Recently I read a book called “A God-Sized Vision” by Collin Hansen. Hansen details several significant movements of God from all around the world and identifies what they had in common. The last chapter features the evangelical resurge in the 1950’s, particularly related to Billy Graham. I found Graham’s “Modesto Manifesto” particularly challenging, and relevant to our day.
Graham and his associates were just starting to get involved in evangelistic meetings. At the time, many traveling evangelists crossed the country and a number fell to scandals – moral, ethical and financial. In a desire to see their ministry remain above and without scandal, the men met to discuss the problems evangelists faced. They came up with four problems to avoid:
- Money – As love offerings were common for evangelists of the day, Graham and his associates avoided outside criticism and potential temptation for themselves by not emphasizing an offering in their meetings. They settled with their normal salary and allowed other committee members to deal with money above their own salary.
- Immorality – Graham and his colleagues set ground rules to avoid the immorality that unfortunately was quite common among other traveling religious leaders. They vowed never to be alone with a woman other than their own wives, and they often tried as best they could to place their hotel rooms near each other for the sake of accountability.
- Exaggeration – In order to avoid inflating statistics related to the numbers of those who attended and those who accepted Christ from their meetings, they only used statistics from local authorities and arena managers.
- Criticism – A common practice was to criticize local churches or pastors from the pulpit, but Graham and his men vowed not to take part in tearing down others and especially not from a public setting.
To be honest, I am scared to death of what ministry success can do to me. I pray that God preserve my spirit from my enemy that will use all means, overt and hidden, to destroy me. The coldness of materialism and the haughtiness of pride can deaden my heart as quickly as the fires of lust.