Billy Graham and Church Membership

Billy Graham never lived in Dallas, Texas, but his membership has been at the First Baptist Church in Dallas since 1953. The Dallas Morning News now reports that Rev. Graham has moved his membership to the First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, South Carolina. Here’s the full report below.

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For more than half a century, the First Baptist Church of Dallas could claim among its members one of the most famous of Christians – the Rev. Billy Graham.

But that distinction has ended with the 90-year-old evangelist’s decision to join the First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, S.C., which is much nearer his home in Montreat, N.C.

On Christmas Eve, Mr. Graham met with the Spartanburg church’s pastor, the Rev. Donald Wilton, and asked to join. Members of First Baptist Spartanburg voted him in on Sunday.

The Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, confirmed the membership switch on Monday.

“We’ll always treasure the relationship,” Dr. Jeffress said.

Mr. Graham joined First Baptist Dallas during his first crusade in the city, held at the Cotton Bowl in 1953. First Baptist Dallas was then led by the Rev. W.A. Criswell and was widely considered the preeminent church in the Southern Baptist Convention.

But Mr. Graham never lived in Dallas and attended the church sporadically through the years.

A widower and infirm, Mr. Graham is essentially homebound in Montreat these days and watches TV broadcasts of First Baptist Spartanburg services.

He also is close to Dr. Wilton, who sometimes preaches for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and regularly visits him in Montreat.

“This was not an easy or quick decision by Mr. Graham, but he increasingly felt it was important to unite with First Baptist Spartanburg, as that has had his attention and focus, especially through television, in recent years,” said Larry Ross, a spokesman for Mr. Graham.

The evangelist has relayed to Dr. Jeffress his “love and appreciation” for First Baptist Dallas and Dr. Jeffress’ ministry, Mr. Ross added.

Dr. Jeffress said he understands Mr. Graham’s decision.

“We always encourage people to be a member of a church that is close to them and can minister to them,” Dr. Jeffress said, “and Dr. Graham felt like at this stage in his life and ministry, that’s what he needed.”

7 Responses to Billy Graham and Church Membership

  1. JB December 30, 2008 at 3:32 pm #

    If we don’t ever see you in attendance and you have no intention of submitting to the Christ honoring authority of the Elders then let’s not pretend you are a member. Should it not be in some since that simple?

  2. Mike Templin December 30, 2008 at 9:20 pm #

    yes it should JB

  3. jigawatt December 30, 2008 at 11:48 pm #

    This kind of sounds like that amorphous “citizen of the world” concept.

  4. Don Johnson December 31, 2008 at 9:44 am #

    A believer should gather with other believers on a regular basis, in many cases this results in joining a local congregation. This is especially important for those in leadership ministry, like Billy Graham.

  5. Jan DeKlavon January 1, 2009 at 12:03 pm #

    I am thankful that Rev. Graham considers church membership an issue that is not to be taken lightly. Dr. Graham is well aware he is homebound, and thus is not able to attend his local church. Because of his instrumental role as a pioneer in television evangelism in his early years of ministry, this same venue is providing him a virtual congregation through FBC Dallas, in which he feels at home.
    This man is a man of integrity, authenticity, and every other wonderful adjective you can ascribe to this precious servant. The pastors of BOTH churches affirm his decision, so there is no division among them. We dont know how long we will be blessed to have Dr. Graham with us in this life. Please let this good and faithful servant finish well.

  6. Charlie Wallace January 6, 2009 at 2:40 pm #

    I know for a fact that Billy Graham worships via TV with FBC Spartanburg weekly and has developed a close relationship with Dr. Wilton, the pastor at FBC Spartanburg. I think this is a biblical move for him.

  7. Jan DeKlavon January 6, 2009 at 5:30 pm #

    Oops! I meant to write,”…a virtual congregation through FBC Spartanburg,…”

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