Ron Keener

SUCH A TIME AS THIS: Many labor daily with Billy to save souls.

In commuting the 30 miles to and from the office I probably pass 30 congregations, each of them laboring in the vineyards in their individual ways. Most of them are small, landlocked churches and likely neither purpose-driven nor prevailing.

But each has a pastor shepherding the flock and carrying the Word to their neighborhoods in differing degrees of success and effectiveness.

I read a book dedication recently that reminded me of those who have invested their lives for their Lord and the church, those who were never “celebrity” pastors and whose churches never got to mega size. “This book is dedicated,” this author writes …

“ … to my uncle, Rev. Homer L. Young, who pastored churches in Oklahoma for nearly 60 years, and to all of the other people who have served the Lord faithfully all of their lives with very little notice from much of the world around them. Uncle Homer loved the Lord and yearned to reach souls for the kingdom of God.

“Homer answered the call as a young man and then reached out to his brother, Waldo, my father, who also answered the call. He [Homer] shepherded churches and sang gospel music for the rest of his life. As one of the hardest working men I have known, he was up before dawn every morning to spend time in the Word and with his Lord. After breakfast with his family, he went out to reach others for Jesus.

“He passed away a few months ago, less than 30 days after he had last gone door-to-door, witnessing to people and inviting them to the small church where he was preaching. He was singing gospel music with his two brothers less than a week before he died. He entered heaven, was greeted by the Lord, and was immediately engulfed by the many people he had led to the Lord.”

Homer and his brother Waldo — who at 75 is still pastoring a church — ministered at churches all over the country for 50 years. The dedication was written by Richard Young, Homer’s nephew, who wrote it for his new book The Journey of T.D. Jakes (Whitaker House, 2008).

The words came to mind when I saw a preview of the new film on Billy Graham, “Billy: The Early Years,” released in October in advance of Graham’s 90th birthday on November 7.

Yes, Billy might be called a “celebrity” pastor but I personally see him as a man without pretense who brought the Gospel to thousands of people in hundreds of countries. To me Graham is still the “humble preacher” who had the single purpose of saving souls — and he did so with honesty, integrity and genuine compassion. There is — or will be — no one like him.

We should celebrate the man while he is yet among us. The movie does that, capturing, says one report, “the essence of Graham’s journey from a young man at the crossroads of faith and doubt to ultimately facing the moment of decision that gave way to one of history’s most influential evangelists.”

There is the story about Lester Sumrall, a world-renowned pastor and evangelist himself, who came to a city to preach at a church and discovered that Billy Graham was in town. He had never met Graham and sought out Graham’s staff to see if he and Billy might have a few minutes together. The meeting was arranged and when Graham knocked on Sumrall’s hotel room door, Graham had come alone.

Sumrall began to introduce himself, but Billy responded, “Oh, I know who you are, Lester. You are on my prayer list. I pray for you every day.” Then Billy began to ask about specific meetings, especially overseas. It became obvious that he did indeed follow the ministry of Lester Sumrall.

Sumrall was in shock. He had expected to ask all the questions, but instead his advice was being sought. Soon having to leave, Graham asked if they could pray together. They clasped hands, prayed, and Dr. Graham left. It was a moment that Lester Sumrall never forgot.

The essence of Billy that day: I must decrease so that He must increase.

There is Scripture that says: “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (NKJV) (Esther 4:14). There are unique personalities, brought to us when we need them, prepared for their task by God and their character. Homer Young, Billy Graham and thousands like them abound in the faith and carry on the cause of Christ day in and day out. How thankful we are for them.

Invitation: Billy Graham and the Lives God Touched by Basyle (Boz) and Aram Tchividjian, Billy Graham’s grandsons (Doubleday Religious Publishing Group, 2008). For additional information go to the Web site for “a people’s tribute” to the life of evangelist Billy Graham.


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