When I entered my small Methodist church one Sunday morning in February of 2018, Bob Maddry, a retired truck driver and old chum, walked over. “I lost a dear friend this week,” he said. “Billy Graham brought me to Jesus. He saved my life.” Bob paused and then added, “I never shook his hand.”
A couple of weeks later, I asked Bob if he remembered where and when his conversion had taken place. He answered immediately and precisely. “Raleigh. Wednesday night, September 26, 1973.” At that moment, I knew that Bob spoke for countless other salt-of-the-earth folk everywhere. They never personally met Graham, but his ministry had remade their lives.
Graham very much wanted to invite every person on the planet to embrace the gospel, and he also hoped to inspire them to reform society as a whole, from top to bottom. But his method—the way he sought to do it—was always the same: one soul at a time.
In one sense, Graham is the last person on earth whose approach should be described with the words “one soul at a time.” After all, he perfected the art of mass evangelism. He preached to 215 million people in 185 countries in crusades, rallies, and live satellite feeds. Of those, some 77 million saw him face-to-face in 53 countries. More than three million souls responded to his invitation to profess faith in Christ. He broke numerous attendance records, sometimes speaking to more than 100,000 people in a single service. Indeed, twice he spoke to more than 1 million in one event.
Even so, Graham said that he always saw himself speaking not to audiences, let alone to nameless multitudes, but to individual hearts. That is where enduring change ultimately had to begin—with ...1
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