This editorial originally appeared in the November 18, 1988 issue of Christianity Today.
History will remember Billy Graham as the world's greatest missionary-evangelist. No other person has preached the gospel face-to-face to so many—over 100 million. No other person has led so many to make explicit spiritual decisions, usually to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior—over two million. And no other person has traveled to so many countries to preach the gospel—more than 65.
How could it ever have happened? How could a shy country boy from the foothills of North Carolina sway millions and stand before kings?
Some have suggested that, at root, Billy Graham is a supreme opportunist. At a crucial point in Los Angeles in his early ministry, media tycoon William Randolph Hearst ordered his chain of newspapers to "Puff Graham." The media took over and created Billy Graham, his evangelistic career, and its worldwide success—or so the story goes.
However, Billy Graham's own answer to this puzzle is "the hand of God." The Spirit of God fell on this unpromising material and called him to be an evangelist. And who can deny the evangelist is right? From the very first, Graham's unswerving purpose has been to carry the message of the gospel to all the world-to everyone everywhere by whatever means—so that some might be saved from the guilt and burden of their sins and others aroused and strengthened to live obedient and useful lives for the glory of God. From that goal, he has never deviated.
In his early mission, no doubt the heavy hand of William Randolph Hearst was laid upon him and gave him welcome advertising in his attempts to reach a wider public hearing. ...1
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