(Photo: A. Larry Ross Communications)
As evangelist Billy Graham prepares for his final major outreach event, which is set to occur later this year, a recent survey has offered a glimpse into how his ministry has touched evangelical leaders.
The Evangelical Leaders Survey for the month of April found that 73 percent of National Association of Evangelicals leaders have attended a Billy Graham crusade, and 44 percent have met the evangelist in person. The poll encompasses responses from the NAE's board of directors, which includes the CEOs of denominations as well as leaders from evangelical churches, schools, and other organizations.
"The evangelical resurgence in America has been centered around Billy Graham," NAE President Leith Anderson said in a statement. "He communicated the gospel of Jesus Christ for everyone. Never about politics, ambition, money or power. Just about Jesus."
The 94-year-old Graham has preached the Gospel to nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories around the globe, not counting those he's reached through television and other forms of broadcasting, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website. His counsel has been sought by U.S. presidents. He has written 31 books, and has been named to Gallup's annual "Ten Most Admired Men in the World" list 56 times.
"Billy Graham has influenced American faith more than anyone else in the last century; perhaps, more than anyone else in American history," said Anderson.
Among those he has influenced is Paul Cedar, chair and CEO of the Mission America Coalition, who describes Graham as one of his "spiritual heroes." Cedar was 11 years old when he began listening to Graham's "Hour of Decision" radio program each week with his family.
"I was so ministered to," Cedar told The Christian Post. "He was very much a part of my spiritual formation."
Cedar later became a crusade director for Graham's ministry. He has worked with a number of high-profile church leaders, he said, and sometimes a leader's public persona and private personality were different, though that wasn't the case with Graham.
"Everything from the finances to the follow-up, everything was done with so much transparency and so much integrity that my respect for Billy Graham during those years did nothing but grow substantially," he said.
The BGEA is preparing for "My Hope America with Billy Graham," which is expected to be the evangelist's last major outreach and is slated to occur this November. The outreach involves Christians across the U.S. inviting friends and family into their homes to share the Gospel with them through videos featuring Graham, testimonies and music.
Cedar said Graham's desire to share the Gospel message, even in his old age, is an indication of his "heart for evangelism" and the nation.
"We are so supportive of My Hope with Billy Graham, and are praying that God would just use it tremendously," said Cedar.