“For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ?“ (Galatians 1:10)
Is the Lord’s first priority the salvation of lost souls?
Or has He established a greater ministry than evangelism?
Or does He allow us to do whatever is necessary to win people to Christ?
In the mid 1900’s, a movement developed that became know as New Evangelicalism.
Harold Ockenga and Billy Graham were the most well-known leaders of this movement. Especially Billy Graham, with his evangelistic association and his involvement with Christianity Today magazine. Which was a magazine that promoted the spiritual philosophy of this new movement.
At the core of this philosophy, is a belief that evangelism is the first priority of ministry and of service to Christ.
In line with this thinking, Billy began a long process of cooperation with false religious leaders and false religious groups to bring his crusades to their cities. And he was amazingly successful from a numbers perspective.
(Keep in mind that this was not simply a cordial welcome extended to all far and wide. This was not simply a friendly invitation for anyone, whatever they believed, to come and hear the gospel. This was a cooperative, joint effort in evangelism with those who did not preach the same gospel that Billy preached.)
Weeklong crusades filling arenas and sports stadiums became commonplace. And the numbers of people coming forward after the sermons to make “decisions for Christ” was equally impressive.
A Personal Testimony
I know this, because I was one of those, in the summer of 1972, at the Cleveland, Ohio Crusade. I was one of those that came forward to trust Christ as my Lord and Savior.
For the next couple of years I survived off of the materials sent to me from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and from Campus Crusade for Christ. And I also gathered whatever books I could from the library of the Methodist church I attended.
So, many will argue, “How can you criticize Billy? Weren’t you saved at one of his crusades? So what if he did what he did? Aren’t you a serious ingrate? Aren’t you standing in the way of people coming to Christ? Who cares if someone doesn’t do everything perfectly?”
And so on.
The fact is, my heart goes out to Billy. Every time I see his picture or one of his books or catch a part of a crusade on TV, I can remember that wonderful moment when I first trusted Christ as my Savior.
But then I’m reminded of something very serious and dangerous that has taken place over the last 50 years.
Evidence of Love
Today there are a couple generations of Christians in both Evangelical and Fundamental churches that regard the methods of Billy Graham as biblically sound. And who will argue that the numbers don’t lie. And that Billy Graham became, quite possibly, one of the most beloved preachers in history.
To question or criticize Billy is to invite a stinging rebuke from most Christians and pastors. And possibly to be ushered out of the church.
The reason for this reaction is because most leaders and Christians today are following men as opposed to following the word of God.
They follow authors and pastors that promote programs and philosophies that attract more people to church. That create a greater interest among the youth. And that produce “decisions” for Christ.
We have become a pragmatic church.
We will accept most anything new and contemporary if it gets results. And if it appeals to our Humanistic leanings. The basic idea is that love is above all. That love is the answer. That love is all we need.
Results are regarded as evidence of love.
A Foundation for My Faith
My own salvation was the result of a long process of reading the Bible before I ever attended the Billy Graham Crusade.
I started reading in Genesis, moved on to Exodus, then the Gospels, and then tried to go through Revelation.
I can clearly remember reading the word of God late into the night. And I remember kneeling down on a wooden chair in my bedroom and looking out into the dark night pleading to be forgiven and to be saved. And being so unclear about what that meant.
But during this time, God was preparing my heart, with His Word; so that I would have the foundation necessary to make a true decision for Christ. The Lord was filling in the gaps that He knew I would need to have filled. So that I would be prepared for what was coming.
I will always love Billy for preaching that night; but I also remember the battles I had to fight when I went back to my church; based upon his recommendation. Sent back under the influence of men who denied the gospel I had just believed.
When the Method Contradicts the Message
You see, Billy embraced many false leaders on his Crusade stages; even calling them “brothers” on TV and in his books. He did not steer people away from the apostate Protestant or Catholic churches that many of those who made “decisions” had come from.
Billy never gave clear instructions to do that. Instead, he joined with, worked with, praised, and evangelized alongside with false Christian groups all across the globe. Drawing no distinction between his gospel and the false gospel of these groups.
In fact, in my case, I found that my local pastor was a man that denied virtually what a Christian must believe in order to be saved. Which was a widespread problem for the United Methodist Church in those days. And still is.
And, by the way, he was a very nice man. And one who spent a lot of time with me in my youth. So, this is not some hate-filled note I make here. I loved that man. And still do; wherever he may be today.
But he denied the salvation that I had just found.
As a result of Billy’s cooperative evangelistic method, my pastor was sent the same study guides that I had received from the Graham Crusade — in order that he could lead me through them. Which is like inviting a wolf to stop by the fold to babysit the lambs!
Thank God, that I received those guides before he did!
Thank the Lord that I could go through them myself! With just the Lord and the word of God to guide me.
So that the seed of God’s word was not snatched away by Satan. Just as the “parable of the sower” so clearly warns us can happen!
To Be Continued . . .
Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay