The following message was written by J Lee Grady. It is worth noting. Judge it yourself: While listening to an old Billy Graham sermon, I was challenged to be a faithful herald of the pure gospel. A few weeks ago I watched a vintage Billy Graham sermon from the 1950s that aired on television. I said to a friend who was with me that I rarely hear the gospel articulated today as clearly as we did through this amazing evangelist. A few days later, for my birthday, my buddy sent me three recorded Graham sermons that are now available on DVD. Last weekend I watched one of the messages, from Graham’s 1971 crusade at McCormick Place in Chicago. The shag haircuts, huge afros and bright polyester fabrics in the audience looked odd, and the music performed before the sermon was almost prehistoric (Norma Zimmer from The Lawrence Welk Show!). The cultural references included a mention of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar and a remark about Ocean’s 1970 hippie ballad, “Put Your Hand in the Hand.” But when Graham held his big Bible in the air and preached about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ in that packed arena (still the largest exhibition hall in the country), nothing seemed outdated. The sermon might as well have been recorded yesterday. His message, in fact, seemed more relevant than a lot of the Christian books, videos, blogs and PowerPoint-enhanced teachings we circulate in 2008.
“My heart cries out for the American church to stop muddling, muffling, cheapening, distorting and merchandising the pure gospel.”
Listening to Graham stirs something deep inside me: a passion to preach, and to be a herald of truth to my generation. My heart cries out for the American church to stop muddling, muffling, cheapening, distorting and merchandising the pure gospel. How we need to return to the simplicity of evangelism that cuts to the heart, produces repentance and reveals the Son of God. For several months I’ve been asking the Lord to make me his trumpet. In my quest He’s shown me some of the qualities that shaped biblical prophets into His mouthpieces. I pray all of us will adopt these same characteristics. 1. A prophet is bold. True prophets have steel backbones and foreheads of flint. They do not cower when the majority disagrees with them. Like the apostle Paul, they are compelled to preach because a holy restlessness churns inside them. They are possessed by God, and they must release the fire inside. Will you pray for this boldness and say with Isaiah, “Here am I, send me” (Is. 6:8, NASB)—even when you know you will be opposed? 2. A prophet stays biblical. So much of what is passed off as prophecy today resembles what you might find in a daily horoscope. The so-called “prophetic movement” in the contemporary church has been tainted by silly fads and charismatic witchcraft. One prophetic e-mail list sent out a word recently saying that dormant angels were being awakened out of the walls of our churches. (That’s not remotely scriptural.) Another predicted that God would begin to speak to people through the names of candy bars and blue jeans. So much of our prophetic verbiage sounds like warm and fuzzy fortunetelling. This type of “imitation prophecy” can titillate and thrill those with itching ears, but it is pablum designed for babies who don’t want to grow up. What we need is a word we can sink our teeth into—true meat that is the Word of God. 3. A prophet does not compromise. Nathan was willing to confront King David’s sin, even though the prophet was on the palace payroll. Yet today, we practice the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” rule. We prophesy what people want to hear so we can get an honorarium and an invitation to return. This has caused some whole groups of prophets to collectively follow each other into a ditch. Beware of the herd mentality! Don’t just swallow and follow! You cannot go along with something just because everyone else is doing it or preaching it. Stay close to the Lord, develop keen discernment and listen to the nagging voice of your conscience. 4. A prophet is compassionate. Some prophets today refuse to confront because they are too nice. Others speak rashly “like the thrusts of a sword” (see Prov. 12:18) and their words are delivered with a bitter, vindictive spirit. Neither of these prophets will receive his reward. We must speak the truth, and we must do it in love. Most people think Jeremiah was angry and judgmental, but actually he wept when he confronted Israel’s sins. It is not enough to prophesy the Lord’s word—we should aim to speak with His tone of voice. We must be willing to intercede for and identify with those we confront. 5. A prophet stays pure. When Moses made the tabernacle, God told him to make silver trumpets that were “hammered work” (Num. 10:2). If we want to speak for Him, we must be willing to endure the smelting process. (In other words, prepare to be hammered!) Before Isaiah could be an effective prophet to his nation, his lips had to touch burning coals from God’s altar (see Is. 6:6-8). We must be willing to visit the uncomfortable furnace of sanctification. God is not so much interested in the booming voice, the rousing delivery, the charisma or the technological savvy that we expect today from celebrity preachers. What matters most is pure content, and that can only flow through a pure vessel. 6. A prophet faithfully embraces the call. Jonah tried to flee as far as possible from Nineveh, but the God of the second chance used a strange vessel to get the prophet back on course. It involved a visit to a fish’s stomach, where Jonah spent three days in darkness, stewing in digestive juices. When the fish vomited him on land, he was better prepared to speak heaven’s words.
Like Jonah, the American church has been running from our evangelistic mission. We charismatics get excited about prophecy, angels, healing, visions, dreams, gold dust and prosperity, but when it comes to winning souls we’re not interested. Like Jonah, we’ve boarded a ship for Tarshish—and we’ve put unbelievers in peril by our disobedience. Now is the time for us to reclaim our role as trumpets for the Lord. May we take up the mantle of Billy Graham and speak to our generation with boldness, biblical integrity, character, compassion, purity and faithfulness