With the passing of “America’s Pastor”, Billy Graham, much has been written, and rightly so, about his life as a Preacher and Evangelist. While much of it has focused on what he did publicly, with the rallies, crusades, and Presidential visits, I would argue that his greatest legacy is what he chose to do privately. Let me explain.
In 1948, after a successful rally in Modesto, California, and in the midst of huge crowds and a rapidly increasing following, Graham called all his evangelistic team together for a meeting. Seeing what was ahead, he was convinced that steps needed to be taken to preserve and safeguard their integrity, starting with his own. It was in this meeting that a document was created, later called the “Modesto Manifesto”, where Graham laid out how they would live, and most importantly how he would live, to do their best to avoid discrediting their ministry and the Lord’s work through them by a scandal. It addressed boundaries in regards to money, relationships, and other matters of personal integrity.
It was just one meeting in a hotel room, in Modesto, California, that I argue changed the course of his ministry. It was there that they together realized that taking care of things privately would impact their ability to change the world publicly.
These weeks of Lent we are talking about the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5), and how Jesus shares these words of wisdom, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). Because Graham guarded carefully what filled His heart privately, out of the overflow of his heart his mouth spoke powerful, and grace-filled, words of God.
We may not be traveling evangelist preachers who meet and counsel Presidents. But the principals Graham lived by are as true for us as they were for him. How we live privately matters for our impact publicly. May we continue to receive His forgiveness for where we’ve fallen short, and so be filled with His grace, love, wisdom and gentleness that it might overflow from our hearts!