A Spirit Thing

Billy Graham’s God-given vision for a magazine of “conviction and love.”
A Spirit Thing

Just before I traveled to Charlotte in March to attend the memorial service of our founder, Billy Graham, one of CT’s designers stopped by my office with a large manila envelope. “It’s from my grandfather,” she said. “He wanted you to have this.”

This staffer’s grandfather was former CT editor Gil Beers, the man in charge of the magazine when I first came to CT 34 years ago. I opened the package eagerly. Inside was a nine-page letter dated April 6, 1984, from Graham himself, recounting for Beers the origins of Christianity Today. One paragraph in particular leapt off the pages. It told a story I knew well but included a line confirming what today motivates not only me but all of us at CT as we press on to encourage believers to renew their minds, serve the church, and create culture to the glory of God.

“Sometime in early 1953,” wrote Graham, “. . . I was awakened one morning about 2 o’clock. I went to my desk, using a desk light so I would not awaken my wife, and I sat down and wrote out everything that came to my mind concerning a new magazine. I am sure that the Holy Spirit was inspiring me, and speaking through me on the paper.”

According to the letter, God outlined for Graham a few core qualities that would define CT. It would be anchored on God’s Word, in contrast to the relativism and slipshod theologizing emerging at the time. It would showcase the best of evangelical thinking, news, and commentary, in contrast to the caricature of evangelicals at the time as uneducated simpletons with little to offer the public square. And its tone would be “conviction and love”— biblical and balanced, hopeful and not divisive—in ...

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