If Billy Graham were your pastor
Imagine that Billy Graham were you pastor. Imagine he was 30 years old. How do you think he would go at it? I think we would all agree he'd do a great job. How do you think he would approach being pastor? (Hint: keep reading and he tells us.)
He would preach great sermons
For starters, we all know he'd preach great sermons. Probably lots of evangelistic sermons, although, if he were a pastor, he'd probably preach a lot of other sermons as well. His sermons would be great for at least three reasons:
Billy Graham has God-given talent and a clear anointing that only comes from God. There are some things only God can do. Only God can give us talent and spiritual gifts. Only God can give anointing--what the the old preachers called unction. We might say, some preachers just got it. Few people throughout church history have demonstrated any more God-anointed giftedness than Billy Graham
I think Billy Graham would work hard at each sermon. There is something curious that happens when someone is really good at something--they make it look easy. They might make it look so easy you think they are not working hard at it. This is rarely the case. People who are really good at almost anything have both God-given talent and they work at it really hard. But, they have one other thing.
I think Billy Graham would hard at improving his preaching. I think he would understand the pivotal role that quality preaching plays in the overall health of the church. I think he would take responsibility for constantly improving his preaching. I think he would listen to CDs and podcasts on preaching, read books on preaching, and attend seminars on preaching. He would likely do what my friend Sam Shaw used to do when he was my pastor--he would ask me ever week to communicate with him in writing as to how that sermon could have been better. Often, the sermons were so good I could not see any way to improve them. But, he would nearly always ask. Sam had a relentless hunger to get better at preaching. The best of the best always do. They are not good just because God blessed. They are good because God bless AND they worked hard at it.
Good preaching makes a HUGE difference. I was recently honored to serve at New Vision Baptist in Murfreesboro, TN. Worship attendance has doubled twice in the last five years. Why? Great preaching. There may be some other reasons, but that is nearly always part of the mix.
We don't hear about this at church growth conferences as much as we should. Why? Well, when Rick Warren or Billy Hybels tell you how to grow a church, it comes off as being something less than humble if they tell the truth: "Preach as well as I preach and you will grow a church as I have grown it." We can't all preach as well as Billy Graham, we can all work at it.
Billy Graham would experiment with all kinds of innovative ways to spread the gospel
Because we see Billy Graham in the sunset years of his life, and because he is such an icon, we often miss seeing what an innovator he was.
Billy Graham was an innovator. He tried all kinds of things from radio and TV to satellite to using contemporary music bands in his crusades to making movies. Billy Graham epitomizes innovation.
Paul talked about this:
19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things toall men so that by all possible means I might save some. 1 Cor 9:19-22 (NIV)
In an often overlooked command, Jesus admonished us to be shrewd: "Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." Matt 10:16 (NIV) Shrewd--not just spiritual--shrewd. One dictionary has it, "denotes practical skill or acumen." The church growth movement was criticized for its ruthless pragmatism. Pragmatism does not sound all that spiritual, but there is a place for it.
Nehemiah struck a balance in one of my favorite verses in the Old Testament. "But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat." Neh 4:9 (NIV) Notice the word AND. We tend to go one way or the other. We are either so practically minded we build a church that could run without God, or, we are so heavenly minded we are no earthly good. Nehemiah found the balance: he prayed to his God and posted a guard.
Billy Graham tried all kinds of innovative things as an evangelist, and I think he would have done the same thing if he were your pastor. But, what else would he do? Fortunately, we don't have to guess. Bill Graham tells us.
Bill Graham would get a small group
I have just re-read one of the most influential books of my formative years in ministry: Robert Coleman's The Master Plan of Evangelism.First published in 1963, this short book has sold 3 million copies and is still selling well enough to stay on the shelf of your average Lifeway store. It is a classic. Billy Graham said of it, "Few books have had as great an impact on the cause of world evangelization in our generation as Robert Coleman's The Master Plan of Evangelism."If you have not read it, run, don't walk, to get a copy. If you have read it, you probably said to yourself when you finished (as I did), "I need to re-read this book every few years." Maybe now would be a good time.
In this classic book, Robert Coleman argues that Jesus' plan to reach the masses was to concentrate on the few. Jesus gave a disproportionate of time to his small group--His disciples. Jesus' primary ministry was that of small group leader. If you think small groups are not important, look to the example of Jesus and reconsider. As time went along, He seemed to spend more and more time with the inner circle. Billy Graham says he would follow Jesus' example.
"It is not without great significance that the leading evangelist in the world today, Dr. Billy Graham recognized the tremendous potential of this plan when used properly in the church. In response to the question, 'If you were the pastor of a large church in a principle city, what would be your plan of action? Mr. Graham replied, "I think one of the first things I would do would be to get a small group of eight or ten or twelve people around me that would meet a few hours a week and pay the price! It would cost them something in time and effort. I would share with them everything I have, over a period of years. Then, I would actually have twelve ministers among the lay people who could in turn take eight or ten or twelve people and teach them. I know one or two churches that are doing this and it is revolutionizing the church. Christ, I think, set the pattern. He spent most of his time with twelve men. He didn't spend it with a great crowd. In fact, every time he had a great crowd it seems to me there weren't many results. The great results, it seems to me, came in this personal interview and in the time he spent with the twelve."
If you are a pastor, you might consider the advice of Billy Graham.
If I were a pastor, I'd add one more tweak to this plan. I'd pick people who were already the organizational leaders of the church--I'd pick Sunday School teachers. I'd teach the teachers and let them teach the masses. I'd study books like John Maxwell's 25 Ways to Win With People and The Master's Plan of Evangelism. http://www.joshhunt.com/25waysIndex.htm
I am considering doing a group study of this classic book as soon as I am finished with the John Maxwell study. I'd like to hear from you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know if that would serve you. (Don't rely to is email; those nearly always go to my spam filter; go figure.)