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March 3, 2018

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Billy Graham Remembered, Honored During NRB Convention

Dr. Jerry A. JohnsonNASHVILLE (NRB) – The National Religious Broadcasters honored the association’s best-known member of all time, Billy Graham, Friday (March 2) at Proclaim 18, NRB’s International Christian Media Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, on the day of his funeral and burial in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In the annual meeting’s final event, speakers and a singer remembered the world-famous evangelist as a man of humility, kindness, and integrity whose authority came from the Bible. NRB’s awards gala closed the gathering at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center marked at various points by commendations of Graham, who died February 21 at the age of 99.

The gala remembrances of Graham capped a week of activities honoring the world-renowned evangelist and longtime NRB member during the association’s 75th annual convention.

NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson made clear Graham’s significance to the Christian communicators association.

“There’s no doubt that Billy Graham is the most well-known member, has been the most well-known member, of NRB ever,” Johnson said at the gala before repeating a desire he expressed earlier in the week. If NRB was in the dictionary, “I would want the picture of Billy Graham to be the picture beside that entry in the dictionary.”

NRB inducted Graham into its Hall of Fame in 1981 and gave him its Chairman’s Award in 1989 and its Milestone Award in 2001.

Johnson, who attended the funeral in Charlotte before returning to Nashville for the awards gala, pointed the audience to three reasons for Graham’s effectiveness – authority, integrity, and humility.

“When you listened to Billy Graham, he spoke as one having authority – not in his own strength, but in the authority of Holy Scripture,” Johnson said. “And often you heard him say, ‘The Bible says.’ And God honors that.”

The evangelist’s authority came from the Gospel, as well as the Bible, he said.

“He knew that the cross was the key,” Johnson said. “The cross was the place where God was showing His love.

“Billy Graham knew this was the only hope for forgiveness, for acceptance by God, for heaven, a real kind of spiritual life of actually knowing God,” he said before inviting people to trust in Jesus.

Pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie also spoke of Graham’s Gospel focus. Laurie was honored at the gala as the recipient of NRB’s Billy Graham Award for Excellence in Christian Communications. In a pre-recorded video message, Laurie told attendees about a question he asked Graham several years ago during a visit at the evangelist’s home in Montreat, North Carolina.

“Billy, if an older you could speak to a younger you, and you could give yourself some advice from what you’ve learned after preaching the Gospel around the world, what would an older Billy Graham say to a younger Billy Graham?” Laurie recalled. “And without missing a beat, he looked at me with those steely-blue eyes and said, ‘I would preach more on the cross and the blood of Christ. That’s where the power is.’

“The greatest tribute we can pay to Billy Graham is to preach the same Gospel that he preached and to invite people to Christ.”

Laurie urged the broadcasters to share the Gospel in Graham’s honor as a regular part of their programming. “I’m challenging you, even if there’s no monetary value in it for you, to just say, ‘We’re going to dedicate some time every day on our station or in our program to tell people how to come to Jesus,’” he said.

Both men commended the evangelist’s integrity and humility.

“[T]he Billy that you would meet privately was the same as the Billy you would see publicly,” said Laurie, who knew the evangelist for more than 20 years and served on his evangelistic association’s board of directors. “There were not two Billy Grahams. He really was the kindest, most accessible man ever.”

Graham also “backed his preaching up with his life,” Laurie said. “He lived a life of integrity.”

Johnson also cited the evangelist’s principled life.

“He traveled a lot. There were a lot of opportunities when other people weren’t looking, I’m sure,” Johnson said. “But there is no hint of scandal in the ministry, the legacy [of Graham]. That is an example we need to think about. That is an example we need to take seriously tonight.”

Laurie said, “He always wanted to talk about you, not really about himself.”

Citing Graham’s example, Johnson told the Christian communicators to be effective they should “speak with authority, the authority of the Bible and the Gospel; speak with integrity; speak one on one with people in humility.”

Johnson’s first memory of “wanting to become a Christian” came as a boy when he watched Graham preach on television, he said. “And although I was not converted watching Billy Graham that night or at a Billy Graham crusade, that desire that was created that night was part of God drawing me. [It was the] first definite marker on the path to my conversion.”

The Billy Graham Award is presented for excellence, creativity and biblical fidelity in using multiple electronic technologies to advance the Gospel of Jesus. Laurie – senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California and teacher with Harvest Ministries – attended Graham’s funeral and was unable to be at the NRB awards gala. Author and literary agent Robert Wolgemuth accepted the award on behalf of Laurie, who thanked NRB in his video comments for the honor.

“In God’s providence, the NRB Executive Committee chose Greg Laurie to receive this year’s Billy Graham Award weeks ago, before it would be known that the honor would be bestowed on him on the very day of the great evangelist’s funeral,” Johnson said in a news release. “While the world mourns the loss of Dr. Graham, we see in the life of Greg Laurie another evangelist faithful to preach the Gospel to all the world who is an innovator in communicating God’s Word, following in Dr. Graham pacesetting communications footsteps.”

Songwriter/singer Fernando Ortega, who also attended the funeral, sang a song he wrote for Graham upon one of the evangelist’s recent birthdays. He told about singing the song – titled “Just as I Am” but different than the well-known hymn by the same name that often was used as an invitation hymn at Graham’s crusades – into the evangelist’s ear at Graham’s request.

A video honoring Graham’s life and ministry was shown during the gala. NRB also provided a book of tribute during the Convention in which hundreds of attendees wrote messages of appreciation for the evangelist and his ministry.

On February 27, Vice President Mike Pence honored Graham in his speech to NRB and recalled for the audience the 1999 crusade in Indianapolis at which two of his children walked forward to receive Christ.

“He was a man of towering faith,” Pence said, adding the debt owed Graham could be paid only by following his example.

Earlier that day, the NRB Board of Directors adopted six resolutions, including one honoring Billy Graham. In the resolution, the Board noted Graham’s long association with NRB and summarized his awards, including induction into the NRB Hall of Fame in 1981. “NRB honors the powerful life and legacy of Evangelist Billy Graham and praises God for Mr. Graham’s century in this world as a truly good and faithful servant to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” it concluded.

During a February 28 breakfast hosted by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), a 45-minute video titled “Billy Graham: An Extraordinary Journey” was shown publicly for the first time. The documentary will be telecast on all Fox network stations at 7 p.m. EST Sunday, March 4.

Jim Kirkland, executive director of audio media, told the audience, “We’re marking his home-going, but the BGEA will be coming on strong as the days move ahead. We’re going to be continuing what he has set for us, and that is follow God’s Word to point people to Him and to reach a lost and dying world and to share again the ultimate answer, that is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

On the first of two days Graham’s body was lying in honor at the U.S. Capitol rotunda, Kirkland said, “[T]he body is at the Capitol; Billy Graham is home; and God is still using Billy Graham.”

By Tom Strode


About NRB

The National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) is a nonpartisan, international association of Christian communicators whose member organizations represent millions of listeners, viewers, and readers. Our mission is to advance biblical truth, promote media excellence, and defend free speech. In addition to promoting standards of excellence, integrity, and accountability, NRB provides networking, educational, ministry, and fellowship opportunities for its members. Learn more at www.nrb.org.

About the NRB Convention

The annual NRB International Christian Media Convention is the largest nationally and internationally recognized event dedicated solely to assist those in the field of Christian communications. The dynamic Exposition consists of around 200 companies and is an active marketplace for those seeking tools and services to expand their organizations. The next Convention will be held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California, March 26-29, 2019. For more information, go to www.nrbconvention.org.

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