Billy Graham and Your Local Church: A Thought Experiment

Imagine that a pulpit committee at your church is interviewing a potential pastor.  They ask him the following question: 

“Do you think that pagan people who have never heard the gospel will go to Heaven when they die?” 

He responds as follows: 

“I used to believe that pagans in far countries were lost if they did not have the gospel of Christ preached to them.. I no longer believe that.” 

Would your church hire that man as its pastor?  If your answer is “no” then your church wouldn’t have hired Billy Graham to be its pastor. 

Imagine that the pastor of your local church is being interviewed on a television program?  The host asks him the following question: 

Tell me, what do you think is the future of Christianity?

He responds as follows: 

“Well, Christianity and being a true believer — you know, I think there’s the Body of Christ. This comes from all the Christian groups around the world, outside the Christian groups. I think everybody that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the Body of Christ … I think James answered that, the Apostle James in the first council in Jerusalem, when he said that God’s purpose for this age is to call out a people for His name. And that’s what God is doing today, He’s calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ, because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think they are saved, and that they’re going to be with us in heaven.”  

Would your church fire its pastor if he answered like that?  If your answer is “yes” then your church would have fired Billy Graham as its pastor. 

Your answers to those two questions say a lot about your church and a lot about Billy Graham.  My answers to those questions tell me that the dearly beloved evangelist who was often called “America’s pastor” wasn’t fit to be the pastor of my local Baptist church.  The fact of the matter is that countries don’t have pastors, churches do.  Chances are that you’ve never been to or heard of the little Bartow County church of which I am a member.  The chances are that I’ve never been to or heard of your church…but your church has a pastor and so does mine.  My pastor’s name is Joe. He believes the gospel and he proclaims it every Sunday (and through the rest of the week, too).  Not only does he proclaim the gospel but he is in care of souls who have accepted it.  So is your pastor. 

With all the talk surrounding the death of Billy Graham, I had to ask myself the question, “If Joe said what Billy said, would he still be qualified to be the pastor of Rowland Springs Baptist Church?” The answer to that question is, “no”.  Quite frankly, if Joe said that, I’d call for our church body to fire him.  You should ask yourself the same question and insert the name of your own pastor and your own church. 

American doesn’t have a pastor and it never has…but your local church does and his theology matters.  Be careful not to lionize any celebrity reverend, even Billy Graham, whose understanding of knowledge of Christ is so errant that he wouldn’t be fit to lead even the smallest New Testament Church.  American doesn’t need a pastor, but your church does.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use. 


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Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Member of the Evangelical Theological Society Certified Public Accountant

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