Billy Graham was often asked about the importance of legacy and what he wanted his legacy to be. Certainly, his spiritual support of presidents and world leaders left a lasting legacy that can never be measured in the scope of its impact on history. He preached in front of more people than anyone in history, with his ministry spanning every habitable continent and 185 countries. He was nicknamed “Pastor to Presidents,” “God’s Ambassador,” and “America’s Pastor,” yet, what did he think was the most important legacy to leave behind.
In his 2011 book, Nearing Home, Billy Graham writes of what he considers to be the greatest legacy:
The greatest legacy you can pass on to your children and grandchildren is not your money or the other material things you have accumulated in life. The greatest legacy you can pass on to them is the legacy of your character and your faith. The same is true for other young people who know us and observe us even if they aren’t related to us.
This, after all, is what our grandchildren and others who knew us will remember about us after we are gone—for better or for worse. If our character is bad, marked by greed or thoughtlessness or anger or bitterness or selfishness or irresponsibility or a lack of integrity or any other negative quality, this is how we will be remembered. But if our character and integrity have been shaped by Christ over the years, they can’t help but see this and remember it.
Why is faith our greatest legacy? Because the memory of what we were like—not just our personalities but our character and our faith—has the potential to influence others for Christ.
My parents had a profound impact on me. My mother’s kind and gentle character and concern for the spiritual welfare of others are reaping fruit still today. Although her formal education was limited, she loved the Bible and spent a great deal of time teaching the Bible to others. I recall also with deep gratitude my father’s example of honesty, integrity, discipline, and hard work.
I remember as a young man observing an older couple who lived in our community. They enjoyed one another’s company, never realizing the impact they were making on those watching from afar. Over the years countless others have influenced me and changed me by the examples of their lives—although I am sure they were unaware of it. The same has probably been true of people in your life. Our greatest impact on others often comes not from what we say but from what we do.
On Feb. 21, the Billy Graham Library will celebrate Billy Graham’s legacy on the anniversary of his homegoing to Heaven. Find out more about this special event and plan your visit today.