If my mom were still alive today, she would be 74. My dad is 76 and a senior adult. I can remember when I was in college thinking that someone who was 40 was really old. Now, 40-something does not seem old at all. The closer I get to the 55+ season of life, the more I realize that an older body does not necessarily mean an old mind or heart. I will never forget hearing about how my wife’s grandmother, then in her mid-70s, told my wife that she felt like she was still 16 in her mind … until she looked at her face in the mirror.
When I began my first pastorate, I was 30, and the senior adults were like my grandparents. They treated me like their grandson and gave me so much grace in light of my inexperience and youthful zeal. Now, the senior adults are the age of my parents. Let’s just say that it felt a little better when the seniors thought of me as their grandson who didn’t know any better. Now that I am the age of many senior adults’ children, I should know better. Hopefully I have figured out a few things along the way.
When it comes to senior adults in the church, I am more convinced than ever that their segment of the church is absolutely vital to the mission of every local church. If the Great Commission is the primary mission of the church, and if making disciples is part of that mission, then we need wise, seasoned, experienced servants leading the way. The prayer of the psalmist reflects the passionate leadership that our senior adults uniquely can provide—“And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come” (Psalm 71:18).
I am so grateful for the senior adults in the local church because they already have the right heart and perspective on helping younger generations to follow Christ. In fact, no other segment of the church cares more about the younger generations than the senior adults.
Consider that senior adults in the church today care deeply about their own children following Jesus Christ and even more about their own grandchildren. So much of their lives, energy, prayers, and efforts are spent toward being a blessing to their children and grandchildren.
For the last few years, I have been asking for prayer requests from individuals at the church I am now pastoring. Almost every single prayer request from a senior adult has included a request for their children and/or grandchildren related to their spiritual lives. No one cares any more for the next generations than senior adults.
In light of the passion of senior adults for the next generation, I hope this encouragement can be helpful to encourage senior adults to lead the way in making disciples:
I don’t pretend that I am not already feeling the pains of change with age. I find myself relating more to the 55+ crowd than the 20-somethings. I am certain that there will come a day when I will weep like those in Ezra 3 who wept when they saw the new temple because they had seen the way things used to be done in the former temple. What I will need to remember is what matters most—reaching the next generation for Jesus Christ.
We must make sure that any of our weeping because things are not the same is drowned out by the shouts of joy of the next generation that is seeing the movement of the Lord. I know this will be a challenge, and I will need help. My hope is that this current generation of senior adults will lead the way so that all of us might see the strength and power of God, for His glory in the church and in Jesus Christ.
Everyone recognizes Billy Graham and his influence on the world through his crusade efforts and organization. Graham’s impact cannot be minimized; particularly because he has the distinction of preaching to more people than anyone in the history of Christianity. For decades, his evangelistic team held mass crusades all over the country and in every civilized continent on earth. It is amazing that one born in such a humble setting has become such a worldwide recognizable figure. Surely, eternity will reveal the influence has had on millions of people.
Graham was born in rural North Carolina, the son of a farmer. He grew up in a wholesome home which was involved in the Presbyterian church. He came to Christ through an evangelistic meeting conducted by evangelist Mordecai Ham in 1935. Graham came forward in the crusade and was converted under Ham’s preaching giving his life to Christ.
Although Graham had a penchant for baseball, he began to study the Scripture and began correspondence with a Bible College where he entered feeling called to preach but with the rigid legalism of the school and did not last long there. Soon, he was searching for another school finally landing at the Florida Bible Institute. The school offered practical instruction in the Bible knowledge and practical instruction in preaching and evangelism.Graham preached his first sermon in a small country church for a professor who served there as pastor. He had a lot to learn but his dynamic approach was apparent to everyone.
After Bible College, Graham enrolled in Wheaton University and continued his studies for the ministry. There he met and begin to date Ruth Bell, the daughter of a veteran medical missionary to China: Nelson Bell. They were married, and Graham became pastor of the First Baptist Church of Western Springs, Illinois. During his pastorate, he got involved with the “Youth for Christ” ministry and begin preaching in several meetings for them. His ministry expanded with him going out of town preaching in several meetings. He began to tour with an upcoming evangelist: Charles Templeton. Many were converted, and the crowds grew prompting Graham to go into full-time evangelistic work. During his touring with Templeton, his partner began to have doubts about the integrity of the Bible and the claims of Christianity. He quit his evangelistic ministry and began to question much of the Bible. Despite getting Graham to discuss these issues, he rejected Templeton’s doubts and reaffirmed his commitment to preach the Bible as completely God’s Word at a Bible camp in California.
Graham continued speaking in meetings and he asked renowned singer: George Beverly Shea, to join him in his first radio broadcast of “Songs in the Night” and in assorted meetings. He also had meetings with W.B. Riley’s church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Riley asked Graham to take over the presidency of the college connected to the church there. He became one of the youngest college presidents as he came to assist Riley in his ministry. During this time, he did not devote himself fully to running the school. The evangelist/president continued to speak in evangelistic meetings. Graham was invited to Los Angeles for a several week crusade. He invited Cliff Barrows to be his music director with Shea as soloist in a large tent. The rest is history as Graham was catapulted into notoriety through William Randolph Hearst urging his news people to “puff Graham.” From Los Angeles, Graham emerged in one of the great evangelistic ministries in modern times.
The opportunities were wide open to Crusades and meetings in main cities across America. Graham resigned as President of the school and begin to fulfill obligations he had to speak in meetings. The team was now conducting meetings in all different directions. He incorporated an evangelistic association and preached in his first crusade out of America in England. Revival and conversions came in droves, wherever the team went. The turning point in the expansion of Graham and the team was when they conducted a crusade at New York City in Madison Square Garden and had to extend the meetings due to their popularity. The massive crowds, Shea’s solo’s and guest testimonies made Graham’s meetings an extravaganza.
Graham retained his identification as an evangelical whose ministry reached across all denominational barriers. However, he began his pastoral ministry as a Baptist pastor at a Baptist Church, and although he did not live in Dallas, he joined the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas and retained his membership there for many years.
Into the 60’s Graham’s preaching and crusades reached epic proportions. The largest crowd ever to attend the Los Angeles Colosseum packed the stands and spilled over into the field area in 1963.
Further crusades featured more out of the country meetings and expanded communications through television and the weekly regular broadcast of the Hour of Decision. Even in the rebellion of the late 60’s Graham’s ministry was as popular as ever. He traveled extensively from his newly built home at Montreat, North Carolina with ministry pulling him away from his growing family. They now numbering five children, with his wife Ruth as the rock of the family.
Graham began to be a trusted confident of many America presidents. He was especially close to Eisenhower, Johnson and particularly Richard Nixon. He even had Nixon speak in one of his meetings in Knoxville, Tennessee. He prayed in several inaugurations and conducted Nixon’s funeral in 1994.
Graham’s preaching was urgent declaring his favorite expression: “The Bible says.” His classic invitation was a memorable event that everything led toward. Many from all walks of life and ages and ethnic groups trusting in Christ as Saviour.
The 70’s featured Graham’s friendship with Johnny Cash who began to appear with him after his conversion and commitment to Christ. Schools of Evangelism were held before meetings featuring various speakers and leaders in evangelistic ministry. The “Decision” magazine was the printed organ of Association, getting the word out even more.
The Association sponsored the Lausanne Conference on Evangelistic training for articulating evangelism in future decades. Conferences were also held for evangelist in Third world countries.
A trip to Russia in the 80’s before the Iron Curtain fell was very controversial. Graham went any way speaking in state churches and other groups who attempted to express Religious Freedom in an environment of atheism.
Graham’s books ranged from the basic salvation message of Peace with God to books on the 2nd coming of Christ. Worldwide pictures began to make Christ-centered movies centered around Graham’s crusades. Some of these movies were used as evangelistic opportunities for many churches.
As scandals rocked Christian television figures, Graham continued to minister with utmost integrity. He was more famous than ever appearing on T.V. programs, talk shows and in many other venues.
In the 90’s Graham became more of an elder statesman as his son Franklin started ministering through Samaritan’s Purse, beginning a ministry that would be noted for compassion for all those in disasters and needy areas. Operation Christmas child, a ministry to help needy children in third world countries, featuring them receiving a Christmas gift box, became a favorite of churches in North American churches and worldwide.
Ann, his daughter was a fabulous speaker and writer. Franklin eventually succeeded his father in his evangelistic ministry.
Graham’s ministry in the new millennium featured a stirring message at a memorial service after 9/11 that spoke to the whole nation in a televised service at the Washington Cathedral. 2006 featured his last crusades. The Billy Graham library in Charlotte, North Carolina was dedicated, housing many memorabilia and highlights of the ministry still captured on film in that is replayed constantly. Graham’s beloved wife was laid to rest there in 2007 and he will be buried there as he has gone on to be with the Lord this year.
Graham just passed away approaching 100 by only a few months. His presence and preaching the gospel has world-wide implications. He carries with him to glory the multitudes of souls converted to Christ under his preaching. That is the greatest legacy one can leave. DN
Information taken from Author’s recollection and general information
Editor’s Note: With the announcement of the death of Dr. Billy Graham we are running this article which originally appeared at toddstarnes.com and is used by permission.
As a young boy Billy Graham dreamed of becoming a baseball player
But all that changed at a revival meeting in 1934 – when the lanky teenage boy walked the aisle and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
Ironically, he would make a name for himself inside baseball stadiums — not by winning games — but by winning souls for Jesus.
Over the years, Billy Graham shared the Gospel message to more than 200 million people in 185 countries.
The North Carolina farm boy went on to counsel kings and queens — presidents and prime ministers.
But in his heart Billy Graham was always a simple tent revival preacher with a life-changing message.
It was a message that transcended politics and religion and race and bank accounts. It was a simple message – God loves you and he wants to have a relationship with you.
And that’s how Billy Graham lived his life – foregoing fame and fortune for the sake of something much greater. It was something George Beverly Shea sang about during those historic crusade meetings:
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold I’d rather be his than have riches untold
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land
Yes I’d rather be led by his nail pierced hands
Than to be the king of a best domain and beheld in sins dread sway
I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today
I’d rather have Jesus than worldly applause I’d rather be faithful to his dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than world wide things I’d rather be true to his holy name
America’s pastor died today at his mountain top home in Montreat, North Carolina. He was 99.
And I can only imagine what it must be like in Heaven today as all of the folks who walked the aisle at those crusade meetings embrace the North Carolina farm boy who wanted to become a baseball player – and say, welcome home.
Billy Graham was a good and faithful servant. Well done.