Celebrities and fans celebrate the world renowned preacher's birthday and lasting legacy. (Photo credit: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)

Celebrities and fans celebrate the world renowned preacher’s birthday and lasting legacy. (Photo credit: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)

Five years ago, the Rev. Billy Graham celebrated nine decades of life at an event hosted by The Greenbrier hotel in West Virginia. The prominent evangelist, who was in better health at the time, delivered a short speech and joked that he hoped the crowd would return for his 95th birthday party. Last night, many of them did.

The two-hour celebration was held a short distance from Graham’s home at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. FoxNews.com reported last month that between 600 and 700 were expected to attend, but according to Mark Demoss, who handles publicity for Billy Graham’s organization, the guest list wound up north of 850.

Among those present were Donald Trump, Greta Van Susteren, Rupert Murdock, Chick-fil-A’s Dan Cathy, pastor Rick Warren, and Grammy-winner Michael W. Smith. Country singer Ricky Scaggs and “Today” show host Kathie Lee Gifford serenaded the evangelist from stage, and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin delivered a greeting.

“Billy Graham, we need you around another 95 years,” Palin said. “We need Billy Graham’s message to be heard, I think, today more than ever.”

But the majority of attendees were not famous; they were fans. They were united by an appreciation for Graham and his commitment to preach the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. An unprecedented 215 million people in over 185 countries have heard the preacher deliver a sermon. Graham has maintained friendships with every American president since Harry Truman and has been called “America’s pastor.”

Photo credit: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Photo credit: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Several years ago, when Graham’s health was failing and he was losing the ability to conduct crusades in person like he used to, he said he wanted to preach one more time. According to Demoss, Billy’s son, Franklin, pulled the evangelist’s old pulpit out of storage and set it up in his office to test the idea. Reverend Graham stood but didn’t have the energy to preach an entire sermon. So Franklin had decided to film him speaking, lip synch it into foreign languages, and broadcast it on television stations in other countries.

The messages were compiled into a film called “My Hope”, and it has now been broadcast in 57 countries. Millions have become Christians as a result of viewing it. In America, some 25,000 churches have signed up to help distribute the film this month. A 30-minute version called “The Cross” aired last night at 10 pm on the Fox News Channel and will run on more than 480 stations nationwide.

It turns out that even at 95 years of age, Graham can still draw a crowd. But you wouldn’t know it by talking to him. According to an article released by The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, when the world-renowned preacher was asked about plans to have birthday party, he raised an eyebrow: “Would anyone want to come to my party?”

“He’s afraid people have forgotten who he is,” Franklin said.

It’s this kind of rare humility from such an accomplished man combined with his enduring passion for sharing the Christian gospel that has made Graham the single most successful preacher in American history. And if you were sitting in the crowd of celebrants at Graham’s party last night, you might have crossed your fingers in hopes that America’s pastor will be here a bit longer to keep sharing his message of salvation in Jesus Christ.

“We see this party as an exclamation point on his ministry,” Demoss said, “but I’m not prepared to say it is a period.”

15 Comments

  1. JM, there’s a marked difference between the way Palin expressed her hopes and the way you did at the end. Shw says the world needs “Billy Graham’s message”, you say you hope he’ll be around to keep telling people about the salvation of Christ. This is nto just an issue of semantics.

    With all I’ve read by and about him over the year, along with hearing him speak for decades, I think Graham would be much more comfortable with your characterization than hers.

    Cheers,
    Tim

  2. It is despicable that conservative pundits and financial-backers were along for the ride as featured guests. Billy is hailed as the greatest preacher of the Gospel, but he has desecrated it by mixing it with politics and creating a cult of civil religion based on Christianity, which goes back to the role he played during the Red Scare.

    • Jonathan Merritt

      Actually, Mike, Rev Graham is one of the least partisan prominent evangelical leaders of the 20th century. He made friends with leaders of both parties and only went to the White House at their request, not his. The one exception was during the Nixon administration, and he has commented in interviews that this was the biggest mistake of his ministry. The BGEA’s recent foray of into political engagement during the last election is largely believed to be the workings of Franklin, not Billy. You should probably do a little reading up on this before you make such strong comments.

    • Blame his good for nothing son. Billy Jr. has ridden on his daddy’s coattails all his life and jumped into bed with conservatives with all of the force of an Olympic athlete.

  3. To paraphrase a line from “Chinatown”: “Evangelists who advocate the bombing of dikes and civilians in North Vietnam, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.”

  4. If you have ever met Billy Graham, like I have, you would know that he is one of the most humble, loving and Godly men to ever preach the gospel. He preached the word with conviction and has a true love for all mankind.

  5. Norma Irizarry

    How sad!

    Billy Graham and son and those of the same mindset do not reflect Christianity at all. They pick and choose from those who use Christianity to device, isolate, and degrade.

    He put an ad in many newspapers in essence asking people to vote for Romney using his age and ill health to move people to do his bidding. Shameful!

    Donald Trump, Romney, Sara Palin invited to his birthday celebration but our President considered by Billy and his son and those on the extreme right the anti Christ was apparently not invited. It is no wonder so many are turned off from religion and Christianity in General.

    No, Billy Graham is not America’s pastor not even close.

  6. Michael Proulx

    Billy Graham is the most prolific speaker in the history of the world second only to JESUS CHRIST , he has made a huge difference in millions on peoples lives and NOTHING will detract from this , he is the greatest speaker of truth and his message is more relivent now than ever , thank you BILLY GRAHAM for speaking to my heart and giving me hope.

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