“I was born Billy Graham’s grandson; I will die one day as Billy Graham’s grandson.”
Those are the words of Will Graham, the son of the Rev. Franklin Graham, president of the Christian humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse and the nonprofit Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
While his words may sound trite, Will Graham recently explained to CBN’s Faithwire that is not at all his intention. He noted he simply hasn’t known anything different; being Billy Graham’s grandson is just normal life, a reality that — although extraordinary to many — is just familiar to him.
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“I know it’s not normal for everyone else,” he laughed. “Not everyone has a famous grandfather or a father. But for me, it was all normal. We grew up very normal.”
Will Graham, 47, reminisced about his childhood on a farm in western North Carolina, where he grew up alongside his neighbors’ cows and horses and dogs and cats and even a potbelly pig. To a kid, it was the wandering motley crew of animals — rather than his very famous grandfather — that made life unique.
In fact, it wasn’t until the younger Graham left North Carolina for Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, that he realized just how famous his family was to most of America — especially Christian America.
“I’d been to his crusades; I knew he was one of the most famous people in America,” Will Graham said of his grandad. “But something hit me at Liberty. … I remember a guy knocked on my dorm room. I opened it up and said, ‘Hello,’ and he just looked at me and he was looking behind me. And it started getting to me, like, ‘Alright, dude. What’s going on here?’ And I said, ‘Can I help you?’ And he said, ‘I’m looking for Billy Graham’s grandson.’ … ‘Well, I’m him. What do you want?’ He was like, ‘I’m just looking at your room. I wanna see what Billy Graham’s grandson’s room looks like.'”
That funny exchange gave Will Graham an insight into just how unique his normal life truly was.
“That’s where it started to have an impact, when I saw how big, how influential by grandfather was,” he recalled. “When you’re reading textbooks, and he’s in them — that’s kind of weird. But I’m very grateful for my grandaddy. He left such a great legacy behind.”
Evangelist’s Grandson Finds Faith
Will Graham grew up attending church and studying Scripture. He was just weeks away from his sixth birthday, the now-evangelist said, when he gave his life to Jesus after a communion service at the Christian and Missionary Alliance church he and his family attended in Boone, North Carolina.
It was Jan. 11, 1981, when he “graduated” from children’s church and started sitting with his parents, Franklin and Jane Austin Graham. During the service, the congregation took communion — but Will Graham’s father told him he couldn’t participate, because he wasn’t yet a believer. That afternoon, after church, Franklin Graham pulled his son aside and explained why he hadn’t been allowed to take communion that morning, and it was then that Will Graham gave his life to Jesus Christ, realizing his own sin and need for a savior.
Looking back, Will Graham credits Liberty with playing a significant role in shaping the faith journey he started in 1981. He said it was during his years in college that he “fell in love with God’s Word.”
Following in his grandfather’s footsteps to become an evangelist, though, wasn’t something Will Graham anticipated. He knew he wanted to serve in ministry in some capacity, put pastoring and preaching just didn’t seem like the right fit — that was until he became the pastor of a church in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Then, one day in 2006, while he was cutting the grass — a task he said he “hates” to do — Will Graham recalled the Lord clearly communicating to him, “Will, what you’ve now learned at the church, you’ve now finished. It’s time to go help your dad.”
“I had another 10 feet to cut and that was it,” he said. “It stayed like that for days, because I just literally let go [of the lawnmower], went inside, and just started weeping, because I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit talking to me and I was so overwhelmed … not because I was angry or sad; it was just the presence of the Spirit had really affected me.”
In the time leading up to God revealing His calling on his life, Will Graham said he poured his time into preparing for ministry — uncertain of what it would one day look like — by going to a Christian university and then studying the Bible in seminary.
Will Graham now serves as vice president of the BGEA and the executive director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina.
Evangelizing to a Hostile World
Sharing the Gospel with the secular world has never been an easy task, but it seems it’s becoming more difficult in a culture increasingly hostile toward the Christian faith.
In recent years, Franklin Graham has faced this head-on, when the BGEA ran ads for an event in Blackpool, England. As CBN News reported, in 2018, the Blackpool Borough Council and Blackpool Transport Services Limited removed bus wrap advertisements promoting the Lanchashire Festival of Hope due to the faith-based rally’s association with Franklin Graham, who some residents accused of being “homophobic” due to his support for a biblical expression of marriage and sexuality.
Manchester County Court Judge Claire Evans ruled last spring that the city discriminated against the BGEA and Franklin Graham and ordered Blackpool to pay a settlement in the case.
Will Graham argued that, in moments like that, there’s “only one way forward, and that’s to preach the Bible.”
“That’s plain and simple,” he continued. “My job as a minister of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is to preach the Bible. It’s not to be popular, it’s not to be liked. I’ve gotta preach what the Bible says, and that’s what I love about my dad.”
“My dad doesn’t go up there and voice his views,” Will Graham said. “He gives us the Bible’s views. … He was doing an interview not too long ago and they said, ‘You know, how come you say this?’ [He said,] ‘No, wait a minute. That’s what the Bible says — that’s not Franklin Graham’s words; that’s what the Bible says.'”
In all things, Will Graham asserted, Scripture is “the authority.”
There is no doubt people will be offended by the message of the Bible. Many, though, will find salvation through the preaching of Scripture, he explained, “and that’s the key.”
“We preach for those few, that one,” Will Graham said. “The 99, maybe not. But there’s going to be one that’s going to come to Christ, and that’s one of the greatest joys in life, when you see just a few people come to know Christ and it’s in a hostile environment. They’re taking a stand for Christ because they realize, ‘This is it. This is what’s different than everything else in the world.'”
“It’s a privilege to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ,” he added. “When we’re laughed at [and] mocked, that doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t bother my dad one bit — he kind of likes it, because he knows he’s preaching God’s truth. And if we can be laughed at because we’re a Christian, I’m glad they identify me as a Christian enough to laugh at. I don’t want to shrink back. Life’s short, too many people need to know Christ, and I’m going to keep going forward.”
Watch Our Full Conversation with Will Graham
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