I still remember the first time that I realized something was different about my family. I was in kindergarten at a public school in the mountains of North Carolina. My teacher put her hand on my shoulder and explained to another teacher, “This is Billy Graham’s grandson.” I remember wondering how she knew about my grandfather.
Of course, as the years progressed, I put things together. Especially when our favorite childhood show—“The Dukes of Hazzard”—was preempted. “Tonight’s regularly scheduled program will not air,” a voice would boom from the television. “Tonight we have a Billy Graham Crusade special.”
My brothers and I would always groan. We’d been good all week to stay up late for that little bit of privileged television viewing, and we could usually see my grandfather whenever we wanted. Still, though, it was pretty fun seeing him on TV.
Growing Up Graham
To be honest, there are some challenges that come with being the grandson of Billy Graham and the son of Franklin Graham. My life has been a bit like living in a fish bowl, with others watching, waiting—perhaps hoping—that I’ll slip up. There are those who dislike us simply because we stand on the Word of God and are not willing to bend a knee to this modern world.
But the benefits of growing up in the Graham family far outweigh any challenges. I’ve walked through doors that I never could have opened myself. I’ve been given the opportunity to share the hope of Jesus Christ around the world, simply because of my family’s lifelong efforts for the Kingdom of God.
In particular, I’m incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to learn from my father and grandfather—two godly men who have taught me so much about life, faith and ministry. As we celebrate Father’s Day, I’ve taken some time to consider how much I’ve learned from them.
One of the main lessons I’ve learned from my father is about protecting my family. Since his birth, he has lived with high expectations as the son of Billy Graham, and he was determined to not place a similar burden on his children. Rather, he shielded us from being pushed one direction or another by others. Interestingly, every one of us—his four children—are now serving in ministry. It might not have been that way had he not allowed us the freedom to choose.
My father also taught me about showing compassion, loving and supporting others. From the earliest age, I watched my father run toward tragedy, sorrow and suffering. Through the two ministries he leads, he has preached the Gospel in countries many think of as unreachable. He has dug wells, built churches, constructed and staffed emergency hospitals, provided supplies for refugees and restored storm-damaged homes. Through Operation Christmas Child, he has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes into areas of severe poverty around the world. And he’s done it all in the Name of Jesus Christ, even—and perhaps especially—for people who may disagree with him politically or on matters of faith.
Finally, my father taught me about boldness in sharing Jesus Christ at every opportunity. Somehow he works the Gospel message into every media interview and speaking engagement he gets. Whether the topic is human rights in the Middle East, a cyclone in the Philippines, or politics in America, he always finds a way to dovetail into the hope of Jesus Christ—that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
My grandfather Billy Graham also taught me the importance of boldness, but in a slightly different way. One thing that sticks with me, in particular, was his boldness in his Gospel invitations. While many evangelists plead with the audience to respond and place their faith in Jesus Christ, my grandfather simply preached the Word of God and then called people forward. And they responded. It wasn’t because of anything he said or did, it was because he spoke with the authority of Scripture
Likewise, my grandfather unwaveringly stood firm on the Bible. He recognized that his words couldn’t change anybody, but that the “word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). I appreciate this more and more every day, as we watch so many Christians falling into Biblical illiteracy and compromising on the Scripture. Like my grandfather, we must cling to, read, study, proclaim and anchor our souls in the Bible.
Finally, my grandfather deeply recognized the importance of prayer. He knew that prayer was the foundation of any evangelistic outreach. When he was invited to hold a Crusade in a city, his first question was “Are the churches praying?” Prayer prepares the spiritual ground so the Word can land on fertile soil. For as much as he prayed, my grandfather confided that he wished he had prayed more. “Pray. Pray. Pray,” he told me. “I could have done so much more if I would have taken fewer speaking engagements and spent more time on my knees in prayer.”
A Legacy of Faith
I’ve been so blessed by the legacy of faith in my family, and have been gifted incredible lessons and opportunities. I pray that I will always use both for the glory of God. Though we come from different backgrounds, I pray the same for you as well. God has you where you are for a season and for a reason. Honor your family, hold them while you can, and proclaim the hope of Christ as much—and as boldly—as possible. ©2023 BGEA
The Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Photo: Russ Busby/©2005 BGEA