It would be the last time I met with Billy Graham before his death. He was not feeling well enough to get out of bed, but he welcomed Nellie Jo and me like when we were long-time friends. The reality was that we had only been with the famed evangelist a few times. This visit to his rustic North Carolina cabin seemed different. He was much more reflective than on previous visits.
At one point, Billy Graham pointed to a portrait of his wife, Ruth. If there were any other wall hangings in his bedroom, I do not recall them. His voice was at his strongest when he said three brief words, “I miss her.”
I remember how he said those words with deep emotion and meaning. I remember how he often spoke of the love he had for Ruth. I remember how he was faithful to her. I remember how he kept his integrity to death, not succumbing to the temptations of power, money, and sex.
Though I never heard it directly from him, I remember reading in multiple sources that Billy Graham and his team made some key decisions as their new organization was in its formative stages. They made voluntary commitments to maintain their integrity in the areas of power, sex, and money.
Though Billy Graham and his team never called them “rules,” they made several commitments. The most well-known was their decision never to be alone with a person of the opposite sex other than their spouses.
Billy Graham kept his integrity throughout his earthly ministry. Though viewed by many as a man of great power, prestige, and influence, he remained faithful, caring, and humble. His commitments to his wife, his ministry team, and his God were steadfast and enduring his entire life.
Navigating the confusion
We at Church Answers have received several questions in light of recent issues of moral failure and, most recently, communication with someone of the opposite sex. Without all the facts, it can be confusing to understand what to do. Perhaps we can mostly agree on a few tenets that, taken together, can help guard our hearts, minds, and integrity.
- Ask what Jesus would do. We know enough about our Savior and his unscathed integrity to emulate him always.
- Never spend time alone with a person of the opposite sex other than your spouse. I have been criticized for this stand. Some of my critics view it as legalistic and potentially unfair to females in situations where the men far outnumber the women. Others have pointed out dating as an exception. Still, I stand by this commitment. It has served me well.
- Run from pornography. Many leaders who failed morally have shared stories about the traps of pornography and how it leads to other forms of immorality.
- Read the Bible every day. Those who choose to hear from God each day will be less likely to stray morally. He is our compass. He is our truth.
- Pray every day. Like Bible reading, prayer is a discipline where we hear from God every day.
- Regard others, and specifically others of the opposite sex, as those who have been created in the image of God. We are much less likely to attempt to conquer, demean, or abuse those whom we see as God’s image bearers.
While these 6 guidelines do not answer the specificity of all situations, they can provide the guardrails we so desperately need. And though I obviously do not know all situations, I personally do not know anyone who followed these guidelines and had moral failure.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter.
Originally published at Church Answers.
Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.
Rainer has written over 30 books, including three that reached number one bestseller: I Am a Church Member, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, and Simple Church. His new book, The Post-Quarantine Church: Six Urgent Challenges and Opportunities That Will Determine the Future of Your Congregation, is available now.