For at least the last half decade, there’s been speculation as to
who could replace the Rev. Billy Graham as the next greatly
esteemed and world-renowned leading Christian evangelist.
When his 2005 New York crusade was billed as most likely his
last, we began wondering if anyone could rise to the task. Or
should any individual do so?
Since emerging on Christianity’s landscape in the mid-1940s,
Graham has never let up in his simple belief that people need
Jesus. His way of presenting the gospel message of hope
through accepting Christ as Savior has touched millions of
Graham has a personality and philosophy that helped him cross
many of the world’s largest divides.
He spoke with Martin Luther King Jr. about racial reconciliation.
He was the first white evangelist to invite an African American
preacher to tour with him (Howard O. Jones).
Graham was able to travel behind the Iron Curtain and speak
with Soviet leaders when the fall of the curtain was just a glinting hope in America’s eye. He’s been an acquaintance turned friend or spiritual advisor to multiple U.S. presidents.
As he aged, he crossed generational boundaries by seeing the
importance of modern music as a way to reach out to youth. His
crusade schedules blended the use of favorite old traditional
hymns with the appearance of popular young contemporary
In today’s social environment where Christianity faces a
tarnished image and God is dismissed as a myth, who else can
do this instead of inciting anger in people’s minds for “pushing”
salvation through Christ?
Graham’s son Franklin Graham speaks out for Christianity
worldwide and leads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
and the nonprofit charity organization Samaritan’s Purse. But he
has yet to overcome a bad reputation earned for political
incorrectness when he called Islam “evil” after the 9/11 terrorist
The Next Billy Graham?
Articles in a variety of publications from faith-based to
economics have mentioned these leading pastors and
evangelists among others as possibly the next Billy Graham.
Evangelist Luis Palau has been called the Billy Graham of Latin
America. He began preaching God’s word in Buenos Aires,
Argentina as a pre-teen. Today he’s best known for throwing
party-type evangelistic events with Christian music for young
people in the United States and other countries as well.
Pastor Rick Warren was named most powerful evangelist in
America by The Economist website in 2008. To be sure, his book
The Purpose Driven Life challenged Christians and non-
Christians alike to realize life isn’t about us but something
grander – it’s all about God’s purpose for our lives.
Joel Osteen pastors the largest church in America, Lakewood
Church in Houston, and has of late been trying to overcome the
image that his message is just one of prosperity. He stated to
CNN’s Larry King in a 2007 interview that his desire is for people
to come to know Christ as their Savior; but nevertheless, we
won’t get anywhere just preaching the negatives.
Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside,
Calif., has packed houses both on the road and at his home
church with his ability to reach multiple generations in easy-to-
understand, yet uncompromising speeches, sermons and books.
Laurie rejected a 2005 comparison of him to Graham, especially
after spending two days with the man. The two discussed 2
Chronicles 7:14 as written for God’s people, not non-believers,
to turn toward God in repentance with the hope of seeing a
spiritual revival in America.
Graham Challenges 21st Century Christians
Not every church pastor has the nature of a traveling evangelist.
But in a way, every Christian is called to be an evangelist.
Billy Graham published a challenge to Christians for the new
millennium in a 1997 article for Christianity Today. Within its
text, he mentions society, and especially the youth population,
facing a multitude of non-Christian religious ideas and anti-God
secularism. He says Christians shouldn’t retreat, but keep in
mind Jesus’ goal of having disciples who would reach the ends
of the world (Matthew 28:19-20).
He reminded us that Christianity was spread throughout the
post-biblical world not by a few, but by many, and outside of
church walls. If we are to see Christianity grow, it will not be
done by waiting for people to walk through church doors, but by
Christians being faithful to Christ’s calling to outwardly mobilize
the whole church again.
It seems Billy Graham himself has answered the question, “Is
there a next Billy Graham?” He wants it to be everyone who