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The Profound Simplicity of One Evangelist

Recently, I have been reading about evangelist Billy Graham in Grant Wacker's new biography America's Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation.  Wacker masterfully weaves together a narrative of Billy's life, theology, preaching, and impact that is first-rate and well-rounded, not falling into hagiography or overt dismantling or criticism.  As a preacher, Billy Graham was not eloquent like a William Sangster or Aimee Semple McPherson, yet he was profound.  His preaching did not hinge on rhetorical flourishes designed to captivate the ears of his listeners, rather he repeated phrases often time and time again to make an impact upon his hearers.  His proclamation was not obtuse as to confuse his audience but centered upon one single aim, "...to draw men and women to make a decision for Christ (63)."  How did he do this?

Wacker writes, "Whatever the specific topic, the overarching pattern invariably took the same form.  First acknowledge sin's destructive power.  Second embrace God's redeeming power...(63)."  The mere power of his preaching rested upon the Spirit's work, the mighty work of grace, and the proclamation of what Christ has done not for someone out there, but for you.  Therefore, the message was not obstructed by many arcane rabbit trails down the lanes of theological and historical locutions, but rested squarely in the uncomfortable halls of the brokenness of man and the good news of God.

Finally, Wacker contends that, "If the number of inquirers who walked forward to commit their lives to Christ measured effectiveness, Graham was the best in the world at what he did.  For that matter, he may have been the best ever (67)."  How does the legacy of Graham's preaching effect the way we preach today?

1.  Preaching is not primarily designed to tickle the ears of our audience with our locution or learnedness, but designed to point everyone in the room to Jesus Christ.

2.  Often, the Holy Spirit uses our repeated words and phrases in the pulpit to remove the obstacles we face in preaching, so that the Word of God and the good news might be clearly heard, believed, and lived out.

3.  Preaching if it is anything is personal, directing the good news to individual hearers and to the body of Christ.

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