Little is left to be said about the life, character, and faith of Dr. Billy Graham. News and social media have lauded and applauded this spiritual giant whose public evangelistic ministry reached more than 2 billion people. The tapestry of influences on his life, even from the earliest of his years, is a testimony to how God chose and prepared this powerful preacher of the gospel.
Decades ago the Sunday School played a role as the most effective tool for evangelism in the local church. Robert Raikes is considered the father of the Sunday School movement that began in 1780. It was a means of teaching young boys how to read, and the Bible was their textbook.
Edward Kimball was a Sunday School teacher who taught and prayed for the "hyper boys" class, with the goal of personally leading each of them to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Among them was a lad by the name of Dwight L. Moody, who grew to be a tremendous instrument in the holiness movement and cross-cultural Christian missions, and founder of the Moody Bible Institute.
Under Moody's ministry was the conversion of Wilbur Chapman to the Christian faith. Chapman became an evangelist and preached to thousands, including famed baseball player Billy Sunday. Sunday played major league baseball in the 1880's for eight years; an average hitter known best for his base running and fielding. Soon after his conversion to Christianity, Sunday left baseball and was arguably the most celebrated American evangelist of the early 20th century.
History records that Mordecai Ham was a convert under the ministry of Billy Sunday. Later, preaching a series of evangelistic services in Charlotte, North Carolina, young "Billy Frank" Graham attended one of the services. Intrigued by what he heard, he returned another night, where he responded to the sermon and was converted. Billy Frank, as his family called him, eventually became known as Billy Graham, the evangelist who preached to more people than any other person who ever lived, including the Apostle Paul.
Like many other influential persons across the centuries, Graham was once an ordinary student in a typical classroom. He was one of many church attenders, and sat under the teaching of numerous preachers and Sunday School teachers who had no idea that they were helping to shape and prepare a man who would reach billions for Jesus Christ.
What you do matters. You may consider yourself unimportant, or wonder if your life is making a difference in your world. In the larger scheme of life, few of us will become 'great' in the eyes of the world, but positively influencing another life -- even one person -- is significant. Be thankful for the gifts, talents, and opportunities with which you are blessed, and use them to their fullest extent. Only God knows the impact you are making in your world.
Steven Callis is the minister at First Church of the Nazarene in Douglasville.