William Martin, senior fellow in religion and public policy at the Baker Institute, author of "A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story" and the pre-eminent expert on the Rev. Billy Graham, released a statement today on the death of the popular religious leader:
"The Rev. Billy Graham was one of the most dominant Christian figures over the last 75 years. No more than one or two popes, perhaps one or two other people, came close to what he achieved.
"He was the key leader and the major spokesman of the evangelical movement during the last half of the 20th century. That movement has become one of the strongest in all of world Christianity and world religion, and he played the major role in that.
"He held evangelistic crusades in more than 80 countries; he preached in person to more than 80 million people and live through various media to hundreds of millions of others.
"He brought evangelical leaders from all over the world together, giving them a sense of being part of a great movement and showing them how to cooperate with each other to accomplish a great deal more.
"In huge international conferences, his organization taught tens of thousands of preachers from nearly every country in the world how to do the everyday nuts-and-bolts work of direct evangelism.
"He was a friend and counselor to virtually all the presidents since Dwight Eisenhower and a statesman not only for evangelical religion and Christianity but for the United States and democracy. In recognition, he received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow on a civilian.
"Billy Graham represented core American values in a singular way. Though he made some missteps, he remained free of scandal. He achieved his success by hard work rather than by inheritance or luck. He used the latest technology and media, but depended on the loyalty of a small group of friends who were with him for decades. He hobnobbed with the famous, the wealthy and the powerful around the world, yet seemed surprised that people were interested in him. He often seemed to have the kind of wonder of a small-town boy. He was both genuinely humble and genuinely ambitious and aware of the tension between those inclinations. He was not a perfect man, but he was an uncommonly good one.
"I don’t think any single person will be 'the next Billy Graham.' Evangelical Christianity has become so large and multifaceted that no one person can dominate it in the way that he did, regardless of talent or dedication. It’s just not going to happen. But 'Billy Graham' is not an office in the Christian church that has to be filled, like pope or bishop. Multitudes of people inspired by him will carry on the work of preaching the Christian gospel. And that’s what was most important to him.
"He will be remembered as a person of integrity and, if results are the measure, as the best who ever lived at what he did. He was, in the words of scripture, 'a workman who needeth not to be ashamed.'”
In this video, Martin reflects on Graham's life and work: