215 million people in live audiences, untold millions more through media.
60 years on television.
185 countries and territories.
Staunchly opposed to segregation when it was the norm in this country.
An estimated 3.2 million people who came to faith in Jesus Christ through his efforts.
The data alone speaks of a life of incredible influence, focus, reach, and effect.
At the news of his passing today, I found myself startled. I suppose in some ways I had thought he would simply translate from this life into the presence of the Lord, a la Enoch. Or Elijah. This afternoon, I was talking with my friend Kristin Schell of The Turquoise Table, and we were reflecting on the sense that, with Billy Graham gone, it’s now our watch.
As if it wasn’t already.
It’s hard to imagine that anyone in the following days, years, epochs, could ever have the same kind of ministry. The number of trips across the globe. The packed-full venues with huge crowds coming to faith in Jesus. The teachings and the team that was developed and the ability to speak across denominational and political lines. It all seems so massive, a footprint of a life that goes deep and wide. All of it a resounding legacy of a life dedicated to God.
I look at all those accomplishments and all those statistics and I reflect on how proud God must be of His servant Billy Graham, how ready to welcome him home.
And then I realize.
I once again probably have it all wrong.
Billy Graham’s legacy isn’t particularly found in the numbers.
It’s found in this, something reachable for anyone who follows Jesus.
Billy Graham was faithful.
Faithful in the big arenas. Faithful in the small.
Faithful to the organization he founded. Faithful to the family he built with his beloved wife, Ruth.
Had he not been, the numbers would still be impressive.
The reach would still be powerful.
The souls that were saved would still be saved.
But because he was faithful, it makes it all more…real.
That he didn’t just say he was changed by a relationship with Jesus Christ.
That he was. Really.
And lived that way.
To the very end.
Which is the beginning of eternity.
When I recount the amazing life of Billy Graham to my children, this is where I want to focus for them.
That his legacy, while replete with amazing ministry data, isn’t found only there.
That his legacy, while finding its homebase in a beautiful ministry facility in North Carolina, isn’t found only there.
That his legacy will live on. Will continue to speak, inspire, be discussed and appreciated in coming generations, for this.
He was faithful.
And when it comes to legacy, that is everything.
Welcome home, Billy Graham.