Billy Graham, Hip Youth Leader

As Billy Graham’s family, friends, and foes are reflecting on his life, many sides of him are being discussed and analyzed. This morning his grandson Boz Tchividjian posted this photo of Graham cutting up in a classroom.


Just before I saw this tweet, historian and former archivist at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Jim Lutzweiler sent along the same picture with the back story. Jim said the photo came from “the private collection of Randy Miller, Research librarian at Liberty University.” About the scene, he said:

William Bell Riley was a big name in the 1920s–1940s. He was pastor of the First Baptist Church in Minneapolis whose members included George Pillsbury of the flour family. Riley built a college for training young people. He came to North Carolina in the early 1920s to fight against evolution in the schools, a controversy that preceded the Scopes Trial in Tennessee. By 1947 Riley was dying. he needed a successor. At that time Billy Graham was a rising star in the movement called Youth for Christ. Youth had always been Riley’s passion. In short, Riley picked Billy Graham to succeed him in the presidency of his school. This was two years before Graham’s famous crusade in Los Angeles. Billy only presided over the school for a couple years before it began to fold and he chose full time evangelism. By the way, one of the students at Northwestern in those days was a Roger Peterson. I knew Roger. He told me that in chapel one day Billy told the students Christ would return prior to 1955, as Christ was to come within 7 years of the rebirth of Israel (i.e., 1948).
The fellow at the lectern in the picture is Richard V. Clearwaters. He had hoped to succeed Riley but Riley did not pick him. So he started Pillsbury Baptist Bible College and Central Baptist Seminary from both of which schools I graduated.
The first president of Pillsbury College was a fellow named Monroe Parker. Billy Graham had once told Parker that he, Billy, had converted under Parker’s preaching, not under Mordecai Ham. Parker told us this in chapel and he also published it in his autobiography.

So Clearwaters would have been the first Pillsbury Doughboy (sorry).
Thanks to Jim for the context. He added that Graham wasn’t much older than the students and related to them easily. I wonder if he ever ate any goldfish (you’ll get that if you grew up fundamentalist).

Billy Graham: The Transparent Evangelist

By now, most readers of social media know that Billy Graham passed away today. While he leaves behind many legacies, one seldom noted is his early dedication to financial accountability. In a 2016 Christianity Today article, a story is told of Graham’s conversion to transparency.

In the 1950s, one event solidified Billy Graham’s dedication to financial transparency, according to Grant Wacker, author of America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation
In Graham’s early crusades, he accepted “love offerings” made by the throngs who came to hear him speak. But in 1950, an Atlanta newspaper ran two front-page photos that changed Graham’s mind. One photo depicted “three or four gunny sacks stuffed with greenbacks,” said Wacker. Next to it was a photo of Graham wearing a big smile.
“The implication was that Graham was gloating because he’d just gleaned so much money from the crusade,” said Wacker. “It wasn’t true, but it appeared that way.” It was the beginning of what Wacker called “Billy Graham’s long-running effort to avoid the appearance of evil, as well as evil.”
By 1952, Graham required every ministry salary to be regularized and public. The elder Graham was the first to formalize salary transparency, Wacker said. “I don’t know of any other evangelistic organization that preceded his.”

It is a shame that the ministry that uses his name changed IRS status a couple of years ago and no longer files documentation of donations and expenditures. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is now considered a church. Churches don’t have to file such forms. All this does is shield information and reduce accountability, something that is contrary to Graham’s legacy.
However, today, we should remember that Graham’s principle focus in life was the Gospel. He stood in sharp contrast to “evangelists” such as Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn who brag about their wealth with no accountability or transparency.
Today, BGEA is broadcasting Graham’s sermons and crusades continuously.

Mind's Eye: Billy Graham's birthday and old school DC Talk

Billy Graham turned 90 last Friday (11/7). Spiritual guide to many presidents, he said recently that he would like to meet and pray with Barack Obama. I hope he gets that chance.
I have been listening lately to old skool DC Talk and came across this video with a Graham appearance in the middle.

Sweet.