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Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
James 3:1
This week’s post begins with a confession that has dogged me for a couple of weeks now. Shaking my head in bewilderment as to how it happened, I have to tell you that the first post in our Logistics of Lent series a ran week or so earlier than I intended it to run. Technology is terrific when it conforms to one’s plans, but as you may imagine the prospect of stretching a six-week series into eight weeks becomes a daunting task when technology decides not to conform.
As I teetered, though, between joy (for him) and sorrow (for the rest of us) at news of Billy Graham’s home-going last Wednesday morning, scriptural truths revealed by writers like the prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Paul came to mind. This week specifically I’ve been reminded anew that God’s ways are higher than mine and that He causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him according to His purpose (see Isaiah 55:8-9 and Romans 8:28-29). The technology glitch, as it happens, gives me an opportunity for this post to invite you along a sidepath of sorts in our series for a look at the legacy left by Rev. Graham and what that legacy means to us moving forward as followers of Christ. 
 
So you’ll join me? Great!
There was sadness and grief as I took in the many reports of Rev. Graham’s passing on Wednesday, but I have to tell you, the real tears – the kind that well up from the heart and spill without permission onto the face – didn’t come until my phone signaled an incoming email late that afternoon. The message turned out to be a statement released to faculty, students and alumni of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary from its president, Dennis Hollinger, Ph.D., regarding the contributions and home-going of Graham. It was as Dr. Hollinger concluded his statement that my tears came…the segment in which he identified the GCTS family as being a part of Rev. Graham’s legacy.
While some of you know that I studied Christian education on the GCTS campus in Charlotte, North Carolina, you may be less aware of the fact that Billy Graham co-founded this educational system that now has four locations spreading from Massachusetts to Mississippi. It is considered one of the top five seminaries in the United States. Although I was rocked by my mother as an infant in front of a black-and-white TV set to the sound of his messages and grew up listening to him preach anytime a crusade happened to be televised (from the days of rabbit-ears all the way to cable lines), I knew nothing of his GCTS affiliation until the end of a school day during my first semester there.
Tim Laniak, Th.D., is most recently known as co-founder of an exciting new church/small group curriculum program for biblical literacy called BibleJourney, but he previously served as Administrative Dean of our Charlotte campus and – more importantly to me – as instructor of Old Testament Survey back when I was a student in the course. The final topic for class discussion on the day in question involved moral successes and failures among various Old Testament leadership; Joseph, Joshua, Daniel, David, Nehemiah and so forth. We then drew principles from those successes and failures that can be applied to modern-day ministry, and Rev. Graham’s name came up.
I remember so well the easy, conversational tone with which Dr. Laniak spoke of the evangelist deemed America’s Preacher and the integrity that defined his ministry. As naive as the admission sounds when I think back on the event, it was here in the second seat inside of Room 127 that I first learned of Rev. Graham’s affiliation with GCTS. Listening to Dr. Laniak speak of him, it became clear that my instructor’s accounts were first-hand, personal and not merely recycled tales told for the sake of telling. Some of those accounts came to mind last week, in fact, when I realized how perfectly they align with a statement made to NBC Nightly News by Graham’s son, Franklin, who now leads the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.

He felt right was right and wrong was wrong and he was going to do what he thought was right.

I’ve come to realize that Dr. Laniak’s words were used as a means of instilling within us students the foundation that moral integrity would lay for our own ministerial roles should we choose to habitually pursue it in our lives – what traps, schemes, pitfalls we would avoid that Satan set for us. Dr. Laniak’s discussion of Graham may have been a part of his lesson plan for the day, but as time passes it seems more and more to me that they were likely part of a divine detour orchestrated by the Teacher Himself. And if you know our campus faculty, you know that they recognize and welcome divine detours in the classroom. That’s one of the perks of attending our school.
Whether the discussion happened intentionally or not, I left Room 127 that day with a renewed drive to deliberately pursue integrity in my life as a means of improving the effectiveness of the ministry to which God had called me – although He hadn’t yet revealed exactly what that ministry was. I didn’t know Graham personally, but I did know personally several lives to which God had used him for the purpose of bringing about beautiful, lasting change.
And I knew that I wanted to be that open – that useful – to God in whatever role He purposed me to fill. Just from that first semester I knew that seminary work was too tough, too demanding for me to waste time desiring anything less from it. Still feel that way, in fact. So when I read and reread Dr. Hollinger’s statement regarding Graham’s legacy and his inclusion of me in it, I had one of those full-circle-to-God-be-the-glory experiences. That’s when the tears streamed.
But here’s the thing: from a human standpoint, our level of education, training, or ability has no more bearing on our fulfillment of God’s purpose for us than Rev, Graham’s did for him. It’s a truth as simple yet as life-altering as the Gospel message that Graham spread for his lifetime. Wherever you are, whomever you are, if you’re a believer in Christ – I need you to hear this – your life is your ministry. And I’m guessing that, whether you’re 19 or 95, you know that life as a committed believer is too tough, too demanding to desire anything less than to be that open – that useful – to God wherever He has placed you.
Graham’s daughter, Anne Lotz, is a renowned author, teacher and speaker in the area of Christian education. She made a Facebook statement last Wednesday regarding her father’s home-going that provides a great illustration of the previous paragraph; so poignant, in fact, that I’m sharing it with you here in its entirety:

DADDY IS HOME: My Father’s legacy is one that encompasses the world…and engulfs my own life. When I think of him, I don’t think of Billy Graham, the public figure. I think of my Daddy. The one who was always a farmer at heart. Who loved his dogs and his cat. Who followed the weather patterns almost as closely as he did world events. Who wore old blue jeans, comfortable sweaters, and a baseball cap. Who loved lukewarm coffee, sweet ice tea, one scoop of ice cream, and a plain hamburger from McDonald’s. Who was interested in everything and everyone, from the small to the great. Whose mind remembered details that even a computer would have trouble recalling. But when I think of him I also think of his message because he was immersed in it. Saturated in it. He was his message…a simple man who had responded to God’s love by placing his faith in Jesus, receiving the assurance that his sins were forgiven, that he would not perish, but would have everlasting life [John 3:16]. Simple faith. Faith that now matters more than anything else. For years, over his head as he preached was the banner that quoted the words of Jesus: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus completed that sentence by saying that no one comes to the Father but by Me [John 14:6]. Based on what Jesus said, Daddy is safely with the Father. In Heaven. Daddy not only claimed Jesus as the only Way to God, he lived by the Truth publicly on platforms and privately behind closed doors, and is now enjoying real Life.
 I have often stated that I was raised by a single parent because ministry took my father away from our family—for weeks and months at a time. Daddy estimated that he was gone from home approximately 60 percent of his children’s growing-up years. Now, he has left again. This time, he will not be coming back. At least, not until Jesus does, too. While he may be physically absent and his voice silent, I am confident that his message will continue to reverberate throughout the generations to come. My prayer on this day of his move to Our Father’s House is that his death will be a rallying cry. That tens of thousands of pastors, teachers, evangelists, and ordinary men and women will rise up to take his place. That they will take up his message like a baton being passed in a relay race and faithfully pass it on to those with whom they come in contact. Because Daddy’s message is God’s message. And it’s a message of genuine hope for the future, of love for the present, of forgiveness for the past. It’s a message, when received, that brings a fresh beginning, unshakable joy, unexplainable peace, eternal significance, meaning and purpose to life, and opens Heaven’s door. It was this message, which Daddy carried to the world, that penetrated my own heart as a young girl and has created in me a personal, passionate resolve to communicate it myself to as many people as possible. And so, even as my tears seem to be unending, I silently rededicate my life to picking up and passing on the baton. Would you do the same? [Brackets and italics mine.]

My question to you on this day, in this age, in this culture takes a similar-yet-contrasting tone to hers. How can we, as followers of Christ, afford not to do the same – in the name of integrity and in the name of Christ?

– Copyright 2018, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All rights reserved.