“A Sinner Saved by Christ’s Grace”
By Robert Docter –
The May 13, 1996 cover of Time magazine showed Billy Graham standing behind his son, Franklin, his arms on his shoulders. Clasped in Franklin’s hand, close to his chest, was a Bible. The headline stated: THE PRODIGAL SON. Inside, the article described his ascendancy to leadership of the organization his father created. The article was titled: In the Name of the Father.
William Franklin Graham III, who has always been called Franklin, was in Los Angeles this week to receive the Army’s “William Booth Award” from the Southern California Division and gave an exclusive interview to New Frontier.
He demonstrated considerable knowledge about the Army and its founder, William Booth–including the parallels of a son succeeding a famous father. William Booth’s son, Bramwell, succeeded him in leadership of the Army, and Franklin succeeded his own father, one of the world’s most respected and trusted Christian evangelists. He is not “into titles,” and does not wish to be called “Reverend.” “I’m just Franklin,” he emphasized. His own evangelistic team has toured with him all over the world where he has spoken in very small towns and some of the world’s largest cities.
He stated: “I am proud of the Army and the way they represent our Lord. Their work is always first class.” He especially noted the work of Major Eva den Hartog (R) whom he worked beside in Cambodia and Bangladesh and who introduced him to the Army in the’70s. “She is one of the gutsiest women I have ever met. She will do anything to help people and serve the Lord. I fell in love with her there.
“I thank God for The Salvation Army and the way they have gone into all the nooks and crannies of the globe. They’re never ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Army people are always involved in the crusades. They’re top notch,” he said.
Graham saw some dangers possible in a dynasty but pledged to maintain the focus of his father’s ministry and be faithful both to his heavenly Father and his earthly father.
He recognized the problems some young people have in being raised with high profile parents and noted that his parents had raised him and his sisters in a very rural area. “It wasn’t a fishbowl atmosphere at all,” he said. “I was in my mid teens before it dawned on me how well known my father is. I respect and honor his name. I’m not going to try to be my father. I can’t do that. I will be simply what I am–Franklin Graham–a sinner saved by grace.”
Franklin experienced some difficult years during and after adolescence. “I wanted to try life alone,” he stated. I thought I didn’t need God and that I could find happiness in excitement. What I found was that we are empty without God and denied the real happiness we seek.” He commented that his rebellion was against authority and urged young people today to recognize the consequences of acts that are wrong. “We must not water down the Gospel,” he stated firmly. “Kids need to know they’re gonna go to hell if they sin and stay separated from God.”
During these years Graham loved motorcycles and airplanes and expressed a desire never to work for his father or ride his coat tails. Although his father was gone for extended periods of time, he bore him no resentment, because he knew he was doing a good work. This was later validated over and over again in the testimonies shared with him by people all over the world who mentioned that they found Christ in one of his father’s crusades.
“I was under no spiritual dispensation as ‘Billy’s boy’,” he said. “I had to go before God myself and confess my sins and seek his forgiveness.”
When berated during a radio interview that same day because of the judgmental actions of some who profess the Christian faith, he responded to the listener: “Don’t judge Jesus Christ by those who claim to know him. You’ve got to get to know him fully yourself.”
He is currently President of Samaritan’s Purse, an organization designed to provide help to hurting people all over the world. In this regard, he has come in contact with the Army on many occasions as he flies his own plane from country to country going about the Lord’s work. He expects to merge the work of Samaritan’s Purse with the Billy Graham Association now that he has responsibility for both.
When speaking about Samaritan’s Purse Graham again commented on the parallels with William Booth — a preacher with compassion for the poor and hurting of the world. Graham notes that he started with a ministry for the needy and most recently has become more active in world evangelism. “We started in different places, but end with same focus. “Feeding and clothing people is not enough. We must introduce them to Jesus Christ.