Lessons from my Father with Franklin Graham
For decades, Billy Graham traveled the world proclaiming the good news of Jesus and seeing literally millions of souls enter the Kingdom of God. Last year he made Gallop’s list of top 10 admired men in America for a record 60th time, despite 12 years passing since his last crusade. He has been known as a “Pastor to Presidents” and is still held as the standard for evangelists the world over. But this Father’s Day, we get to hear about this giant of the faith – not from a reporter or convert or politician – but from his son, Franklin Graham. We hope you are inspired by this look behind the scenes of one of America’s best known families as Franklin Graham shares, “Lessons From My Father.”
Q: Your parents’ relationship was admired by so many. How did watching their marriage through the years prepare you for your own?
A: To my knowledge, I never saw my parents argue or fight. If they did, they did so behind closed doors and not in front of us children. My mother did all she could to protect my father, his privacy, his home life; and my father absolutely adored my mother. She was his number one researcher and sermon illustrator—in addition to raising the children and keeping the home fires burning—she was also a theologian. They were completely devoted to the Lord and to one another.
Q: Your father had arguably the most well-known ministry in the world. What did you learn from him about life in ministry?
A: Integrity. My father built integrity into the ministry—financial integrity and spiritual integrity. He knew it was important to keep the ministry grounded in the Word of God.
Q: As a parent yourself, how important is the spiritual legacy of your family to you? How do you see that living on in the years to come?
A: A spiritual legacy is very important. As my father’s oldest son, I want to make sure that his legacy of pointing people to the Savior is preserved for future generations. This is one of the reasons we built the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, so that future generations could see and hear what God did through my father’s life and the people around him. It’s all about God.
Q: Is there something that you learned from your dad about being a father that has stayed with you as your own children grew up?
A: From my mother and father, I learned the importance of studying the Bible and having daily devotions. As Jane and I started our own family, we just copied what my parents did. We had prayers in the morning, and prayer and Bible study in the evening with our children. We memorized Scriptures together, and that’s what I believe is so important. And, of course, we were involved in the church.
Q: Without compromising his message, your father was able to gain the ear of high level politicians and celebrities across the globe. What did you learn watching this transpire behind the scenes?
A: My father never compromised the teachings of Christ. When he was with the politicians or celebrities, he didn’t change and become a different person. He presented Jesus Christ and His Gospel. That’s why the celebrities and politicians sought him out. They were searching.
Q: The world watched this January as you spoke at your second Presidential Inauguration, something your father has also done several times. Do you feel that you are following his footsteps as a Christian voice in the political world?
A: I do feel that I’m following in my father’s footsteps in a small way, because God has called me to preach the Gospel. As it relates to the political world, I want to use my voice for truth and I hope that I will be able to do that without ever compromising the Gospel. In 2016, I went to all the capitals of all 50 states to lead prayer rallies for our nation. I urged Christians to pray, to get involved, and to vote. I believe if my father were my age now, he would have done the same thing. As far back as the 1950s, my father was urging Christians to get involved in the political process—to study the issues, to vote, and to run for public office. In 1952 he said, “Daniel in the Bible lived in one of the most heathen countries in the world, but he was prime minister under seven kings and two empires. We need Daniels today.” More than 60 years later, I’m telling people the same thing. Christians can make a huge difference by serving in positions at all levels—local, state, and national—if they are bold enough to stand for God’s truth.
Q: During his ministry there must have been some stress that accompanied your dad’s fame, along with pressure to see big numbers at crusades and altars. How did he handle the issue of his own celebrity and what did you learn from him about numbers and statistics?
A: My father never saw himself as being a celebrity. He just always saw himself as a farmer’s son, and still does. If he had a meeting and spoke to hundreds of thousands of people, when the meeting was over, rarely did he ever talk about it. He realized that everything was because of God, and he gave God the glory. My father always underestimated the numbers; he never exaggerated them. To him, those were not important. He just wanted to know at the end of the day if someone came to faith in Christ.
Q: While many people know Billy Graham the evangelist, only a few get to know Billy Graham the father. What do you want people to know about your dad that they may not have seen before?
A: The Billy Graham that the world saw on TV was the same Billy Graham that we saw at home—there weren’t two Billy Grahams—he was the same.
Q: What is the best piece of advice that your father has ever given you?
A: One of the best pieces of advice he gave me was when I started my preaching ministry. He said–Franklin, you learn to preach by preaching, so take every opportunity to preach that you can.
Q: One thing we’ve all learned from your dad is that the message of Jesus must always be front and center. How are you carrying on that mission through your work at Samaritan’s Purse?
A: At the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, everything we do is about Jesus Christ and is centered around sharing the Gospel. All of our work is done in Jesus’ Name. We want to lift Him up; we want to make Him known in every situation and circumstance.