Seventy Exceptional Years
This article originally appeared in the November 18, 1988 issue of Christianity Today.
Billy Graham celebrated 70 exceptionally good years this past November 7.
Can this actually be true? Many of us think of Billy as eternally youthful, his boundless energy and vision flowing from his determination to spread the gospel. And no wonder. In the 19808 he has implemented his unique vision of equipping Third World evangelists through Amsterdam '83 and '86, passing the torch on toGraham then: one simple message thousands now communicating the gospel worldwide. Already in 1988 he has preached in China and the Soviet Union—meeting with top leaders of both those countries—and he has spent time planning events in Europe, holding crusades in numerous U.S. cities, and along the way offering prayers al the Democratic and Republican national conventions.
All of this and realities such as having spoken face to face with over a hundred million people have, in fact, taken a toll: both he and his wife, Ruth, have faced some tough health problems. But this time of celebrating Billy's seventieth birthday catches them both fully active and looking to the future.
Among Billy's many accomplishments during his more than 40 years of ministry was the founding of this magazine. In 1955, he conceived the vision and was preaching it in detail to a group of handpicked leaders. He explained, "I have called you together for prayer, for consultation, to seek the will of God in this matter, and to present some concrete proposals." Billy's proposals called for hard-hitting editorials on current subjects, full religious news coverage, biblical articles, book reviews, and other elements you now regularly read in CT. He insisted on a 9 positive, broad-based approach. This positive viewpoint was to extend to "the great social issues of our day, such as the starving people in India, the racial problem, and others. We must be for the underdog and the downtrodden, as we all believe Christ was." He suggested the name of this magazine be Christianity Today.
More than 20 years later, at a very difficult time in CT's history, a group of board members were evaluating the magazine's future. Harold Ockenga stood and read the complete text of Billy's original speech. As soon as he finished, the board members declared unanimously, "That's it! That's exactly the vision!" All were amazed at Billy's remarkable prescience.
This cover story, then, is unapologetically a celebration-a commemoration of Billy Graham's unique contributions. In it, three of CT's former editors make specific observations. (A fourth editor, Kenneth S. Kantzer, discusses the Graham legacy in his editorial on page 14.) For Billy's own thoughts on various topics, executive editor Terry Muck and I traveled to Montreat, North Carolina, just after Billy's return from China and Russia, to conduct a free-wheeling interview. To complete the package, University of Chicago historian Martin Marty writes a personal retrospective. Throughout our interview in Montreat, it was clear as Billy responded to questions that his world impact has been no fluke, that he still has the same broad spirit seen in that original call to create Christianity Today. His natural responses to questions reveal a lifetime of action and thinking shaped by involvement with a great cross section of concerned ministers, scholars, and world leaders.
By Harold L. Myra, publisher
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