#22: Evangelism / Unbroken (with Will Graham)
Whoa. Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the pud cast with me Jonathan puddle. This is episode twenty two I had an interview with will Graham, the grandson of Billy Graham, we talked about evangelism. Jesus discipleship as well. As the new film unbroken path to redemption, the Louise emperor story, which some of you would have seen in the earlier film unbroken directed and produced by Angelina Jolie. So we talked to about a whole bunch of things, and I was really grateful to connect with well and have a short, but interesting conversation here goes. Okay. Welcome back to the podcast. My guest today is will Graham he is an evangelist. He's the executive director of the Billy Graham training center. And he happens to be the grandson of Billy Graham. Thank you for being on the show. Mr. will know think Jonathan great to be with you. So I mean, I feel like the first question has got to be a what's it like growing up in the Graham family, your grandfather's one of the most beloved evangelists ever? Your your father is a well known figure, Franklin Graham, you've got pastas mega church pastors for cousins in what's it? What's it like being you? Well, it's you know, here's the thing. I know it sounds type of cliche, but you know, the truth is I've never known life different. So to me, this is all normal. You know, I don't know anything. I've always I've always have been always will be Billy Graham's grandson. So this is to me this is kind of normal. I grew up a very normal life. I went to public school. I wrote in the mountains of western North Carolina. No one cared about who your grandfather was they're more interested in could you score? Go goals in the soccer game. You know, or what baseball cards you had or, you know, they they were more worried about what you could do for them, as you know, as a friend. And so I grew up very normal group Ryan, motorcycles and playing on a farm loved it. And so I had a very much normal upbringing. And it was just that my granddaddy was famous I was related to someone famous. And but I'm I'll tell you one thing there's so many people that love my gra-. Father here in America or even in Canada. My grandfather, you know is well loved their in Canada. We even have a Canadian office used to be in Winnipeg outs and Calgary. But and even for me, my ministry, my public ministry my preaching ministry. It started in Canada, a lot of people don't realize that my my ministry preaching evangelistic -ly started in Canada and of all places it started in berry Barre Antero. So not too far from you guys. And you know, but I love I love Canada loved preaching. There's so many Canadians that love my grandfather. And they love me because of my grandfather. So I'm very much very much appreciative that. Yeah. That's so cool. So my notes said said that you started in L in Alberta. But that list of been your your your more, recent celebrations. That's right. My multiday events when I started doing multi-day like crusade events. It was. In Luke right outside of Edmonton. And and so that's where my multiday crusades kinda started. But I did some one day youth evangelistic outreaches in my first one was in bury on -tario. So not too far from you guys. Not at all. That's wonderful. So I mean, it may sound like a silly question. But you know, what why evangelism? What what about evangelism? Drew you to it. How did that passion begin? How did God plant those seeds in your heart? Well, you know, I don't it's not something I went pursuing. I think guy was pursuing me. And and there's not because I made things special. It's not because I'm Billy Graham's grandson. You know, the same reason God went after my grandfather wasn't because he was an evangelist. He was a dairy farmer. He the only thing he knew how to do was milk cows. He couldn't even play baseball. Very well. And the only time he got mentioned in the paper playing baseball was when the the first guy got sick and couldn't. Make in couldn't make the lineup. My Granddad get mentioned because he made the lineup. I mean what I'm saying is there's nothing special about us. And so I think it was God just simply pursuing us for the calling that he wanted us to fulfill in life and for my Granddad my dad, and I that's the proclaim the good news of Christ. And I'm grateful for that calling now when I look at my life. I don't look back in that see a special day or Pacific time that got set up. I'm calling you to be an evangelist. But would I do see is when I look back in my life. I see breadcrumbs and one of the very first breadcrumbs was back when I was about eight years old, and the teacher said draw a picture of what you want to be in life, and I didn't have a very big class at the time. And there's only about ten ten twelve guys in the whole class. And and we we all drew pictures. And most of the guys drew pictures of you know, American football helmets. They all wanted to be a foot. Ball player like a quarterback and go to the Super Bowl. And I'm not sure if they do any CFL teams not. So I think it was more like the forty Niners and the dolphins and the Cowboys and stuff like that. But you know, what was interesting is that I drew a picture of an open bible with a pair of aviation headset. Now, this aviation headset is made by David Clarke. And that you would put him over your ears. I kid phones, and then you would have a microphone that you would speak to. And this is how pilots would communicate with air traffic control through the airplane. And I wanted Ness what I saw my dad wear my dad's a pilot he flew around telling people about Christ. And I wanted to fly around until people about Jesus Christ. And so my dad's a pilot at preacher. I'm a pilot and a preacher. My brother got his pilot's license. And so we in. And they're in about the nineteen ninety seven. I finished preaching my first sermon and the local church, and then I've also got my pilot's. And so you might say God allow me to fulfill a dream of mine when I was a little kid was fly around 'til people about Jesus. Now granted I don't find myself. I usually fly the delta or Air Canada or west yet or something like that they get around now to preach, but I got my pout. So I can so I can technically fly myself a half too. Well, that's wonderful. So I recently was working for an evangelistic organization here in Canada, and one of the things that I kind of I guess discovered during that process, which was a surprise to me was that not all Christians seem to believe in the great commission. I grew up in a missionary family. My my parents were missionaries with YM. I believe in preaching the gospel. I assumed everybody did. But as I began to work with other churches, encouraging them in their outreach events. I I was kind of shocked to discover not everybody seems to believe that the great commission is to be taken literally. And have you run into that? How does that look like for you? Oh, yeah. I'm you'll run across people like that. We call them the. It said the great commission, we call it. The great omission. The thing to admit that. And they're, you know, we're we're called as Christians to proclaim Christ wherever we go. Now that that may that doesn't mean that we're all professional missionaries in the sense that we're gonna go off to a far off land, God will make some integrate doctors, and nurses and business people, and and coaches, and your whatever that passion that God's giving you take in and you do it. But then you start telling people about Christ through those avenues and be a witness for him in those avenues. And I think as Christians we were called Biblically mandated to tell others about Christ. And and that's what I feel like, and I wanna make him know, and listen when he's changed my life with when he gives me hope when there's nothing else that gives me hope when he gives me a sense of peace when there is no peace when he gives me joy even in times of suffering. That's something I want to share with anybody because everybody's looking for something like that. Everybody wants to know that. And so why wouldn't I want to share this with somebody? It's like I found a get out of jail free card, and we'll share that with other people in the same predicament as me, and so I I can't help but wanted to tell people about Christ. It's it's not even have to be mandated just comes out naturally because I want to tell people about Christ because he's changed my life. And I'm so grateful for it. And that's what ain't parini and the movie on broken path, redemption. That's what he did the whole for the rest of his life for sixty years of his life. He would tell people about Jesus Christ. Because he knew what how changed his life, and it gone change my life, and I won't people to know it. Absolutely. So we've got this this film unbroken that many of you won't will know Angelina Jolie directed I believe, and then we have the sequel now that's coming out unbroken, pasta, redemption and will place gets to play his grandfather in the film. So okay, you're you're used to having a microphone it used to being on stage in front of you know, tens of thousands of people. Now, you're behind the camera playing a beloved family figure? How does that happen will? How do I happen? I don't know. I'm still trying to figure that one out. I'm not an actor for for. You know, you're our the listeners I'm not an actor never acted. I never disclosed thing. I came to any type of acting was I took a drama appreciation class and almost failed it in college. All right. So it wasn't even acting. I just had to watch other people act, and critique it and learn terms and stuff like that. And I almost feel did. So I'm the guy that never acted. But they said we don't want an actor. We wanna preach her. And we'll we want you to play your grandfather. So they made me try out. And I didn't know I was actually trying out and they had already tried out a few other people, but they decided to go with me and people say, well who were the other people, and I just say it was Brad Pitt Tom Cruise. I'm joking. I'm just either. I have no idea who it was. But anyway, they they just chose me because I was a more natural fit. Because I I am a preacher. And you know, they the director explain it to me this way, he said, we'll he can we get some people to we can get some people to act in trying to be a policeman. And when they say their lines, they overdo it. But if I can go get a policeman. And that's just tell me how you would say this. They would say normal. And that's that's what we're looking for, you know, just be yourself. And so they said just be a preacher that be yourself, and preach it the way you would. And and so I did and man so great before this opportunity to to portray my grandfather in this tremendous movie. So your your sermon then in in the film was that scripted is that one of yours or how how did that work? That's a great question. This is the best part. My all my lines one hundred percent of my lines or all Billy Graham's words from his sermon. I don't say one thing that's not in his sermon. And so everything I say straight from his sermon we actually use the movie I can't remember it was three or four of his different sermons because we took tidbits out of each one. 'cause I preach technically like three sermons in the movie, you may not realize it, but preached three different sermons. And I'm only they're only they only took a little bit of each sermon. And put it in there that kind of portrayed are related to Louise life. And and all my words, none of it's scripted all of it is actual Billy Graham, sermon material nothing else. And so I don't have one made up line in the whole part. I I'm talking about will Graham, Billy Graham's part has zero made up lines. It's one hundred percent all actual. Billy Graham, sermon. And so that was a great privilege of mind to preaches exact sermon that he preached in nineteen forty nine. That's very cool. What can I ask what it was? It was what? Well, I can. I can remember the name of one. I can't remember the names of the other. But the one was the one that we thought that Louis came to know Christ on it was entitled listen to this. This is gonna freak you out. Why does God allow communism? When's the last time you heard a sermon on that? And and I say that with this big smile on my face because you know, we think man what a foreign idea. Well, here's the gist of the sermon. Why does God allow communism? Why does God allow such an evil empire like communism to exist? Why does God allow evilness worldwide has God allow bad things happen to good people? Now that starts to hit home for people now. Well, my granddaddy was preaching on this. You gotta remember this is nineteen forty nine. Just a few months before this the Russia the Soviet Union had just detonated the first atop their first atomic bomb. And so now the. Atomic age and the arms race had begun. And so everybody was wanting to know what's going to happen with Russia in America, both him the atomic bomb was you're going to be a nuclear war taking place. And so this is on everybody's mind. Everybody was thinking about this. It was only the news people are thinking about this. And so my granddaddy just tapped in with everybody was already thinking on talked about why does God allow evil in this world if he's God. Why does he allow it? And so that's the same thing that Louis was struggling with. Why does God hate me? Why has got about bad things to happen to me? And I don't think Louis thought he was a good person. But he he felt God was dealing with him unfairly. And so this is what really touched a Louis heart that night. That's very cool. Did you did you happen to do you watch? The crown. Yes, I did. I'm I did. I did get to watch it. I was I watched the first two seasons. I'm a bigger fan of the firm. Season that I'm the second season. But. I was impressed with the second season. Get to see the episode with my grandfather in it. And now people always ask, you know, is how true is it? Now. My grandfather was there in England during the time he did meet with the Queen. But here's the thing. No one knows the conversation between my grandfather and the Queen. We don't know what they talked about. My grandfather never talked about it far as I know. I don't think the queen's ever talked about it. But I thought the the crown did a good job talking about things that probably were relevant that were going on unless the Queen talked to the people that were produced. A crown? I don't know how accurate is or not. But from our side, we have zero knowledge of what actually was said, my grandfather's always kept that quiet, and that's true with anybody's talked with. He always kept it, quiet and never talked about it. That's really that's very honorable. I felt that they really dealt with that whole topic. Really respectfully. I I wasn't sure where it would go. I mean, you know, when when Hollywood touches Christian faith that sometimes it's wonderful mostly. It's not great. I find that. So so you're right because when it came to the crown here, here's the in. This is what was the truth about it? The British were very cynical against my grandfather or toward my grandfather, very cynical toward my grandfather. Why do we need some American tells about God that was absolutely true? That was what's going on in the press? You know, why do we need them here? You know, go back Billy. He'll go back with his tail between his legs. That was how the press was dealing with them. And so that was very much going on in general now when it came to the Queen. I don't know I don't really have any answers for that. But what she was going through at that time. But I thought what you said exactly they did it very honorably even. If it's made up, I think it stayed true to the theme of what was going on. And what my granddaddy would have said. But I just don't know. I don't have anything to compare it to one of the things one of the decisions that they made their that. I I I haven't seen much commentary on it. But I thought it was probably very intentional was in in that episode. You know, we see the heart of the evangelist. We see the heart of God. And we see the queen's passion for for some kind of living faith in the episode following that it's all to do with her sister and the relationship she forms, and it's probably the most debuch episode of the entire show. And I thought it was actually a very powerful choice to to present those two narratives and say, you know, we have hope and oversee the Queen is wrestling with difficult things, and she doesn't have clear answers to everything, but she is pursuing some kind of living hope Jesus Christ. And her sister is not and we see the fruit of a life not in pursuit of the eternal. And I thought that was a very intelligent decision. Whether they did that intentionally or or it was just the way the story. Arc went. I thought it was actually very telling is a big contrast. Isn't it? What you're exactly right. I mean, that's that's why reason when reason I like the first season better is because the phone we neponset was a such a bad scene. And and it was but yet it was a great. Contrast between what my grandfather McQueen, we're talking about in pursuing in especially then with the sister going in a different direction. And so and that's true with so many people we have a choice in life which way we can go in life. We can follow after God when go after the things of the world and turn their back on God. And the the truth is God wants us to come to him and give everybody a chance even the Louisiana reenies in life can come to know Christ and experience forgiveness and experienced God's grace and goodness at the same time. So in your in your in your work and your presentation of the gospel. Do you find yourself? Maybe this is a false dichotomy, but but do you lean more to sort of an emotional urgency appeal or kind of logic and reason appeal the reason I ask because I've, you know, having studied evangelism been involved. I've heard some say that many will get a larger immediate response to an emotional appeal, but more people will enter the the longer term discipleship course when the reason is engaged. Do you have any thoughts are technique on that didn't know think I think you're spot on on that on that analysis now when it comes to me to be honest. I hope it's the hope it's both. I don't I an emotional pill without anything of and people come to know Christ for all different reasons. And and I'll be the first one to tell you that some come out of need some come for reason some come out of a longing. Some come out of a crisis. You know, people coming in all different ways to Christ. Hope hope that all my preaching. I give a sense of urgency. I don't want them say well, you can make this decision. Tomorrow the truth is we're not guaranteed more. So I'm always Christ could come back. They could pass away tomorrow. They may not come back to hear and make that decision. And so there's a sense of urgency to preaching the gospel right now, but the same time, I wouldn't engage their heart in their mind at the same time. And so a hope that God's word will penetrate, and and I'll show examples out scripture. I'm not the best, you know, Phil. Sophal Reasoner theologian type guy. But I wanted to present Christ where they can see where Christ can change your life can change their life in particular. And that when they do that that they're going to be better off in life, and how Christ can change your life, and how God's changed my life. And and all they I mean, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Absolutely. What do you guys do about follow up and discipleship? Well, I think that's always been one of the hallmarks of the Billy Graham banjos is association. So we love to not we go there months ahead of time and start to work with local churches and prepare that local churches for what's going on. And we only go to places where we're invited. So we will go to a place where we've been invited. And then we start going. They're working with the local churches, getting more churches involved and helping out. And then what we do is. Then we we tried to. We'll have the. Event. But then once the event is over and people have made their decisions to follow Christ. Then every person that's made decision. We've got their information. Now, we start to follow what with them. And we give them to the local churches to go follow. What with? So this is a, you know, they come here, and they they met a will we'll Graham gave his life to Christ. They'll go. Visit this will Graham on this address and invite him to come to church, and they take me to church and bite me to church on come. And they plugged me into a discipleship class and start to grow my new walk with Christ. So we won't every believer. That comes forward at one of my grandad's, crusades, my dad's or or mind to come forward and get plugged into the local church, and so they can start to grow in their new faith. And so we will we always want to work to the local church. Excellent. So good. We'll you've also got a book, I believe came out in October. Dylan. Tell us about that. And how that came to be. Well, it's the books called redeemed devotions for the longing soul. It's a fifty day devotional. And it's my first book I've ever written for years. Appreciate it. And for a long time. I knew that one day it'd be writing a book, and I tried to few times when I say tried. But God just said, no, it's not the right time right now. And so I really never worked on it. Always had an idea what I wanna do. But guy just kept saying, no, it's not the right time. And when I was filming started doing the filming for this movie. Some people came up and said, you know, we'll we want you to would you want to write a book on this? And I just gave my pet answer. No, God doesn't want me to right now. God still me. No. And to be honest. I went back and start praying about it. And I realized no God's not telling me. No. And so started talking with a publisher, and we decided to start working on this book devotion for a longing soul. And and so it's a fifty day devotional things. And here's the best thing. I I wanna tell God stories I love tone gone stores. How God is that? He wrote the story. And I've always said if gods not the hero of your story, then it's not the necessarily not worth telling. And so I wanna point people to Christ. And how I've seen Christ's work in people's lives in Canada matter of fact, one of those one of my chapters is about Thunder Bay matter of fact, I preached in Sudbury one time I was going across Canada preaching Sudbury the next day. I preached in Thunder Bay, and it was. Preaching in Thunder Bay. While learn one of the greatest lessons, I learned that God's never finished in a place and God still working in people's lives. And so one of the greatest responses I've ever seen in Canada was there in Thunder Bay. And and so that's what I'm I wanna share stories and what I've learned what I've seen God show me. And then how I've learned that. And how people can apply that to their life today that they don't have to be a fulltime abandoned state. We'll have to be in full time ministry. I want to show how God can use them to someone's life even today. Yeah. That's wonderful. Do you have a favorite story in their? Well, they're all good. Maybe that may be biased but bias can still be right. But I think there's one story that I like. It's in particular when I was out in California. I was a young kid. You know, eight nine years old. And we were showing up my dad, and I were driving up to the hotel, and my Granddad was doing a crusade in that area. And I remember pulling up to the hotel, and I remember there was a line all the way outside the hotel around the block. And I mean, you're talking about we'll say for Canadians. It's four hundred meters in the United States it's four hundred yards but four hundred meters for the Canadians, and so it's about a four meter long line. And I was like man in that didn't know there from granddaddy, I walk inside to the ballroom of the hotel, and there's my granddaddy shaking hands getting pictures with each couple in line. And I was like man that's gonna be a long time. I don't wanna wait all that time to see my granddaddy. And so I was waiting my turn. And I was waiting for him to quit shaking hands get into picture in in before the other couple got up there. I was gonna dash up there and give them a hug real quick. And so I'm about you know, ten feet away three meters away. And I said in my granddaddy's, you know, that couple start moving off. And I started going for in a police officer stopped me, he put his hand down said, no, son. He's being very nice. He said the lines over there any point pointed that long line. I was like I don't wanna go see him. This Mon Granddad. I didn't say that. He doesn't know who I am. He's just he was doing his job. That's all. He was he was very nice. And also, my granddaddy said will he will get down on his knees is opened up his arms. And now the police offers it doesn't do anything because he knows I have a relationship with this, man. And I run up and get my granddaddy, a hug, and he wasn't trying to teach me something that day, but he exemplified something. Because now I could go up and hug my granddaddy. Because I'm his grandson. I'm related to him. And the same is true spiritually, we we have access to the father because we are his son. We are his spiritual children, and we can go to God, the father and take any by request and taking any of our needs to him right away. We don't have to go through somebody else to get to them, and we have complete access when when we're related, and so it was a great spiritual lesson learned that day. That's wonderful reminds me actually the story. One of my bosses told me this. They were. At a some vandalism forum here in Canada, probably fifteen twenty years ago and at a metre grandfather. And they that that simple kindness of greeting people. That was exactly what struck with them. They said there's all kinds of leaders worldwide at that this thing and lots of them are important people and their own stage. And they're kind of, you know, enjoying the perks of whether if with arrived in life, and here's your your grandfather. And grandmother just sitting at a table just saying hi to people and just say, hey, thank you for coming to this thing. Thank you for being here. And I remember my my bosses were floored at the simple humility of someone who they were ordered to meet say thank you for coming. And I'm honored to meet you that was probably one of our schools of of angels. And we had this conferences all over Canada. And so I don't know if that's where it w-. Was but it sounds like that's probably where he met and migraine day. Just like your pastor said that was McGrane day was one of the most humble men I've ever met. It was never about himself. It was always about the Lord Jesus Christ. And he really got upset if you ever sold his name them something he didn't want his name on anything because he felt like it took it away from the real work that he was doing and that was talking about Jesus Christ. So he was a very humble, man. Well, would you pray for us as we wrap up here for those of us who who are in, you know, in in an evangelistic ministry, and then especially for the probably the majority of us who who are not who are going about our regular lives and jobs and sharing the gospel as we as we go. Yeah. Sure, we'll John lemme break. I am the father Lord Lord. I pray for those who are listening right now. Lord, whether in in Canada or in the United States or anywhere else in the world. But for those who you've called Lord to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Lord, if we if we claim you to be our savior, then Lord, we have a we have an opportunity and obligation to tell others about you. And Lord, it may not be professionally it may not be as a fulltime veins was. But as a mother as a father, we have a responsibility to tell our children, we can tell our neighbors. We can tell our co workers we can tell those who are friends about Christ. People are looking for answers in this life Lord. And Lord, we found it and Lord I pray that we can just help others found the greatest person alive Lord. And that's the Lord Jesus Christ. And Lord, you thank you for dying for the sins of the world. Thank you for paying the penalty for our sin. And north thing for us an opportunity to call upon your name and give us life. And so Lord, we just thank you. Help us to make you known wherever we go in the name of Jesus we pray. Amen. Amen. Thank you will folks Sibley make sure you get out to see unbroken, the pasta redemption believe it's in theaters now it may be skipping Canada. I forget it comes out. It won't be candidates already been shown, but it does come out in Canada on DVD on December eleventh, and but yet on November twenty seventh a few days earlier is gonna come out on digital. So you can buy it on digital download on November twenty seventh here in a few weeks. In December eleventh, you can go out and buy DVD unbroken path redemption, the second half true story of Louisiana branding. And then also don't forget redeemed devotions for a longing soul. Fifty day devotional by will Graham, which features a number of his grandfather stories as well as his own reflections. Thank you very much for being on the show today. Well, thank you, my friend. God bless. You've been listening to the podcast with me Jonathan puddle. Thank you for tuning in the podcast is a weekly show. Featuring interviews. Lots of interviews with people. I find Tokyo, what do we talk about life gone things that matter I'm children's pastor a writer and a business consultant, but my passion is to help people live in a higher level of freedom and to love others at a higher standard of love. So who've had on the show I've had famous bible. Teachers leaders of mega church ministries, local worship leaders Olympia. Deejays evangelists community workers both IRS all kinds of folks. Moms dads, people head over to John them, puddle dot com slash podcast or podcast and you'll see all episodes. You don't read my blog mailing list? Find me on social media and Jonathan puddle see next week.