For nearly two decades, evangelist Franklin Graham has been looked upon as the future of his father's ministry – the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which he currently serves as president and CEO of.
And for years, Father's Day for the BGEA has been celebrated with tributes to world renowned evangelist Billy Graham and the role he played in the lives of his five children, each of which have gone on to become Christian ministers, speakers, and/or authors.
This year, however, the evangelistic association has turned the page and highlighted the fatherhood of Franklin Graham through the testimony of Will Graham, Franklin's oldest son and the third generation of Grahams to proclaim the gospel under the BGEA banner.
"When I think about my dad, Franklin Graham, I don't think about the 'public' Franklin Graham who stands in front of the world speaking on national television or preaching in large stadiums," commented Will Graham, whose ministry the BGEA has drawn more attention to over the past year or two.
"I think about my dad who raised me to be the man I am today. I think about my dad who led me to Jesus Christ as a young boy. I think about my dad who fiercely protected his children from the prying eyes of others until we were old enough to handle it on our own. I think about my dad who offered strong discipline, accompanied by incredible love. I think about my dad who was the example of a godly husband," he added in "A Tribute to My Father."
Though most would think that Will Graham – as the namesake, William Franklin Graham IV – would have grown up feeling some pressure to become a preacher, Graham said "honestly ... I have not" thanks to his father.
Graham said his father purposely chose to shield him and his two brothers and one sister from that as his father had faced the burden of people assuming that he would take over the ministry of "Daddy Bill," as Billy Graham is affectionately called by his grandchildren.
And even when Graham was asked to speak at events as early as his teens, his father made sure anybody who made such a request would go through him first.
"[H]e wanted to make sure that if I entered into the ministry it was because God had called me into ministry and not because I was pushed into it simply because my last name is Graham," recalled Graham.
Now that Graham is acting in according with what he feels is God's will for him, Graham is growing his own evangelistic ministry, which has been holding crusade-style events since 2006. The "Celebrations," as Graham calls them, have reached out to more than 125,000 people in North America and Hong Kong and led to more than 10,000 personal commitments to Christ. Graham has also spoken to countless more at outreach events in India.
Through it all, Graham says his father continues to help him in his daily ministry by imparting bits of wisdom he has gleaned in his years.
"In both practical application and spiritual preparation, my dad's influence permeates my messages when I preach. My dad is my mentor," Graham commented.
"I am so grateful to God for the friend, witness, protector, advisor and mentor that He provided to lead and guide me – my dad," he concluded.
Aside from serving as an associate evangelist of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Will Graham currently serves as assistant director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, N.C.
He and his wife, Kendra, have two daughters, Christine Jane (CJ) and Rachel Austin, and a son, William Franklin Graham V.