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Billy Graham's Literary Legacy

The life and legacy of Billy Graham is front and center as national and Christian media report the passing of the world-famous evangelist at the age of 99. Over the span of his 70 plus years of ministry, Graham always characterized himself first and foremost as an evangelist. As he wrote in the preface to his 1997 memoir, Just As I Am, “an evangelist is one sent by God to announce the Gospel, the Good News.”

Billy Graham will remembered most for announcing the Good News of the Gospel through his crusades. Over a span of nearly six decades, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association conducted more than 400 crusades in 185 countries and territories on six continents. It is estimated that Graham preached in person to over 200 million people.

As important as the crusades were to the life and ministry of Mr. Graham, there’s another dimension to his legacy that will continue to carry on his life’s work, and that’s his writing. Graham was a prolific author with 34 books to his credit, many of them best sellers.

In 1975 Graham’s book, Angels: God’s Secret Agents sold 1 million copies in just 90 days. Two years later his book, How to Be Born Again, had a first printing of 800,000 copies, the largest first printing in publishing history at the time.

In 1990 Graham was awarded ECPA’s Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement Award for his significant achievements in writing and publishing. Graham’s book, Nearing Home: Life, Faith and Finishing Well, was named the Christian Book of the Year by ECPA in 2012.

Graham wrote his first book, Calling Youth to Christ, in 1947, and his last book, Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, and our Life Beyond, was published in 2015. That means the evangelist averaged a book every two years over a 68-year span. Pretty impressive by any measure.

When you think about it, Graham’s writing was merely an extension of his preaching. The two were intertwined, so much so that you could say he couldn’t do one without the other. I once visited the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Illinois, where Graham was a student. In the Center there is an exhibit that explains the way Graham prepared for a sermon. He was meticulous in his study and developed extensive sermon notes, a technique he no doubt applied to his book writing.

In fact, when you read one of Billy Graham’s books, you will notice an approachable, conversational style that relates to the reader the way all skilled writers do. Yet there is substance that challenges the reader and gives them something to think about, something that will potentially change their life.

And therein lies the most distinct characteristic of a sermon preached or a book written by someone like Billy Graham, an evangelist who knows there is more at stake than great oration or good writing. There’s a message that centers on the themes of life that really matter, because they matter for eternity.

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Stan's entire life has been wrapped in content: selling, writing and publishing books and resources that help ordinary people capture a glimpse of extraordinary things.