Billy Graham’s Stunning Prophecy

The following quote was authored by Billy Graham in the year 1965. Is his prediction coming to pass in our time?

Multitudes of Christians within the church are moving toward the point where they may reject the institution that we call the church. They are beginning to turn to more simplified forms of worship. They are hungry for a personal and vital experience with Jesus Christ. They want a heartwarming personal faith. Unless the church quickly recovers its authoritative Biblical message, we may witness the spectacle of millions of Christians going outside the institutional church to find spiritual food.

Quoted in “World Aflame,” pp. 79-80.

Here is another priceless quote by Graham. It’s his answer to the question, What would you be doing if you didn’t have the large evangelistic ministry that you have now, but were rather a local minister?

I think one of the first things I would do would be to get a small group of eight or ten or twelve men around me that would meet a few hours a week and pay the price. It would cost them something in time and effort. I would share with them everything I have, over a period of years. Then I would actually have twelve ministers among the laymen who in turn could take eight or ten or twelve more and teach them. I know one or two churches that are doing that, and it is revolutionizing the church. Christ, I think, set the pattern. He spent most of his time with twelve men. He didn’t spend it with a great crowd. In fact, every time he had a great crowd it seems to me that there weren’t too many results. The great results, it seems to me, came in his personal interview and in the time he spent with the twelve.

Quoted in “Billy Graham Speaks: The Evangelical World Prospect,” Christianity Today, vol. 3, no. 1, p. 5, Oct. 13, 1958.

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Comments

  1. Greg Gordon says

    “Multitudes of Christians within the church are moving toward the point where they may reject the institution that we call the church. They are beginning to turn to more simplified forms of worship. They are hungry for a personal and vital experience with Jesus Christ. ”

    This is the fact that true discipleship happens more in a house simple setting than a 1 hour church service. The authentic reality of churches is dwindling into entertainment and show. Therefore God is starting to raise up simple groups of those who are making disciples and following Jesus Christ in self-denial and godliness.

  2. Joshua L. Henry says

    God calls people to Godself. And as His creation and children, I believe humans are all born with a spiritual whole in our hearts yearning to be filled through the relationship God desires –whether we acknowledge it as such or not. Therefore, I think the argument could be made that even those fishermen who are called disciples, left what might be considered the institutional faith of Judaism when Christ called them to “come and follow” the “spiritual food” or new covenant Jesus lived and taught.

  3. Lillian Vargo says

    Unfortunately in Billy Graham’s latter years … [The rest of this post has been removed by the Blog Manager. It violates the commenting rules - http://frankviola.org/rules - the comment had nothing to do with the post and slandered a brother in Christ. If someone has a concern about Mr. Graham, they have a responsibility to write him personally, just as Jesus taught, asking him questions about their concerns with an open heart. May we treat others the same way we want to be treated if it were us. To do otherwise is sin.]

  4. Susan Karsten says

    Loving my church: the Christian Church, in my small town WI. We are blessed with an awesomely robust, Biblical, preacher who consistently feeds the flock with the Word – not his opinions or latest personal tales or flights of fancy. We are part of the United Reformed federation of NA. Anyway, I am not what is normally considered an Evangelical, and I have a hard time understanding what your main thrust is here. What post explains it clearly?
    Thank you and Peace. Susan

    • says

      I don’t think there’s one post in particular. There are many. But there is a revolution happening in the body of Christ right now … what some are calling a second Reformation where it concerns what “church” means and how it functions. If you’re happy with your church, that’s great. No need to be worried. But Billy’s words are coming to pass according polls by Barna, Stezter, Gallup, and others.

  5. Jim Puntney says

    As snow begins to melt it trickles downward, this water has a desire, to seek a common level. Pools of water feed small streams, and streams feed rivers.

    This seems to be an analogy for the “grass roots” revolution that underway. This revolution will be not by might, but by spirit. This revolution has a historical perspective, and a present impact, with a futuristic focus. This revolution will indeed be peaceful, for it is founded in the Author of Peace.

  6. Nick says

    As someone going through training for ordained ministry, the 8/10/ 12 men (does it have to be men…?) model is one I want to adopt in my own ministry, when I am in a position to do so.

  7. Ashley says

    Reading Pagan Christianity right now as a “refresher” for me. Started to feel like maybe I was loosing focus on the reasons my husband and I originally felt organic church was healthier for the Body. These prophetic statements so show the heart of God… It’s not about bashing the institutional system, but it’s about bringing health to the Body through love and patience. I’m excited for the changes and desires in many brothers and sisters today, further up and further in!

  8. Elmo Q. Shangnaster says

    Thanks for sharing this, Frank. I’m often finding more believers who are moving in this direction.

    Having just finishing Jon Zens latest, “The Pastor Has No Clothes”, I’m realizing not only how devastating all this is to the conventional wisdom but how important this is to prepare the church for the suffering of going underground, despite the current seeming popular climate.

  9. Matthew Fountain says

    Hello. I am new to this site. I find that once again as followers of Christ Jesus that we are not above being fooled by Satan and our own sinful nature. As humans our sinful nature is that we all want control over all things that we come in contact with. Satan wants control over all that he comes in contact with as well.
    I don’t know much but I do know that the “church” is populated with broken, sinful and searching people. I believe that God knows this and will always reveal Himself to those who continue to seek His face (wisdom, knowledge, etc..). I also believe that we as the body of Christ need to continue to strive for what God’s perfect plan was/is/will be. I for one see that the damage is done; and has been done well; to the body of Christ that we as the body need healing. Yes, the institutional church has become a far cry to it’s predecessor. Yes, man has fouled things up with sin. So yes, God is the only one to fix what has been done.

  10. MichaelO says

    I have been to busy to fight my way to this blog topic until now.
    Having just had surgery I now am finding time.
    All I can say is wow!
    That is a prophetic mouthful from Billy isn’t it.
    Coming from one who drew crowds like no other. To say that has real force and meaning.
    We have all been to busy working for Jesus.
    Rather than busy listening to and following Jesus.
    John Wimber once said something along these lines: Jesus told Wimber, “John I have seen your ministry. Now, let Me show you Mine!”
    Church plants began to explode.

  11. Randall says

    This is all well and good but I find most Christians dissatisfied with the institutional church afraid and/or reluctant to leave and anyone we find who would like to participate in house church has a theology so far out in left field that it’s heresy. I know–my frustration shows…

  12. Chris says

    What I find most interesting is that he said that but continued with his large gatherings. Obviously he saw the great value of a large group of people coming together.

    If we are honest what many people consider missional church is no more than the missional responsibility of each and every Christian. While its true than some institutional churches do not prepare people to live missionally it’s outright foolishness to dismiss the positive effect of the institutional church.

    • says

      Chris: there’s massive confusion today as to what “living missionally” means and what “the mission” actually is. As I’ve written on this blog numerous times and in the book FROM ETERNITY TO HERE, some view it as “evangelism” and/or “discipleship” as an individual program. But the New Testament is strikingly clear that neither is the mission of God. While God certainly uses the institutional form of church as best He can (despite the incongruences with the teachings of Jesus and the apostles), it’s not His original intent. The same goes for the typical “house church.” What’s needed is a revolution, or as I call it a ReChurch – http://www.ReimaginingChurch.org – and that begins with a revelation of Jesus Christ and God’s Eternal Purpose in Him.

  13. Damaso says

    The first quote from Billy Graham may be accurate in so far as Billy’s thought are concern, as to whether the “church” has a unified form, functions, organization, power structure that it is applicable to every culture at all times is questionable. In fact the second quote reveals Billy’s thought on “church institution”; he intended to something that have not been tried in the first 1,900 years after the death of Jesus, a cell group of some type.

    The problem that pastors and theologians has to contend with is the assumption that the Christian traditions and theological thoughts and conclusions that came from Europe and the west are the only biblically sound interpretations of the Bible and God’s plan for every human communities. On the other hand “market driven” ministries and missions are causing confusions as to the nature and purpose of a church. Pastors are enticed to follow fads and trends or the “USU” without considering their respective cultural and political context. (Read “The Church Goes to Market”, I forget the author).

  14. says

    The culture of Christianity certainly is in danger, but our walk with Christ is not cultural. It’s relational. :) The more institutional church fights to keep their culture going, the more people will see it for what it is.. a money maker. The IC has become an idol to many people, so has it’s pastors. God will take down the idols so they can see Christ as he is.

  15. Sean W says

    Certainly Billy’s observation was spot on:

    “Multitudes of Christians within the church are moving toward the point where they may reject the institution that we call the church.”

    However, is his solution helpful? Is it clear? What exactly does it mean?

    “Unless the church quickly recovers its authoritative Biblical message”

    Could it be those who are leaving the institution who are “reclaiming” the “Biblical message”?
    Could it be those who are leaving are doing so in part because of an unending anxiety created by those who feel compelled to defend and protect an “authoritative Biblical message”?
    Weren’t the Great Schisms and the Protestant Reformation largely fueled by conflict over *whose* Biblical message was authoritative?
    Isn’t the Catholic Church guilty of guarding the authority of their institution ahead of guarding those who could not guard themselves?

    Is there really ANYTHING that needs to be “reclaimed” if everything we have is a gift, including a “Biblical message”?

    • says

      Sean: Right. Billy shared what he saw coming according to his context and knowledge and tradition. Today, many are leaving the institutional church because they are looking for a deeper and more authentic experience of Jesus Christ and His Body. They may not have or use this language, but at bottom, their spiritual instincts are leading them not just “out” but “unto” God’s Eternal Purpose — the highest thing that God is, was, and will ever be after. This, of course, doesn’t represent everyone who leaves the IC. But it does represent a growing segment.

  16. Tasha says

    Hello Frank. Thank you for your ministry. These prophecies remind me of how much Father loves us. Always giving us the “heads up.” MLK Jr. wrote the exact same prophecy in his letter from a Birmingham jail in April of 1963. I’m not fully versed in copyright law, so I won’t quote it here, but the similarities between the two are so overwhelming that even a blind man could see it…well, then again, maybe not!

  17. jrust says

    i just love it when Christ confirms himself as truth through his people….it shows that he’s not catching up with us, we’re catching up with Him…He is leading whether we realize it or not.

  18. Dallas says

    Cool word! I don’t think Billy meant the first quote as a positive exodus though… But does that matter?
    Another thing, isn’t the second quote describing the G12 vision that bombed and became another mini-system however well-intentioned?

    • says

      Dallas: I think the first quote describes exactly what’s happening today and what George Barna and have called “the Revolution.” It’s one of leaving the old wineskin for the new.

      I don’t think the second is a description of any system other than the Lord’s own way of training 12 (which Paul duplicated in Ephesus by training 8). It’s actually the way that church planters in the first-century raised up Christian workers. I discuss this principle at length in FINDING ORGANIC CHURCH.

  19. Michael says

    Seems odd that he made that quote in 1958 about what he would do different, then seemingly stuck with the same thing for 50 more years. Not that what he is/was doing didn’t yield fruit, but I’m just saying that seems like a quote he would have made in 2008 looking back, not in 1958.

    Still, the man has been incredibly blessed and brought countless to Christ. I’m not trying to take away from his efforts, in the least. Just a thought.

  20. Molong Nacua says

    “I think one of the first things I would do would be to get a small group of eight or ten or twelve men around me that would meet a few hours a week and pay the price. It would cost them something in time and effort. I would share with them everything I have, over a period of years. Then I would actually have twelve ministers among the laymen who in turn could take eight or ten or twelve more and teach them. I know one or two churches that are doing that, and it is revolutionizing the church. Christ, I think, set the pattern. He spent most of his time with twelve men. He didn’t spend it with a great crowd. In fact, every time he had a great crowd it seems to me that there weren’t too many results. The great results, it seems to me, came in his personal interview and in the time he spent with the twelve.” (Quoted in “Billy Graham Speaks: The Evangelical World Prospect”, Christianity Today, vol.3, no.1, p.5, Oct.13, 1958).

  21. Doug S. says

    I also read an alleged quote from Billy Graham that I have been trying to track down to verify its authenticity. The quote was along the lines that Billy Graham said the he believed that only 5% of those who made a profession of faith in his crusades were truly saved. Again, this is not an exact quote of what I read, but a praphrase. Any help that anyone has with tracking this down would be appreciated.

  22. says

    Frank, I worked for Billy Graham for six years, and I recall he said on numerous occasions (none of which I’m finding via Google at the minute, however) that if he hadn’t been a world-renown evangelist, he would’ve spent his life pastoring a small church somewhere and been just as (or perhaps even more) fulfilled. So that ties in with the comment made earlier by Kathy, who cited a more direct source for the quotation.

  23. Kathy says

    The word about Billy Graham choosing 12 men to pour into is in The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman. It’s in the Epilogue under the subtitle Group Meetings. But the quote is in the context of what he would do if he were a pastor. You can check it out. In the back of his book, Coleman gives the original source.

  24. Tim Hoeksema says

    Thanks for your hunger to reveal truth about the church as it is. Thanks for your willingness to step out and take risks.

  25. Jay says

    It seems that Billy Graham meant this word to be a warning to the Church to prevent a negative action. The statement is truly prophetic, but the exodus from the institutional church is certainly not negative, but a new reformation and revival of the Church’s true nature.

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