...And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
-From The Form and Manner of Ordering Priests, Ordinal.
Despite the obvious differences...
Yes, we know that our ministry, as Anglican priests, includes the east side of the rail, that is the sacraments; we do not wear Baptist vestments (suit and tie), and we know all of the things that create a gulf between us and them-not any specific "them," just, them. But, lately I discovered that a cable channel has been showing old videos of Billy Graham preaching in stadiums, some of which sermons I distinctly remember having seen, most likely before some of you were born. Despite the obvious differences between my Anglican ways, and the Baptist ways of Billy Graham, I recognize Someone else who was almost visibly present in Graham's Christ-centered preaching. That is, the Holy Ghost who Himself bears witness to Jesus Christ in power, animating any preacher who is not afraid to call "all men everywhere to repent."
It seems funny that Baptists and other revivalists have an "altar call," inasmuch as they have no altar. This really comes from us, however, because in every Holy Communion service we issue the true Altar Call, or the Invitation:
Ye who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort; and make your humble confession to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling.
Yes, we are able to follow up with the Absolution, as priests, for those who confess with "hearty repentance and true faith." But, have we actually taken care in our sermons to speak directly and seriously so as to give genuine weight to the words of the Invitation before the General Confession? I believe our preaching should always be part of "the ministry of reconciliation." (II Cor. 5:18) To that end I suggest learning a few things about effective preaching from a world larger than merely our own ethos. Assuming we all have the maturity to appreciate the good things of wisdom, even from those who are not of our fold, I want to point out a few things that can be learned from Billy Graham. These relate only to one part of our ministry, but an important part, namely preaching.
1. Speak directly
No flowery language, no attempt to impress anybody with sophisticated and fashionable trends. And, please, no inspirational messages or sentimental rambling from personal anecdotes. Speak directly to the real need of people, in terms they appreciate and understand.
2. Speak with authority
Constantly, Billy Graham would say, "the Bible says..." Certainly, Anglicans can say that too, and we should say it often. In the pulpit we are supposed to present God's word, not our own ideas, not even our best ideas.
3. Speak with passion
Not feigned or false passion; but certainly with an inner fire that comes from within by the Holy Spirit.
4. Speak with urgency
If we are calling people to a serious encounter with God, (which, by the way, receiving the Sacrament always is, even to those who do not know the weight of it), we should have as much urgency in our sermons as Graham exhibited in his evangelistic preaching. "For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (II Cor.6:2) The message must be, as it has always been in Graham's sermons, Be reconciled to God through his Son right now-there is no later. We must take care that no one, especially those who hear us week after week, depart this life without real preparation. Have we presented both a sober warning and the mercy of God in Christ? If we preach to someone every Sunday for years, as he sits in a pew, and he dies unprepared, how will we answer for what we did with all that time, all those opportunities?
5. Call sin, sin.
And do not hesitate to go against the grain, against the zeitgeist. Do not fear, at times, to mention actual sins by name if need be, and to denounce their destructive and dangerous end.
6. Call death, death
Don't fail to remind everyone that we are all mortal. Not only was this characteristic of Billy Graham's preaching, strange as that was in modern times. This was characteristic of all Christian preaching through the ages until now. It is really the Catholic Tradition to preach with this reminder of the inevitable placed before all hearers. Today, however, we are afraid to spoil the fun. We do not want to ruin, by mention of death and dying, the warm fuzzies, as if church is about a nice cozy feeling; even though death is certain, and even though we know the remedy to it.
7. Stick to the main point
Do not get sidetracked in your sermons with anything that distracts people's attention from their greatest need, that is to be always reconciled to God, to know God, and to serve God; and do not distract from the central message of Jesus Christ. The pulpit is not the place for side issues. There is no sermon time to waste on the things of this world that passes away. This is the only way, by the way, for our sermons to be in true harmony with our liturgy-or have you not noticed?
So, these are things to learn from one of the finest preachers in modern history, a master orator, and certainly a Christian man who has earned the respect of all.
Here is one example, from 1959.