Mid-Ohio Valley pastors discuss Billy Graham’s legacy

PARKERSBURG — The Rev. Michael Seely of Parkersburg attended a Billy Graham crusade in Pittsburgh.

It was a long time ago, said Seely, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church on Juliana Street, but he remembers it was so moving only the most steadfast unbelievers wouldn’t change.

“You had to be a hard-line non-believer,” Seely said.

Graham, 99, died on Wednesday at his home in Montreat, N.C., where he retired to in 2005. Graham preached for almost 60 years at more than 417 services and events, which he called crusades, around the world.

His last was in 2005 at the New York City crusade where Graham was sponsored by 1,400 churches from 82 denominations.

“I think it’s an end of an era,” said Pastor Rick McClure of the First Baptist Church in Parkersburg. “He was a great man.”

Graham’s messages were intended to inspire others, not draw praise upon him, McClure said.

McClure cited a quote from Graham: “The test of a preacher is that his congregation goes away saying, not, ‘What a lovely sermon!’ but ‘I will do something.'”

Graham’s legacy will be he will be known as a man of integrity when other preachers became “fully out of favor with society,” McClure said.

His methods of reaching large numbers of people were unique in the early days of his ministry, said Kevin Brosius, associate pastor of the Bethel Baptist Church. Graham was a world-renown preacher, Brosius said.

“He had a passion to reach people for Christ and he was willing to face that call,” Brosius said.

Graham came out of nowhere to eventually preach to hundreds of millions of people, said Pastor Brian Harrell of the Liberty Street Church in Parkersburg.

“Billy Graham was a man uniquely used of God to reach his generation. Out of nowhere God raised this man up to preach the plain gospel message of Jesus to hundreds of millions around the globe,” Harrell said. “His life intersected with almost every president in his lifetime. They often sought his counsel and his blessing.”

Graham’s passion, integrity and character “have always been above reproach,” Harrell said.

“Even Vice President Pence invoked what he called the ‘Billy Graham rule’ to never be alone with the opposite sex,” Harrell said.

Graham’s crusades generally were of the same message, Seely said. Graham would add tidbits gleaned from the area where he was preaching, he said.

“His basic message was always the same,” Seely said.

Graham’s museum in North Carolina includes meticulous records of every conversion at every event where he preached, Harrell said.

“He was truly a religious American icon. His lasting legacy will always be the millions who came to know Jesus in a personal way because of his ministry,” Harrell said.

Graham’s books, of which he wrote dozens, line the shelves of many ministers throughout this country, Harrell said.

“He will be missed,” Harrell said.