Billy Graham

Back in 1976 when I started pastoring at JBC in Jefferson, Oregon at the age of 28 right off of the dairy farm, I didn’t have a clue how to be a pastor, and my biggest challenge and the greatest intimidation in my life was coming up with a sermon each week that would stir people to live for God and to grow closer and closer to Him. I was constantly seeking out time with other pastors who looked like they knew what they were doing in order to get counsel and advice from them. In one such meeting as I was agonizing over my poor preaching, the pastor I was talking to suggested that I buy cassette recordings of good sermons and listen to them a lot. He said there is the God side of preaching, that is the work only He can do while His Word is being proclaimed, and there is the man side of preaching, that is the responsibility that preachers have to learn the skill of preaching, and to study hard to learn the text of the Bible they are preaching. Then he said this, “God won’t do His part for a preacher that is lazy, unprepared, and hasn’t worked very hard to become a master at the art of preaching. He went on to say “The best way to become a great speaker and a teacher that makes the Word of God come alive is to learn from the best by listening to them over and over. So I began purchasing vinyl folders that held 4 to 12 cassettes with sermons recorded on them. The very first set I bought was 6 sermons by Billy Graham, and I listened to them until I wore them out. I over time bought literally hundreds of cassettes with many different preachers, but that first set had a profound affect on me. As I listened to various preachers, I asked myself, “what is it that makes them good?”, “what is it that they say or do that holds my attention so well?”, “Why do people choose to change after listening to them?” As I listened to Billy Graham I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the content of his sermons, that is the words or theology he said, it was how he said it that gripped me. When he spoke their was a strong sense that he believed every word that he spoke, that it was all true, he spoke with an amazing sense of authority that made it almost impossible not to believe what he was saying. As I pondered how to imitate that part of Billy Graham’s preaching I realized that it was the closeness his relationship with God and his character that was the key to his passion, confidence, and strength. I remember writing, “I think I know what makes him great, but I also think it is going to take some time before I have even a small amount of it, but I will press on and pursue it diligently. Hopefully by the time I am 99 years of age I will have some.

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