Will Graham, grandson of famed evangelist, takes up the crusade

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Will Graham bears the name of the world’s best-known evangelist. He has also got his Southern twang and, now, his mission.

The grandson of the Rev. Billy Graham has something more: his own way of spreading God’s word.

This week, the Rev. Will Graham will lead his first U.S. crusade, the three-day Greater Gaston Celebration. It is a first step for a 31-year-old man whose grandfather has led more than 400 crusades around the world, and whose father, Franklin, has preached in 33 states and several countries.

But he is determined to do it in his own way.

“You’ve just got to be your own person,” Graham told The Charlotte Observer in a story published Sunday. “There’s no replacing Billy Graham. I don’t want to be Billy Graham.”

And he insists his calling is not a family legacy. When he committed his life to Christ at age 15, his parents played devil’s advocate.

“Don’t do this because you’re a Graham,” he recalled them saying. “Do this because God called you.”

He stuck with it, earning degrees from Liberty University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, and joining the staff of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh.

The church’s pastor, the Rev. Ron Rowe, noticed Graham had organizational skills, compassion and obvious potential in the pulpit. He asked him to help start another church in Wake Forest, Wakefield Baptist.

Graham was reluctant and uncomfortable with his speaking skills, but he accepted. With each sermon, he gained confidence.

“I began to get it,” he said. “God was training me, teaching me.”

His style is more reserved than that of his grandfather, Graham and fellow pastors say.

“He walks into a room, and people don’t know he’s there,” said Austin Rammell, a Liberty classmate who is now pastor of Hardin Baptist Church in Gaston County. “I knew Will for six months before I knew what family he was from.”

Rammell was the one who extended the invitation to speak at this week’s crusade, asked to intercede by pastors who were planning an evangelistic event in eastern Gaston County. They heard Graham speak last year at the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.

Graham agreed, and the involvement of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association helped turn the event into a countywide celebration — and the younger Graham’s first crusade in the United States. He has led a handful in Canada and preached to audiences in India.

“I wasn’t looking for anything,” he said. “They saw a need. I’m just coming along to help fulfill that need.”

He will face different challenges than those presented to Billy Graham when he first drew public notice more than 50 years ago. The younger Graham notes that less than half of the U.S. population attends church regularly, unlike the church-based communities of his grandfather’s youth.

Families then were more frugal, where now they have more distractions and possessions than ever.

“The things aren’t evil,” he said. “It’s our hearts being set on the things, instead of above.”

Will Graham left Wakefield Baptist in July to become assistant director of the Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville. He is considering invitations to preach from several communities, and tentatively plans to lead a crusade in Ohio and others in Canada next year.

“If I end up doing more, great,” he said. “If I don’t, great. It’s not about me.”

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina Will Graham bears the name of the world’s best-known evangelist. He has also got his Southern twang and, now, his mission.

The grandson of the Rev. Billy Graham has something more: his own way of spreading God’s word.

This week, the Rev. Will Graham will lead his first U.S. crusade, the three-day Greater Gaston Celebration. It is a first step for a 31-year-old man whose grandfather has led more than 400 crusades around the world, and whose father, Franklin, has preached in 33 states and several countries.

But he is determined to do it in his own way.

“You’ve just got to be your own person,” Graham told The Charlotte Observer in a story published Sunday. “There’s no replacing Billy Graham. I don’t want to be Billy Graham.”

And he insists his calling is not a family legacy. When he committed his life to Christ at age 15, his parents played devil’s advocate.

“Don’t do this because you’re a Graham,” he recalled them saying. “Do this because God called you.”

He stuck with it, earning degrees from Liberty University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, and joining the staff of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh.

The church’s pastor, the Rev. Ron Rowe, noticed Graham had organizational skills, compassion and obvious potential in the pulpit. He asked him to help start another church in Wake Forest, Wakefield Baptist.

Graham was reluctant and uncomfortable with his speaking skills, but he accepted. With each sermon, he gained confidence.

“I began to get it,” he said. “God was training me, teaching me.”

His style is more reserved than that of his grandfather, Graham and fellow pastors say.

“He walks into a room, and people don’t know he’s there,” said Austin Rammell, a Liberty classmate who is now pastor of Hardin Baptist Church in Gaston County. “I knew Will for six months before I knew what family he was from.”

Rammell was the one who extended the invitation to speak at this week’s crusade, asked to intercede by pastors who were planning an evangelistic event in eastern Gaston County. They heard Graham speak last year at the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.

Graham agreed, and the involvement of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association helped turn the event into a countywide celebration — and the younger Graham’s first crusade in the United States. He has led a handful in Canada and preached to audiences in India.

“I wasn’t looking for anything,” he said. “They saw a need. I’m just coming along to help fulfill that need.”

He will face different challenges than those presented to Billy Graham when he first drew public notice more than 50 years ago. The younger Graham notes that less than half of the U.S. population attends church regularly, unlike the church-based communities of his grandfather’s youth.

Families then were more frugal, where now they have more distractions and possessions than ever.

“The things aren’t evil,” he said. “It’s our hearts being set on the things, instead of above.”

Will Graham left Wakefield Baptist in July to become assistant director of the Billy Graham Training Center in Asheville. He is considering invitations to preach from several communities, and tentatively plans to lead a crusade in Ohio and others in Canada next year.

“If I end up doing more, great,” he said. “If I don’t, great. It’s not about me.”

Source:
AP, via the International Herald Tribune, USA
Oct. 8, 2006
www.iht.com
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