The first time I heard about Billy Graham was in 1953. He came to my hometown in the middle of the Bible Belt to conduct a crusade. The city even built a field house to accommodate him, because none of our buildings was big enough to handle the expected crowds. Excitement grew in our home as the day approached for the crusade to begin. There seemed to be something special about this man. My mother spoke about him with an urgency and an expectation that he was going to stir things up, that he was going to tell it like it is.
I remember walking with my mother hand-in-hand into the Warner Park Field House the first night of the crusade. I can still hear the organ music and the choir, and see the big stage and the sawdust on the ground. Several thousand people came -- more than I had ever seen in my life.
That night was the beginning of my growing up under the influence of Billy Graham. He made a deep impression on me from the start. He was dynamic, bold and clear in what he had to say and how he said it. The message was one with no compromise, always clearly spelling out how humanity was lost and in need of salvation. He preached with powerfully convincing words the message of Christ. I didn't know anyone back then who was not profoundly affected by him and by what he had to say.
At the age of fourteen I watched a televised crusade. I was convicted that I was a sinner and upon Billy Graham's invitation I said the "sinner's prayer." Before long I found that I did not have the power to live out the seeming repentance in my heart, but I was affected by the man and the message nonetheless. Even my daddy who "wouldn't give a plug nickel" for all the TV preachers had the utmost respect for Billy Graham.
When I finally did come into salvation and began following Jesus Christ in the Community in Island Pond, Vermont, I found that most all of the believers there had respect for Billy Graham. We grew up with him, were saved by him countless times, and did the utmost to hold him up as an example to all people -- until his acceptance of a star on Hollywood Boulevard in 1989.
It was hard for us to understand why he did that. Many times in the early '80s we tried to meet with him. We even followed him all over New England when he did a series of talks on college campuses. At Northeastern University we managed to give him a freepaper and invite him to visit us in Island Pond. We wanted so desperately to share with him what we had found -- the power to live a life of love in unity where we could share the same koinonia experienced by the first-century church.
Our last attempt to reach out to him was at Boston College. After his talk was over, we followed him to a room which he entered before us and shut the door. We knew he was in there and made every attempt to talk to him. I remember personally pleading with the head coordinator of the New England college lectures, a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) team member, to give us just fifteen minutes with him. I explained all the reasons we wanted to see him and the burden we had for him, to which he responded, "Everybody wants to talk to him."
At that point we saw that Billy Graham was a victim of the system in which he invested his whole life. At first he seemed to be a different breed of preacher, but as he gained popularity it seems that the BGEA began to dictate more and more of his activities. He was reduced to the position of following their program, a slave to the religious machine that gave him the power. Billy Graham compromised when he allowed the fame and power of his position to defile him, as well as the many who have followed him. He has led more people into an ecumenical compromise than any other man in history.
By accepting the star on Hollywood Boulevard he revealed his love of the world. Billy Graham said, "I hope this star will identify me with the gospel I preach," yet the Son of God did not seek or accept notoriety for Himself or His gospel. As disciples of Jesus Christ who want to follow Him and obey His word without compromise, how are we supposed to respond to what Billy Graham did? Doesn't it expose something fundamentally wrong in him? Isn't this the very same problem we see in Christian ministers and their ministries? They cannot free their converts from the world because they have not yet been freed from it themselves.
We have arrived at this view of Billy Graham through much agonizing and soul searching. We have come to the conclusions reflected in this freepaper after more than two decades of careful consideration. Our decisions are neither spurious nor impulsive reactions to something we don't understand. We have studied and prayed over the problems we see in Christianity as we know it today and its preachers who have produced its bad fruit. We have searched the Scriptures and believe we have found some answers by the grace and revelation he has given us.
If you are still asking hard questions and have received mere excuses and defenses rather than real answers, we would like to share with you what we have learned.