I go to Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. If you have not heard of it, it is an evangelical Christian liberal arts college with around 2,500 students in both undergrad and graduate school. There are some special things about Wheaton though; it is not your average evangelical Christian college. Jokingly, we call ourselves, “Wheaton: the Harvard of Christian schools”. Yes, we are conceited and sinful. Wheaton College is ranked nationally number 57 on US News’ best liberal arts colleges. Wheaton places great value on the quality of education we are receiving. Our professors push us to where we never thought we could go, and most Wheaton students excel beyond that push. Not only are Wheaton’s academics highly valued, there is a long legacy of amazing, famous people who have graduated from Wheaton. This list includes Jim Elliot and his missionary crew, Todd Beamer, John Nelson, and many more.
One particular alumni was Billy Graham. He has a huge, massive building named after him on campus, in some ways its a little obnoxious. You should come see it. Billy Graham was an evangelical preacher who led massive “crusades” leading people to Christ all over the world from 1947 to 2005 (although Billy Graham is apparently planning having one last crusade this November, just in case you were curious). This weekend, Wheaton College is holding a conference to remember Billy Graham’s ministry. Tonight, I had the blessing to sing at this conference, at a hymn sing, as a “crusade” choir member.
The hymn sing was structured like a crusade was (apparently, I really have no idea). As I was singing in the choir, several things struck me. First, about 95% of the audience was at least 70 years old. Second, I was singing hymns I have never heard before, and if I have, the last time I sang them was when I was probably 5 years old (Although we did sing ‘I Love You Lord’ and it made me miss my CVCA class of 2009).
This morning Leighton Ford spoke in chapel. Billy Graham had mentored Leighton for many years. He spoke about the importance of mentors, how to be a mentor, and to make sure we thank them. one significant thing hit me though. In chapel, behind me there was a student being especially obnoxious. When Chaplain Kellogg introduced who Leighton Ford was, the student behind me asked “Who is Billy Graham?” He honestly had no idea. I was slightly appalled at the fact that he didn’t know but a thought in me lingered: his question was a legitimate question.
Tonight at the hymn sing, I realized I was right. The student’s comment about Billy Graham was a real question. Billy Graham is dying on his death bed right now. Not in the public eye, and far from society (at least in comparison to how he was during his ministry). I realized tonight, I was singing songs I had no idea the tune of. The way the leaders spoke tonight was weird. They introduced every song, and the pianist would play while the worship leader spoke. That doesn’t fly in contemporary churches today. And that’s ok. The world Billy Graham preached in was not our world. His ministry may still be alive right now and working and doing great things, but his name will fade. His name will soon be unknown completely.
Billy Graham’s ministry was incredible. Everyone in the world knew who he was, his name spread through the nations. At least this is the sense that I get when I hear about him. But what is Billy Graham doing now? He is turning 95 this year and he is slowly making his way to heaven. I’m not saying Billy Graham’s Crusades were good or bad, but what will be left of his life ministry? It will be nothing in 10 years. The Christians Billy Graham led to Christ will soon be dead, and his name will become unknown.
This interested me because it reminded me what we live for. Billy Graham devoted his life to Christ. He began a ministry that led many people to Christ. He preached the gospel radically to those who have never heard it and probably never wanted to hear it until they heard Billy Graham speak. He was an incredible man. But in comparison to everyone else, he’s going to die and so will his name. Yes, it is etched into the Billy Graham Center and all over the Billy Graham Evangelical society, but will they remember Billy Graham? The generation that grew up watching Billy Graham on TV will soon be dead.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I pray that God would use me like he used Billy Graham. I’m ok if he doesn’t use me as radically and famously as him, but I pray that when I die, God will be remembered, not me. My name, Emy Sukenaga, will soon be gone from the world. No one will remember me, but I pray that people will know Christ because of me. I pray my legacy on this earth is that I loved Christ with all my heart, and I loved his people because of His love for me. Our life is but a breath. But I pray God uses that breath to bring people to remember him and the legacy he left the world.