This past week I attended a conference on discipleship at the Cove Training Center in NC. (The photo is a picture of a needlepoint portrait of Billy Graham hanging in the Cove Training Center, Asheville, NC.)
Will Graham, Billy Graham’s grandson, gave the devotional one morning. He said that he is often asked how his grandfather is doing, He tells people that Billy Graham is “Well…just ooooold.” He is almost entirely blind and deaf, but his mind is sharp. He is receiving 24-hour nursing care from two nurses. He will say phrases like “That’s good,” or “Thank you.” The family spends time with him, updating him on the ministry.
It has been said that Billy Graham led more people to Christ than anyone else in the history of Christianity. Years ago, I had the privilege of briefly talking with Billy. I attended Urbana, a missions gathering in Peoria, Illinois. I was among a bunch of students clamoring for a moment of his attention. When it was my turn to meet him and shake his hand, I came away impressed with one thing: his humility. I believe that one of the main reasons God used Billy and that his organization was without scandal was because he had a genuine dependence on God. He really made everything about God and not about himself.
Interestingly, during that morning devotional, Will Graham shared about a commitment Billy and his team made early on in their ministry called the Modesto Manifesto.
Back in 1948, 31-YEAR-OLD Billy Graham and his team gathered in a hotel room in Modesto, California. They were just starting their own evangelistic ministry and wanted to guard against allegations and potential pitfalls. They drew up a compact that became known as the Modesto Manifesto, though they produced no written document. They understood how easy it would be to become prideful and even abuse their success. In humility they made these following commitments:
- Accountability. The Graham team agreed they would seek accountability, especially in finances. They wanted to be amenable for the way they raised and distributed money at the crusades. They and the entire organizational staff set salaries conservatively so that no one could accuse them of using the crusades to make a profit.
- Honesty. They believed that honesty was still the best policy. This extended to their reporting of numbers, including crowd size and the commitments made. Graham was very careful about keeping things real and transparent. Someone put it this way, “Honesty costs nothing, and lying could cost you everything.”
- Purity. They also committed to never to be alone with a woman other than their wife. Graham, from that day forward, pledged not to eat, travel, or meet with a woman other than Ruth unless other people were present. Remember those two nurses taking care of Billy 24/7? Will told us that to this day, at age 97, Billy Graham is still fulfilling that commitment.
What the Modesto Manifesto did for Rev. Graham and his team was allow them to establish protective standards so that they remained unscathed by the storms of life. “Normal” life doesn’t test us and it doesn’t usually reveal our soundness, it’s the crises of life—in ministry, in health, in finances, in our families—that reveal our ability to withstand the storm intact, as the Latin root of integrity implies. Establishing this commitment, particularly with the added benefit of accountability, during the “normal” times allows us to withstand the impact of a crisis and guards our ability to live and lead through difficult times.
BEFORE YOU GO…
“My challenge to you is simple but often very difficult. Wear your armor of integrity. Take full measure of its weight. Find comfort in its protection.”
– General Charles Krulak, former Commandant of the Marine Corps
What does your Modesto Manifesto say about you? Do you have standards and protections in place to allow you to “remain intact”? Find someone today to act as your partner in your commitment to integrity.
“The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” Proverbs 11:3