Things don’t always appear as they should be. I call this the tale of two preachers: one named Billy and the other named Chuck.
They were seminary friends and both looked forward to serving in their chosen profession — the ministry! One was a brilliant and thoughtful student. He learned everything he could and pursued the backgrounds and historical insights he would use to prepare sermons. He was a handsome and charming young man. Every congregation would have considered him a perfect successor to their retiring clergyperson.
When you saw Chuck at first meeting, he impressed you. You knew this young man would be a success. Most of his peers would name him one of the “most likely to succeed.”
The other young man was named Billy. He was a tall, rather gangly young man from North Carolina. He was probably more interested in baseball than being a preacher. He wasn’t as much of a student as several of his professors and would-be mentors would have preferred. In fact, he was even asked not to return to one of the colleges where he started.
He had been converted in a tent revival where an old-time evangelist was preaching. The kind of personal magnetism he displayed drew people to him. Early in his career he was chosen to be a college president at a small school in the Midwest. Neither the academic setting nor the administrative duties motivated him.
Chuck and Billy often talked about theology. It seemed that Chuck was more erudite, maybe even more intellectually superior to Billy. Some of the studies of the Bible perplexed Billy while Chuck seemed to resolve the theological issues. Both were young evangelists for Youth for Christ before Chuck returned to study at Princeton Seminary. He later became a politician and a writer.
At a conference center in the mountains of Southern California, Billy made a commitment to preach the Scripture, often quoting it exactly as the verse appeared. It was a life-changing experience for him.
Those who heard Chuck Templeton preach admired his intellectual sermons and theological interpretations. His intellectual capacities were brilliant. In 1957, Templeton resigned the ministry and left the faith which once nurtured him.
The other preacher was Billy Graham, who preached to more people in person than any other evangelist who has ever lived. When someone asked Billy Graham about the success of his crusades, he said, “Prayer, prayer and prayer!” When he preached, the theme was always, “The Bible says …”
Around 1950, Billy Graham wrote one of his earliest books. It was called “Peace with God.” A little later in his career, Chuck Templeton wrote his book, “Farewell to God.”
Until the early 1950’s many people would have been impressed with Dr. Charles Templeton, but after the Los Angeles crusade in 1949, people who heard Billy Graham preach had their lives changed when they heard the Bible’s message. When God calls a messenger, he succeeds.