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Bethel Seminary Community Reflects on the Legacy of Billy Graham

Bethel Seminary Community Reflects on the Legacy of Billy Graham

Nick Hall S’11 with the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham. (Photo Credit: Provided by Nick Hall S’11)

Nick Hall S’11has lived his life wanting to be like the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham. Graham lived out a call to make Jesus known to as many as possible and that’s a legacy Hall works hard to continue as an evangelist for PULSE, a Twin Cities-based nonprofit at the heart of the largest student-led evangelism movement in the U.S.

“Billy Graham had one message: Jesus,” says Hall. “He lived and died carrying that message. While other preachers detoured into politics or social issues, Dr. Graham had a single-mindedness on the gospel because he believed that more than people needed his opinion on issues, they needed to know the greatest leader who ever lived, Jesus of Nazareth.”

News of Graham’s death spread on February 21 and the next day Hall was part of a panel discussion on Fox News remembering Graham and his impact in the world. Hall remembered an interview Graham once gave when he reflected on his own death one day. “Today, he has received his reward,” says Hall. “In Graham’s own words, ‘Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.’”

Stephanie (Williams) O’Brien ’05, S’12 has known Graham her whole life. O’Brien’s parents worked for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and were close to Billy and Ruth Graham, she says. “Billy even did my dedication when I was a baby,” she recalls. In 2000, O’Brien remembers Graham talking about his own death when he was with her family when her father passed away at just 50 years old. “Through tears Billy said to us, ‘He was too young to go; it should have been me. I am ready.”

Today O’Brien directs the Ministry Scholars Program at Bethel and is a pastor at Mill City Church in Minneapolis. O’Brien was interviewed on Kerri Miller’s show on Minnesota Public Radio as well as Twin Cities TV news the day Graham died. O’Brien says she will remember Graham as a man who did his best to serve the Lord with the calling God had given him.

“He wasn't a perfect man, and he would have been the first to tell you that,” she says. “He lived his life with integrity and was willing to admit his shortcomings as a leader. In many ways he was one of the most focused leaders I have ever known personally. While he was involved in a lot of ways with what happened in the world during his life, his sole focus was to share the good news that a relationship with Jesus can change your life now, and for eternity. He wanted every person possible to hear that message.”

Glen Scorgie, professor of theology and ethics at Bethel Seminary, reflects on Graham’s influence on the church for half a century. “I will remember Billy Graham as a towering presence during the entire second half of the 20th century and into the next millennium,” says Scorgie. “A leader without peer in the evangelical movement, a godly, anointed, sincere Christian statesman who displayed lifelong moral integrity and character. No one has yet emerged who comes close to matching his stature or taking his place.”

Scorgie describes the “Graham era” as evangelicalism at its best. “Billy Graham modeled a convictional grace that won friends rather than made enemies for the gospel,” Scorgie says. “He projected a positivity about the gospel, and a confidence that a Christian need not be compromised by charitable engagement with the world.”