Today, we bury "America's Pastor." Billy Graham's remains will be laid to rest just a few yards away from the childhood home where he played, dreamed and was shaped into the humble giant who changed the world. In 1934, a prayer meeting was held on his parent's farm, where the group prayed that "out of Charlotte, the Lord would raise up someone to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth." Within a few months, 15-year-old Billy gave his life to Christ. And God poured his power into Billy. The rest, we can assuredly say, is divine history. God answers prayer. America is now without her "pastor," and brothers and sisters, we need a new one.
In some ways, the movement that swept Billy Graham to the international forefront, today, comes to its official end. It's time for a new movement to arise – a movement cut from the same cloth as Graham, filled with the fibers of humility, courage, character and clarity. Jesus needs to be the passion of every Christian – not merely in the private sector, but more than ever, in the public square.
Billy Graham's legacy teaches us that we must keep the main thing the main thing – or we will change nothing. For Graham, the main thing was not a thing at all, but the person of Jesus Christ. Today, so much of American ministry is about secondary things. We enamor ourselves with speed, size and numbers, adopting social trends instead of blazing the trail that others should follow. We shy away from bringing the Bible to bear on the issues of the day for fear that people will leave, affect the offering plate and diminish our impact. In truth, if that's the way a church or ministry is approaching things, it's already lost its impact. Jesus' teaching is still true: we cannot serve both God and money.
Our nation is experiencing not only the pains of life outside of Eden, but of trying to recreate paradise without God. Billy Graham's passing reminds us that the source of real life is, still, found only in Christ. We are, in many ways, apologizing for the truth when the exact opposite is what our nation needs most right now.
America needs a new pastor, a shepherd-prophet, someone used by God to bind up the wounds caused by distraction, division and denial. In fact, we need a battalion of them. Here, a mix of military and pastoral imagery is appropriate, because a devilish darkness has overshadowed our land. We have, in fact, through the embrace of our multiple idols, welcomed it. A nation reaps what it sows.
We are now one nation under water, sinking fast, in need of divine help. America has become its own experiment in trying to find peace, joy, purpose and meaning apart from God. It is impossible.
If God could answer the prayers of a 1934 prayer meeting in such a powerful way, he can do it again, today. Now is the time to ask God to raise up a legion of new Billy Grahams, men and women who will fearlessly proclaim the Gospel – regardless of the consequences. This is America's greatest need, because so much of church and ministry these days is more about us, sadly, than God. It's more than ironic. It's tragic.
Much of American Christianity needs to be saved. I say that as an insider, on my knees, not as an outsider pointing the finger. We need God's help in America more than at any other time in our history. If we don't get it, we're in trouble. We need a new Great Awakening, a genuine movement of God like the one that made Billy Graham "America's Pastor."
If what you're doing isn't leading people to complete surrender to Christ, it's time to evaluate and make fundamental changes. It will take a battalion of pastor-prophets to help turn things around in America. What are we waiting for?
Just like that prayer meeting on the Graham farm, in 1934, we need to ask God to move in power again – and then we need to make ourselves available, to be part of His solution. This prayer can't be a ritual. It must come from deep within America's heart and soul – and that heart and soul is found in you and me.
Billy Graham's passing can be the beginning of something beautiful. I say, bring it on. Anyone with me?