2/28/17 – Pastor Brian’s Blog
Much has been written about Billy Graham in the past week since his passing and rightfully so. Without a doubt, at least in my life time, there has not been a more influential individual, an individual that has reached more people for Christ, than Billy Graham. I also believe that the case could be made that his influence in the White House over these many years has held back some of the evil that is in Washington.
But today I want to share with you something that many do not know about Billy Graham and some of his contemporaries. Consequences come, not only because of things we do, but also because of things we don’t do. Billy Graham chose to walk with God, and for that reason, today we remember him. May each of us choose well, so that like Billy, we will leave a Godly legacy for others to follow.
The following is an edited excerpt from Steve Farrar’s book “Finishing Strong:”
You’ve heard of Billy Graham, but what about Chuck Templeton or Bron Clifford? Have you ever heard of them?
Billy Graham wasn’t the only young preacher packing auditoriums in 1945. Chuck Templeton and Bron Clifford were accomplishing the same thing – and more. All three young men were in their mid-twenties. One seminary president after hearing Chuck Templeton preach one evening to an audience of thousands called him “the most gifted and talented young man in America today for preaching.”
Templeton and Graham were friends. Both ministered for Youth for Christ. Both were extraordinary preachers. Yet in those early years, most observers would probably have put their money on Templeton. As a matter of fact, in 1946, the National Association of Evangelicals published an article on men who were “best used of God” in that organization’s five-year existence. The article highlighted the ministry of Chuck Templeton. Billy Graham was never mentioned. Templeton, many felt, would be the next Babe Ruth of evangelism.
Bron Clifford was yet another gifted, twenty-five-year-old fireball. In 1945, many believed Clifford the most gifted and powerful preacher the church had seen in centuries. In that same year, Clifford preached to an auditorium of thousands in Miami, Florida. People lined up ten and twelve deep outside the auditorium trying to get in . . .
Graham, Templeton, and Clifford.
In 1945, all three came shooting out of the starting blocks like rockets. You’ve heard of Billy Graham. So how come you’ve never heard of Chuck Templeton or Bron Clifford, especially when they came out of the chutes so strong in ‘45.
Just five years later, Templeton left the ministry to purse a career as a radio and television commentator and newspaper columnist. Templeton had decided he was no longer a believer in Christ in the orthodox sense of the term. By 1950, this future Babe Ruth wasn’t even in the game and no longer believed in the validity of the claims of Jesus Christ.
What about Clifford? By 1954, Clifford had lost his family, his ministry, his health, and then . . . his life. Alcohol and financial irresponsibility had done him in. He wound up leaving his wife and their two Down’s syndrome children. At just thirty-five years of age, this once great preacher died from cirrhosis of the liver in a run-down motel on the edge of Amarillo. His last job was selling use cars in the panhandle of Texas. He died, as John Haggai put it, “unwept, unhonored, and unsung.” Some pastors in Amarillo took up a collection among themselves in order to purchase a casket so that his body could be shipped back East for decent burial in a cemetery for the poor.
In 1945, three men with extraordinary gifts were preaching the gospel to multiplied thousands across this nation. Within ten years, only one of them was still on track for Christ.
In the Christian life, it’s not how you start that matters. It’s how you finish.
John Bisagno has been pastoring First Baptist of Houston for a number of years. When John was just about to finish college, he was having dinner over at his fiancée’s house one night. After supper, he was talking with his future father-in-law, Dr. Paul Beck, out on the porch. Dr. Beck had been in ministry for years and that was inevitably the subject toward which the conversation turned.
“John, as you get ready to enter the ministry, I want to give you some advice,” Dr. Beck told the younger man. “Stay true to Jesus! Make sure that you keep your heart close to Jesus every day. It’s a long way from here to where you’re going to go and Satan’s in no hurry to get you.”
The older man continued. “It has been my observation that just one out of ten who start out in full time service for the Lord at twenty-one are still on track by the age of sixty-five. They’re shot down morally, they’re shot down with discouragement, they’re shot down with liberal theology, they get obsessed with making money . . . but for one reason or another nine out of ten fall out.”
The twenty-year-old Bisagno was shocked. “I just can’t believe that!” he said. “That’s impossible! That just can’t be true.”
Bisagno told how he went home, took one of those blank pages in the back of his Scofield Reference Bible and wrote down the names of twenty-four young men who were his peers and contemporaries. These were young men in their twenties who were sold out for Jesus Christ. They were trained for ministry and burning in their desire to be used by the Lord. These were the committed young preachers who would make an impact for the Lord in their generation.
Bisagno relates the following with a sigh: “I am now fifty-three years old. From time to time as the years have gone by, I’ve had to turn back to that page in my Bible and cross out a name. I wrote down those twenty-four names when I was just twenty years of age. Thirty-three years later, there are only three names remaining of the original twenty-four.”
To my blog friends, you and I can be the minority: we can end our life well, we can leave a Godly legacy for others to follow. I have used a picture this week that highlights 3 men that not only started well but finished well too. Men that chose well and left a Godly legacy that has out-lasted their earthly life. You have on the left, Dawson Trotman the founder of The Navigators, Billy Graham in the middle, and Jack Wyrzten the founder of Word of Life Fellowship on the right.
Three men that finished well because they chose well, they chose to follow after God. In the Christian life, it’s not how you start that matters, it’s how you finish. Choose well my friends, because people are following!