Billy Graham was perhaps the most influential preacher in the 20th century. I’m not sure how many people heard him preach, but it was surely in the millions.
Dr. Graham’s pet phrase was, "The Bible says…" He understood that the authority for his message was the word of God revealed in scripture.
Graham had his critics. There were the fundamentalists who disagreed with his willingness to work with all churches. They were dissatisfied with his failure to separate himself from those who did not believe everything he believed.
Those on the other end of the spectrum were dismayed that Dr. Graham believed the Bible.
One liberal theologian said, "I fear that Billy Graham has set back Christianity some 100 years."
Of course, the media went to Dr. Graham with this report. His response was classic. "I’m sorry to hear that. It was my intent to set it back some 2,000 years."
As Christians and churches, we do want to follow the original teachings of Jesus. We want to live out first century Christianity. But how do we do that? Some argue for the "old hymns," forgetting that many of the old hymns were written in the 1800s.
They are indeed old, but they do not go back to the days of Jesus. Some say that we should have only the traditional musical instruments like the organ and piano, again forgetting that neither Peter nor Paul ever saw either one.
The problem with all of these ideas is that we are not really at the heart of true Christianity. The methods and music we use change. They always have. The songs we sang in the 1970s were not the songs they sang in the 1600s.
But the message of Christ and his Gospel are still the same. God became flesh and dwelt in our midst. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life, and died in our place as a sacrifice for our sins. He was raised from the dead, and he will come again at the proper time to complete what he started.
It is all quite simple, and yet it is all quite radical. Still we trust him to do what he promised. That is our only hope.