JEFFERSON CITY – Following the death of the renowned vocational evangelist Billy Graham, Feb. 21, members of the Fellowship of Missouri Baptist Evangelists (FMBE) commended Graham for the positive influence he has had on the ministry of all vocational evangelists. But few of them have felt the impact of Graham’s ministry as much as Missouri Baptist vocational evangelist Clyde Chiles.
“I was saved at a Billy Graham crusade service in Ocean City, N.J., when he was a Youth For Christ evangelist. I was 16,” Chiles, a member of First Baptist, Centralia, recalled. “A year later, in Winona Lake, Ind., when Youth for Christ would have all the youth from around the country come for about a week, God called me to preach in one of his services. That was what he meant to me: I was saved and called to preach in one of his services.”
Yet, according to Jim McNiel, Graham was an exemplar for all vocational evangelists.
“I woke up yesterday to the news, and it broke my heart,” McNiel, a member of Tower Grove Baptist, St. Louis, told The Pathway. “I loved him. He was a hero. He paved the path for all evangelists in the 20th century. And I was one of the recipients of the path that was cleared by Dr. Graham and his integrity and his witness and his powerful preaching. …
Indeed, Graham impacted the ministry of vocational evangelists when he and his staff members committed themselves to the “Modesto Manifesto” in 1948, just as Graham was beginning his city-wide revivals. As they knew, some well-known evangelists had ruined their ministries by falling prey to sexual sin and financial dishonesty. So, in the “Modesto Manifesto,” they devised a plan to help them preserve their moral and financial integrity. They also wanted to ensure that the results from Graham’s crusades weren’t exaggerated and that his ministry never tore down the local church.
“He had integrity, and he was a role model for all of us,” McNiel said. “The world is going to be hurt because of him going on, and I don’t know if the Lord will raise up any other evangelist like him. We had D.L. Moody. We had Billy Sunday, and so many others. And I don’t know if the Lord would raise up another. I wish he would.
FMBE president James Ogan, a member of First Baptist Church, Shell Knob, agreed that he and other Missouri Baptist evangelists will miss Graham. But he praised God that for the joy Graham is now experiencing.
“Praise God! Now he’s going by sight and not by faith,” Ogan said. “He’s there with our Lord, and that’s fantastic. He has got to be the happiest he’s ever been, and he’s always been a joyful man.”
“He made a difference in my life,” Ogan said, mentioning that he was connected with Graham through his childhood church. He added that Graham has had made a difference for many people—including a Kansas City police captain who pulled up to a Baptist church and asked the pastor how to be saved after hearing Graham speak on his car radio.
“That’s the kind of man Billy Graham was,” Ogan said. “God really used him. Praise God he’s with the Lord, but we’re really going to miss him.”