Why was Billy Graham Popular with Presidents, Popes, and Other World Leaders?

As most all of you know by now, Billy Graham died this week. You can find any number of news reports detailing his evangelism crusade achievements throughout the world for these many, many years. I remember attending one of the crusades in Portland, Oregon with my grandmother in about 1969.

This post is not written with the intention of criticizing Graham, though there certainly were methods he used that I strongly disagreed with. I concur with Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones who refused to participate in Graham’s London crusades because Graham had Roman Catholic bishops or cardinals seated up on the platform with him, thus endorsing them as Christians.

But I simply write this post to encourage all of us to think about how the Bible portrays the relationship of God’s spokesmen (prophets, apostles, and God’s Son Himself) to kings and rulers. Is there a typical pattern? In other words, how do we see the Old Testament prophets, the New Testament apostles, and the Son of God speaking and relating to the civil, pagan rulers of their time?

I address this issue because Billy Graham was known as “the” preacher, the “go-to” Christian leader who met with (generally at their request) just about every United States President during Graham’s ministering lifetime. I saw a picture of him sitting with Bill Clinton when he was President, and there was Hillary right beside him. Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, the Bushes – Billy mixed it up with them all. Politicians of course are always after votes, and Billy Graham was seen by them no doubt as a man with a considerable voting following.

Now, I don’t know what Billy Graham told these Presidents in these meetings. But I do know what God’s prophets and apostles and Son told the kings of their day. Here are some examples:

1Ki 18:17-18 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” (18) And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals.

1Ki 22:8-9 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” (9) Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, “Bring quickly Micaiah the son of Imlah.”

Mat 14:2-4 and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” (3) For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, (4) because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

Luk 13:31-32 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” (32) And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.

Need I go on? I certainly could. But you see the point. In Scripture and down through the history of the church (think of Martin Luther, John Bunyan, Wycliffe, William Tyndale, and on and on) the norm has been for God’s preachers to be hated and imprisoned and even killed by the kings of this world. Why? Because they confronted these rulers with their evil, and the kings hated them for it. This is the norm. This is what God’s preachers are called to do. Such confrontation of evil in high places is part of preaching the gospel, you understand? You cannot call someone to faith in Christ unless you first show them their sin and call them to repentance.

And so I wonder. I just wonder, and I think it is quite a fair question for me to ask. How is it that Billy Graham was “the Presidents’ preacher”? How is it that he enjoyed audiences with bishops and cardinals and even with the Pope who are leaders of a counterfeit church that has murdered countless true Christians? Why wasn’t Billy hated by them? Did he actually call out their sin and tell them God commands them to repent?

This blog is about evil. Evil hiding in churches disguised as a saint. Wolves in wool. And I can assure you that whenever Christ’s people are popular with the world, something has gone quite wrong. In such an environment, evil wrapped in wool thrives in the pews and in the pulpit.

1Co 2:6-8 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. (7) But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. (8) None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.