Last Wednesday, when my parents were visiting, we went to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte. The Billy Graham Library is rated the #1 thing to do in Charlotte by reviewers on yelp, so we decided to try it. Normally I would be hesitant about going to a “shrine” dedicated to an “evangelist” (Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker come to mind). But I have always admired Billy Graham: he has preached a consistent message of salvation all his life and didn’t seek to profit by it or set himself up as the savior. He has always pointed the way to Jesus.
The Billy Graham Library is on the Billy Graham expressway across from the Charlotte airport. It was opened in 2007, around the time that Ruth Graham (Billy always called her the greatest Christian he ever knew) died. The first building on the grounds is the Graham family farmhouse. Billy grew up on a dairy farm outside Charlotte. The farmhouse has been moved and the ground floor restored so that it looks similar to the way it did when his mother was living there, after her husband had died and the kids were all grown. We saw a lot of pictures of the family and the volunteers told us a little history of the family and answered the questions we had.
Then we walked on to the Billy Graham Library. It is set up to look like a barn, and they carry this detail into the restrooms which had dairy barn sinks and barn door stalls. A talking cow greeted us and told us to mooooooove along. You move from room to room through the library and learn the history of the Billy Graham Crusades and their effect on the world more than you learn the history of Billy Graham the person.
Billy Graham always used cutting edge technology to present his message. He had a radio show in the 40’s, and appeared frequently on television. Although he held a pastorate for a short time, he found his calling in 1949 when he preached at a revival in Los Angeles that was supposed to last three weeks and went on for eight. Shortly after that, he put together a Crusade team and formed the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. His purpose was to take the gospel of Jesus Christ and present it to anyone who would listen. His message has been heard by more than two billion people and over 1.2 million people came forward to accept Christ at his crusades.
Billy married Ruth, a fellow student at Wheaton College, in 1943. They had five children and Ruth did most of the raising of the children at their home in western North Carolina. Billy was gone for months at a time. One of the delights in his life was when the children were grown and Ruth could accompany him on his journeys.
Over the years Billy Graham prayed with presidents, preached in communist countries, and was active in the Civil Rights movement. He invited Martin Luther King Jr. to preach with him in 1957. He insisted his crusades would be integrated or he would not preach. Although evangelical, Billy Graham is a moderate conservative who supports equal rights for all people. Although his crusades continue today, his son Franklin and grandson Will are running the organization and relying on a team of evangelists to preach. They have also expanded the ministry into disaster relief through Samaritan’s Purse.
The Billy Graham Library has many video displays of Billy Graham preaching and being interviewed. I was especially impressed by his interviews on talk shows through the years: how he answered any question calmly, with humor, and by pointing to Jesus. There was a quote on the wall in one room that I really like:
“The secret is not me. So many people think that somehow I carry a revival around in a suitcase, and they just announce me and something happens – but that’s not true. this is the work of God, and the Bible warns that God will not share his glory with another. all the publicity that we receive sometimes frightens me because I feel that therein lies a great danger. If God should take His hand off me, I would have no more spiritual power. The whole secret of the success of our meetings is spiritual – it’s God answering prayer. I cannot take credit for any of it.” Billy Graham
Billy and Ruth Graham have written over 30 books and most of them were on sale in the bookstore located in the Billy Graham Library. There was also a sandwich shop called The Dairy Barn where we ate lunch.
I was really impressed by the number and professionalism of the volunteers. There are over 2,000 volunteers who work at the Billy Graham Library. On the one day we were there, we saw about 50. Everything is very well organized to move lots of people through the Library.
After enjoying the Library and eating lunch, we walked around the lovely prayer garden outside. Ruth Graham is buried here, and her tombstone is inscribed with the Chinese symbol for “righteousness” (her parents were missionaries in China) and with these words which Ruth picked out after seeing them along the road, “End of Construction. Thank you for your patience.”