NOM BLOG

Who will be our next great evangelist?

 


They are both gone now.

I consider the two most transformative, influential Christian figures to have lived during my lifetime to be Pope John Paul II and the Rev. Billy Graham. With the passing of Rev. Graham last week, these two giants are now gone.

I never personally met either man, but both touched me in profound ways. Ironically, even though I am a Catholic and Rev. Graham was a Southern Baptist, I felt a real connection to him, and my life and career ended up interacting with his in interesting and inspired ways.

My first attraction to Rev. Graham was not on a spiritual level, but a professional one. I've made my career in the business of persuasion, in the field of politics and public affairs, and I had a tremendous respect and admiration for Dr. Graham's enormous communications skills. I remember watching him as a young man preach on network television to these enormous, packed stadiums, in awe of his oratorical skill, connecting immediately with his audience, putting himself on the same plane as them, both sinners. There was some fire and brimstone in his addresses, yes, but his overarching message was always love. He made it clear that no matter what you've done, no matter where you are, God loves you, sent his only son to die for you and you can save your life this very moment by confessing Jesus as Lord and Savior. It was never him, it was his message. It was Jesus, always and everywhere.

It was a different time during Rev. Graham's public ascendancy, a time when religious broadcasts were not relegated to late night or early morning cable channels. The television audience for Rev. Graham's crusades was huge, his addresses were aired in primetime.

My first spiritual interaction with Rev. Graham was in 1983 when he brought his crusade to Sacramento. I was 27 years old and going through a difficult time in my life. I was immensely touched by his message. Experiencing his preaching deepened my faith in God and brought me closer to Jesus in a personal way, appreciating Him not only as the Savior of the World, but as the Savior of My Own Life.

A few years later during another challenging period of my life, I actively explored other presentations of the Christian faith, regularly attending services at several evangelical churches. I eventually returned to the Catholic Church but the impressions left by Rev. Graham though his television ministry and his crusades stuck with me my entire life.

Fast forward now to 2012. I had just been retained by a coalition of groups including the National Organization for Marriage, local pro-family organizations like the NC Values Coalition and a number of church groups in North Carolina to manage a campaign to enact a constitutional amendment preserving marriage in the state as the union of one man and one woman. In my very first trip to meet with the coalition, I stated the obvious - somehow we needed to get Rev. Billy Graham involved in the campaign.

This turned out to be more difficult than you might imagine. Dr. Graham had been retired for many years by then, and was in ill health. Nobody on our team had a direct relationship with him. Some had indirect relationships, and they began the process of networking and putting out the word that we needed his help.

Weeks turned into months. Meanwhile. the LGBT community, with the help of a complicit media, was disingenuously and viciously attacking the measure in a slew of misleading press reports and paid advertisements, eroding support.

The route to reaching Billy Graham was circuitous, to say the least. It was the Holy Spirt who gave us a hand. As I recall, somehow an obscure church secretary in a rural North Carolina church learned that we were seeking Rev. Graham's support. This woman happened to bring the topic up with a visiting pastor who just happened to be preaching in her church at that very time. This pastor just happened to have a connection to the Graham family.

All I know is that as the campaign came down to the final days, we got a call that Billy Graham was, indeed, going to publicly endorse the marriage amendment. And more than that, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association would pay for full page newspaper ads in every newspaper in North Carolina to announce his endorsement.

The North Carolina marriage amendment was enacted with a 61% Yes vote.

One of my most prized career mementos is a copy of the Billy Graham endorsement newspaper ad signed by Rev. Graham himself. His wobbly signature, the result of his battle with Parkinson's disease, was a stark testament to his faith, and his courage to stand for the truth even in his final season of life.

Both Billy Graham and John Paul II were men of history, but also men of the moment who mastered the emerging communications technologies of their day to spread the Gospel.

Neither man shied away from the plain truth of the Gospel. They didn't tout a sanitized "prosperity" version of the Gospel; nor did they did they bend the Gospel to be "seeker friendly" as so avoid any possible offense. They just spoke the plain truth. Our existence here on earth is not a mere way-station along a certain path to heaven, but a testing ground where we have an opportunity to accept Jesus, follow his teachings and thus secure an eternity with Him in heaven. Both men spoke truth from the perspective of a father who loves us like no other.

Who will be the next Billy Graham or John Paul II? I don't know, but almost certainly there will be someone to fill those enormous empty shoes because God is not done with humanity yet. Until the second coming of Jesus Christ, the fight to save souls will be waged in full-throated fashion. And just as Billy Graham and John Paull II mastered the communications technologies of their day (radio and television) to save souls, I am confident the next great evangelist will be a master of the technologies of today and tomorrow.

Rev. Graham's body is appropriately lying in state in the US Capitol in preparation for his burial on Friday. He is one of only a handful of American civilians to have been granted that honor. He was that important to our nation.

It is said that Rev. Graham preached to over 200 million people, more than any other person in history. Russell Moore, head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention called him, "the most significant evangelist since the Apostle Paul." He was that influential a Christian.

I don't know about the millions of other people he reached during his remarkable career, but I know that Billy Graham reached me. He deepened my faith and helped transform my life. I am extremely fortunate, and grateful, to have known him, even from afar.

Frank Schubert

Frank Schubert
National Political Director

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