The historian Margaret Bendroth perceptively predicts that successors won’t look like Graham. They will not be white, let alone white Americans. They will appeal to multiethnic audiences. Yet like Graham, they will project chastity, integrity, sincerity, ambition, humility, and, above all, hope. And they will not pin their ministries on doctrinal arguments. The tempestuous issues that tend to divide Christians will take second, third, or even tenth place behind a call for a life changing experience with God in Christ, one that transforms the rest of their lives.
This much we can say for sure: Whoever Graham’s successors may be, heralded or unheralded, they will owe an enduring debt to a farm boy from North Carolina.
Grant Wacker is author of America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation (2014). This essay is adapted from “Billy Graham and the Shaping of American Evangelicalism: Legacies,” in Great Awakenings: Historical Perspectives (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2016), 86-99.