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Leadership lessons from Reverend Billy Graham


(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 07, 2004 The Rev. Billy F. Graham speaks to the crowd on a rainy night at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.<br />Evangelist Billy Graham has died at his home in North Carolina at age 99. / AFP PHOTO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Larry W. Smith

There is still no dispute that history of the world largely revolves around biographies of great men. History is not about big men who fill the world’s poorest continent where dealers who call themselves leaders hardly dream about building monuments.

Most African leaders are concerned about winning elections anyhow and using their dubious mandates to acquire personal wealth without caring a hoot about security and welfare of the people, which is normally the primary purpose of government. They don’t even dream about that majesty of greatness.
We write about these leaders every day in Africa but they hardly read articles that point out their flaws, and so they don’t care about the nexus between nation building and their reputation. They hallucinate, masturbate and so conclude that they can always buy reputation with their loot on the front pages of available and dubious journals.

In today’s world, especially in most African countries, there is a great deal of crisis of character of state actors and leaders of even faith-based organizations who use preaching of the gospel only as a big business. Most of the phoney men of God ‘prophesy’ every day as if God is at their beck and call. Some have driven Jesus away from their churches and replaced him Lucifer.
It is becoming clearer in this age even in two prominent Africa countries, Nigeria and South Africa, which should be towers of strength that it is hard to find strong and reliable leaders with integrity and commitment to nation building, a job that is not meant for the faint-hearted and hypocrites.

Even metro pages of newspapers are daily filled with stories of so-called men of God who have elevated immorality as a fundamental objective and directive principle of religious service. I hope a Ghanaian notable writer, Ayi Kwei Armah, would not be surprised to note that, “The beautiful ones are not yet born” since 1968 when he published the predictive work.  

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That is why this week, I would like us to enjoy some great,leadership lessons from the life and times of a great man of God who allowed the God of man to be his guide, Reverend Billy Graham who flew away (apology to Jim Reeves) last week at the ripe age of 99. I think we will enjoy life lessons from a man of God who has symbolised what a great author, Stephen R.Covey, wrote on integrity in the context of the spirituality and Christianity.

Recall the professor, Covey who wrote a classic, The 7 Habbits of Highly Effective People?

Coveysays, “Attending a church does not necessarilymean living the principles taught in those meetings. You can be active in a church but inactive in its gospel”.
How does Cover mean this, you may ask? Here is his contextual reporting of his hypothesis:

“Churchgoing is not synonymous with personal spirituality. There are some people who get so busy in church worship and projects that they become insensitive to the pressing human needs that surround them, contradicting the very precepts they profess to believe deeply….”
As I was saying here last week, there is a conflict between thenatural man and the spiritual man whenever they clash even in governance space and that has grave implications on statecraft and indeed prosperity.

In contextualising that while reading Reverend Graham, his ecumenical messages and truth to several powers in the most powerful nation on earth, you find the significance of his gospel in what the same Covey wrote earlier, on the nexus that doesn’t exist between naturalness and spirituality in public life.
According to the author of The 3rd Alternative&The 8th Habit, Covey reveals too:
“The roots of the problems we face in this world in our national lives, and in our family and personal lives are spiritual. Like the leaves on a tree, the symptom manifestations of these problems are social, economic and political. But the roots are moral and spiritual. And they lie first within each individual and ten within the family….”
It is really inspiring to note that in this world dominated and almost conquered by the liberal press, which does not want to listen to the place of spirituality in governance and indeed nation building, the mainstream American media have had a consensus that indeed the late Reverend Graham deserved to be called the America’s Pastor.

This is how a Made-By-History analyst and history professor at Princeton University, United States and author of, “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America”,Kevin M. Kruse puts it in his tribute:

“…He became known as an apolitical preacher. But Graham started out as an ardent conservative… It’s rare to find consensus in the American media, but the passing of Billy Graham has provided one such moment.

In outlets ranging from established newspapers such as USA Today to next-generation outlets such as BuzzFeed and Vox, from the high-culture perch of NPR to the pop-culture world of E! Online from conservative Fox News to liberal HuffPost, one common concept ran throughout their headlines: Graham had been “America’s pastor.”
It has been reported too that the legend, Graham worked hard to earn that title. He served, to varying degrees, as counselor and confidant for every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. In times of crisis, such as the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11, the nation’s leaders called upon him (Graham) to give solace to a grieving nation. Such was his significance in a nation founded on the power of spirituality.

Beyond those moments, checks have revealed that he spent much of his career crossing lines that had long divided his people. Though he was ordained as a Southern Baptist, Graham’s public ministry was broadly ecumenical. Though he grew up in the Jim Crow South, he made early and earnest efforts to break down the barriers of racial segregation, first in his own religious rallies and then in society at large.
The America’s pastor, Graham was, as he would admit, not without flaws. Privately, he made anti-Semitic comments that Kruse claimed “suggested insincerity in his religious outreach”; But publicly, he resisted full equality for gays and lesbians, which he didn’t want to justify with what most liberal Americans call understanding of civil rights.

Oddly, Graham’s political power as “America’s pastor” stemmed from the fact that he seemed, to most Americans, inherently apolitical. He served Republican and Democratic presidents alike and worked to reach out to Americans from across the racial, religious and political spectrum.

But historian Kruse, said that image was one largely cultivated later in his life. Early in his career, Graham made his name as an outspoken conservative — a chapter largely forgotten in most remembrances but crucial to understanding his legacy.
At the 1949 revival that launched his career, Billy Graham staked out an identity as an ardent Cold Warrior. “Communism,” he thundered from a Los Angeles stage, “has decided against God, against Christ, against the Bible, and against all religion. Communism is not only an economic interpretation of life — communism is a religion that is inspired, directed, and motivated by the Devil himself who has declared war against Almighty God.”

Graham who was neither a renowned theologian nor the head of a worldwide denomination but arguably the 20th century’s most influential religious figure, over the course of seven decades, preached Christianity live to about 250 million people in 185 countries and reached an even larger audience through the mass media.
He drew 100,000 people to Yankee Stadium and more than 2 million to a four-month crusade at Madison Square Garden, exhorting all in his audience to “make a decision for Christ.”

More important too is the fact that Graham was a spiritual counselor to presidents but eschewed offers of political power and came to regret the few instances in which he became politically involved.

He also avoided the divisive hot-button social issues and angry condemnations that would become grist for many later television evangelists — with one exception: The North Carolina native early on refused to “preach Jim Crow” before segregated audiences and invited Martin Luther King to share the stage with him as early as 1957.

Yet despite his strong support of Israel, he was caught on an Oval Office tape sharing anti-Jewish slurs with Richard Nixon. When it became public years later, he asked for forgiveness. That apology did not diminish his stature as America’s pastor.
William Randolph Hearst turned him into a national and then a global figure by ordering his newspapers to “puff Graham.” He became such a media celebrity he earned a star on Hollywood’s “Walk of Fame”.

What attracted so many to the audacious Graham was his plain spokenness and refusal to pass judgment on his listeners. And he was a model of personal probity, with none of the moral or financial scandals that engulfed other evangelists. In fact, Graham’s integrity was credited with salvaging the reputation of broadcast evangelism in the dark days of the late 1980s, after scandals hit famous television preachers, Jimmy  Swaggart and Jim Bakker.         

There are great lessons here from part of the critical success factors of a God’s General, Graham. Young, swashbuckling pastors here can learn from the factors.

He resolved earlier on never to be alone with a woman other than his wife. Instead of taking a share of “love offerings” at his crusades, he drew a modest salary from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. His ministry was strictly governed by an independent board that included successful Christian businessmen and other professionals – a stark departure from today’s widespread evangelical practice of packing governing boards with relatives and yes-men.  

At heart, Graham was a simple but passionate preacher with a shrewd gift for spreading his message as widely as possible. He truly was “America’s pastor.”
As part of a glowing tribute to Billy Graham, The great, his body will lie in honor under the US Capitol Rotunda this week as the Congress pays tribute to a clergyman who counseled presidents and preached the Gospel to millions worldwide as the House Speaker Paul Ryan revealed on Thursday last week.
Graham, who died at his home near Asheville, North Carolina, on Wednesday last week, will arrive at the white-domed Capitol on February 28, and lie in honor there until the following day, Speaker Ryan confirmed in a statement.“Members of the public and Capitol Hill community are invited to pay their respects to the late reverend while he lies in rest,” the speaker said.

Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will take part in a bicameral service when Graham’s casket arrives, the statement added.

The US Capitol tribute will follow Graham’s remains lying in repose at the family home, which is at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, his organization said.
Graham will be the fourth person to lie in honor at the Rotunda since the tribute began in 1998 for two US Capitol Police officers slain in the line of duty.

Civil rights figure Rosa Parks was the last person to receive the honor following her death in 2005.

Lying in honor at the Capitol is granted for private citizens. It is distinct from lying in state, a tribute normally reserved for elected US officials or military figures.

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