Texas Talk: A conversation with Will Graham in Burleson
May 30, 2008 - On Thursday afternoon, I had the privilege of sitting down for a few minutes with Will Graham, the invited speaker for a three-day Celebration in Burleson, Texas. Will is the grandson of Billy Graham and the oldest son of Franklin.
by Janet Chismar
As he shared his heart for this weekend, Will communicated his sincere commitment to reach the lost and revealed that even a polished speaker still gets butterflies. Here’s a bit of our conversation.
Q — I just spoke with a local pastor who said he was so excited you accepted the invitation to speak here, especially since Burleson is a "churched" town. Can you tell us why you said "yes"?
Graham — God had put a huge burden on my heart for Texas and we felt this town was the one God had best prepared. There are quite a few churches here, but it has had a very rough past. There have been extreme racial tensions. As a matter of fact, Burleson was considered one of the places you would not come to if you were a black person.
Recently, there have been a lot of changes in the community through the churches. The churches here are very much unified now. We have one of the largest numbers of churches working together that we've ever had for any Celebration. We believe this is where God wanted us to come. God has moved in the hearts of his people, so there are a lot of great things going on here. There has been tremendous excitement.
Q — You seem to have a gift for reaching youth. Are Celebrations designed to attract younger people?
Graham — Not specifically. As a pastor, I notice that people who come to a particular church are about the same age as the speaker. So people who are coming to be part of a Celebration typically are younger because my generation identifies more with me. We’ll have every age represented here, but many will be younger.
At one of my dad's Festivals, the audience will be a little bit older but you still have the gamut of ages. If my granddaddy did a Crusade, you'd have a wide variety of ages, but they’d typically be older still. As long as I keep doing Celebrations, the average age is going to go up though. There is going to be someone who comes up behind me that will reach the youth of his generation.
Q — What are your hopes and prayers for this weekend?
Graham — This weekend we want to see the people of Johnson County encounter the living God. Some people are backslidden. They know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior but they are living in rebellion right now. I want to give them the opportunity to say, "Lord I am sorry; I want to come back to you." For some people, this will be the very first time they've ever placed their faith in Jesus Christ or heard the gospel and they are going to say "Yes, Lord."
Also, I want to see the community here strengthened. The churches have come together and are unified. I hope it doesn’t end on Sunday, but that this is the beginning of what God wants to do in Johnson County and Tarrant County, and in the Dallas-Fort Worth area especially. Maybe it will start here. That’s what we’ve been praying for and hope to see. It’s not the end, but the beginning of what God wants to do.
Q — You seem so gifted at preaching. Do you ever get nervous speaking in front of large crowds?
Graham — I get nervous every time and I think that’s a good thing. I realize that eternity is at stake here and what I say may impact someone’s decision one way or the other. I take it very seriously and get extremely nervous. I hope I’m hiding it! But God is in control and God’s got to work through my weakness.
Q — Now that you are more in the public eye, how do you handle the inevitable comparisons to your father and grandfather?
Graham — Because I am Billy Graham’s grandson, people have images in their heads of hundreds of thousands of people walking forward. We don’t have that many people in the county here! But seriously, when I am compared with my grandfather and my dad, it never bothers me. I love both of them; I respect both of them. Both have been used by God in great and mighty ways, so any comparison is a blessing.
I think there are a lot of similarities between all three of us in the way we look and talk. There are a lot of comparisons people draw. Some will be natural conclusions, some are fabricated. But any time I am compared to my granddaddy – or my dad – I am always appreciative.
Q — To conclude, what would you say to people who aren’t here in Texas but will be watching our live streaming this weekend?
Graham — If you are watching on the web, we want you to be praying. Wherever you are, just be praying for this event if you know the Lord as your personal savior. Pray for the people here in Johnson County. But we also want to reach people through the webcast who may be curious about what’s going on. They may be inquirers. We want God to strike a chord in their souls, that they aren’t just listening for information or watching the bands, but that the message resonates inside.
Read about how the churches in Burleson have united in prayer.
See video from Friday and read our blog.