his passion, which was profoundly rooted in his love for Our Lord and in his desire to see every soul he encountered come to Jesus.
And finally, Billy Graham was truly a masterful preacher. From his powerfully projected voice, to his hand gestures, body postures, to his piercing gaze out at the crowds as he preached, he was perfection when it came to sermonizing. And I believe it was that passion as well as his well-honed skill and expertise at everything he did that led to a remarkable sense of confidence and boldness that poured forth from his being almost as powerfully as his words.
Man, to be able to speak like that! Billy Graham remains an icon for me and all of us who proclaim Jesus Christ.