Christian for Christians

The Three Most Important Things My Mentor Learned From Nine Years Working With Billy Graham

In the not-too-distant shadow of a man whose name the world will long remember, another man, whose name you’ve likely never heard, watched him carefully. For nine years Chuck Wenger worked with Mr. Graham, tactfully observing him and gleaning the best of what he saw.

Mr. Graham lived an incredible story.

In the week since his passing, his life has been highlighted on every major media outlet, headlining the evening news and topping the trending charts across social media. The Wall Street Journal even called him perhaps the most significant evangelist since the Apostle Paul. Hard to disagree.

Today Mr. Graham becomes just the fourth private citizen of the United States to lay at rest in the US Capital Rotunda. Suffice to say the world knows his story.

I did not know Mr. Graham, but I did know Chuck Wenger.

After his near decade of discipleship around Mr. Graham, Chuck too went on to live an incredible story. This week, I’ve been reflecting on what Chuck learned from Mr. Graham and what made his story so great.

It wasn’t the Bible studies Chuck led, which started with a few men and grew into the hundreds.

It wasn’t the unimaginable success he experienced in business.

It wasn’t the fact that he made the bank teller and the grocery store clerk feel like they were the president.

It wasn’t even his trips to the Oval Office, the personal gifts from Ronald Reagan, or that he turned down a job from two different presidents.

Even more important, Chuck grew a healthy marriage and become a family man. During his final days in December of 2015, it was clear that Chuck was most proud of his children and grandchildren. But there was still more to it than that.

I once had the chance to ask him if he’d share the three most important things he learned from his ‘BG Days.” Chuck’s answers, in his own words:

1. Spiritual Maturity. It can be encouraged by others but can’t be accomplished by others for you. You can be in the best garden in the world and still become a weed. Your willingness to be tended and fertilized and grow is something you have to choose to do, it can’t be done for you.

2. Integrity is a way of life. Not a weekend visit. It’s 24/7 and is defined by how other people see Christ in you.

3. Don’t expect to get rich if your’e in Kingdom work, but expect to be extremely wealthy in your marriage, in your family, and in the things that last.

Chuck had been a “Christian” since his friend Gene (Eugene Brackett) shared the gospel with him at Fort Lauderdale High School in the early 1950’s. But he didn’t become a disciple until he met George Wilson more than a decade later. George had been a founding member of BGEA and met regularly with Chuck for four months before Chuck chose to follow Christ, “Not just as Savior, but as the Lord of my life” as he’d say.

George M. Wilson (Image: BGEA)

Later that year, World Wide Pictures, the film evangelism branch of BGEA, needed someone to focus on marketing and negotiating contracts. Chuck’s business savvy made him a natural fit, but it took George half a year to hire him. He didn’t bring Chuck into the ministry until he saw how serious Chuck was about following Christ. And so Chuck went to work at World Wide Pictures. He’d attribute those nine years as his primary season of discipleship, meeting regularly with George and remaining attentive to Mr. Graham all the while, growing ever-more aware that Mr. Graham wasn’t just a man in the spotlight, he was the same person everywhere all the time.

Chuck wearing his Film Evangelism shirt in the “BG Days”

Chuck was close enough to be a recognizable face to Mr. Graham, but distant enough for Mr. Graham to have to be reminded of his name before any big meetings. He once recalled a story of a time Mr. Graham called him on the phone and gave him a stern earful over his decision to allocate millions of dollars to fund three new films. “Charles” Mr. Graham declared, “I’ve just given all that money to feed starving children in Africa, don’t you ever allocate God’s money like that again, it is already gone. If God wants us to make those other films he’ll keep providing.” Chuck was more grateful for the lesson than he was embarrassed about the rebuke. And within six months all the money to fund the next round of films had come back in.

When prompted, and if the environment was small enough, Chuck would share other stories from the BG days. Like the time Mr. Graham put Muhammad Ali’s jaw on the floor. Evidently Ali stopped dead in his tracks, wearing a look of disbelief when he’d realized Mr. Graham didn’t have a chauffeur, but instead had driven himself to the airport to pick Ali up.

Muhammad Ali visiting Mr. Graham at his home. (Photo: BGEA)

On another occasion, it was Chuck who was surprised, this time by Corrie Ten Boom, whom he’d worked closely with on the set of The Hiding Place. Corrie sat down beside Chuck and asked how she could be praying for he and his wife Charleen. As quickly as Chuck finished answering, Corrie seized his forearm tightly, head already bowed, immediately praying just what Chuck had requested. “At my age I don’t have time to waste not praying” she’d say to him after.

Chuck had stories like those by the dozens, but he was just a guy in the shadow of the man who lived a life in the spotlight. His legacy is far less known.

In the years following his wife’s passing in 1998 Chuck invited small groups of young men to his home in Fort Lauderdale, brought in some of the best pastors and disciple-makers he knew, put a curriculum together and taught the Bible while affirming in each young man that he was lovable, valuable and capable.

He called the group the Band of Brothers in Christ and before the Lord brought him home, he saw young men from nine countries and nineteen states own their faith and become disciple-makers. I am just one of the many undeserving beneficiaries of Chuck’s teaching, wisdom, and love.

This week I’ve been reminded that Mr. Graham lived a great story, and as much as we know about his life in the spotlight, I’d wager he had an even greater impact on people when he was off stage. I’ll never forget Chuck telling of the time Mr. Graham called an emergency meeting and showed up for it almost an hour late. Chuck had made some family sacrifices to be there and grew frustrated by the whole situation. When Mr. Graham finally showed up he gave no explanation for his tardiness and the meeting lasted just five minutes.

Chuck later found out that when Mr. Graham was leaving his hotel room a cleaning lady stopped him and asked if he was Billy Graham. After listening to her story, Mr. Graham shared the gospel with her and gave her a Bible. She prayed right then and there to accept Christ.

I don’t know about you, but I cannot relate well to the man who preached to millions at a time, but hotel hallways make sense to me.

Kingdom life is mostly lived in the space between where we’re coming from and where we’re going, and in the not-too-distant shadows someone is always paying attention.

On Friday Mr. Graham’s funeral will be streamed live. One last public proclamation of a race well-run. One last moment in front of a global audience.

As you remember Mr. Graham’s legacy, will you do me one favor?

Be reminded of what made Mr. Graham’s story, and Chuck’s story, so incredible. It didn’t matter if the spotlight was on or not, it was always about Jesus and not them. They lived with a confidence that can only come from knowing they had nothing personal to offer outside of the Gospel of the Resurrected Christ.

Thank you, Mr. Graham, for what you said to millions and what you didn’t need to say to a man who kept a close eye on you for nine years. The notes he took helped script an incredible story and help me daily as I live my own. I’ve also got over 100 brothers who are equally eternally grateful.

“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” – Billy Graham


….P.s. If you’re a college-aged guy and you want to change the world, don’t hesitate.


4 Ways Disciples Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions

Given the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, it is easy to feel like God hard-wired us to be attracted to fresh starts. We all like new things, and a new year is no exception.

It is estimated that right now over 127 million well-intentioned Americans set goals for the New Year. Get fit, save money, stop eating fast food, quit smoking. We’ve all had a list, and setting goals is admirable. 

But on December 11, 2016 a University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology study revealed that just 8% of people who make New Years resolutions actually achieve them.

That’s not a typo. New Years resolutions boast a 92% failure rate.

It’s easy to assume why this may be the case; lack of seriousness and accountability, not having an actionable plan, or even sheer laziness. I just wonder if it is not something less obvious. After all, 92% of 127 million is still a lot of million. And this is recurring annually without improvement.

As disciples, how do we fit into this narrative? 

If God put Jesus on earth to accomplish something specific and change the world and you’re a disciple of Jesus, then God put you on earth to accomplish something specific and change the world. If we’re going to be a force for Christ in the world around us this year it only makes sense to start strong.  

The question we ought to ask is how did Jesus begin?

These are the four things scripture tells us Jesus did before his ministry began:

  1. Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21)
  2. Jesus spent time alone with God (Matthew 4:1, Luke 4:1,2)
  3. Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:2, Luke 4:2)
  4. Jesus used scripture to overcome temptation (Matthew 4:4-11, Mark 1:12, 13, Luke 4:3-13)

If that’s how Jesus kick-started his ministry, it’s worth us considering kick-starting our year the same way. I wonder if 118 million people won’t achieve their goals because they’re not preparing properly?

What if we resolved to take time over the next few days preparing for 2017 the way Jesus prepared for his ministry – spending time alone with God, fasting, and meditating on the word? (And if you’ve not been baptized publicly by water, there’s probably no better way to start your new year!)

I gave this New Year prep method a shot this year, and found not only did my goals not come close to what God had in store, I realized God just wants more of me, not more from me. I’ll close 2016 extending a kind encouragement to you to do the same. 

May 2017 be your most impactful year yet and may you have a Holy New Year.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us.”Ephesians 3:20

After Preparing the Way Jesus Did; A Reflection

(This is a reflection after preparing for 2017 the way Jesus prepared for his ministry.) 

In Mark 10:46-52 Bartimaeus, a blind beggar sitting on the side of the road, yelled out for Jesus to have mercy on him. The people told him to be quiet, but that didn’t stop him, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and gave a command for Bartimaeus to be called to him. I like to imagine everyone fell quiet. Bartimaeus threw off his cloak, sprang up, and went to Jesus. But what happens next is the first fascinating scene in this story.

Jesus asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51)

This question strikes me. Jesus had to know Bartimaeus wanted sight. But he still asked him what he wanted. 

I am reminded that clarity is essential to live the life of a disciple. I end 2016 with the presupposition that I am blind to what God has for me and for BOBIC in 2017. But I do know Jesus and seek his leading into, during, and through 2017.

Jesus knows what is best for me and for BOBIC, but I wonder as I approach Him, if he will ask me the same question he asked Bartimaeus. “What do you want me to do for you Christian?” 

Bartimaeus, as we know, asked for his sight to be recovered. Here comes the second fascinating highlight in the story.

When Jesus healed other men who were blind, he touched them (Matthew 9:29, Matthew 20:34), laid hands on them (Mark 8:22-25) or anointed them with dirt (John 9:6,7). But not for Bartimaeus.

Instead, Jesus just said, “Go, your faith has healed you.”

In 2017, will Jesus be able to respond to my petitions by saying to me, “Go, your faith . . .”? I want the answer to be yes.

Bartimaeus was a man of faith, but it didn’t stop him from crying out for mercy, even in front of a crowd of people telling him to hush up. I bet it was all the more reason for him to shout. In light of this interaction, I am less concerned with what to ask for and more focused on how Jesus might respond to me.

However I choose to answer Jesus asking me what I want, I want him to be able to respond with an acknowledgement of my measure of faith in him.

As for Bartimaeus’ reaction to Jesus healing him with just a few words then telling him to go? “…And immediately he recovered his sight and followed [Jesus] on the way.” (Mark 10:52)

As a weak man, I still ask for help.

I am asking and striving for nothing more than an increase in my faith in Jesus Christ and that as it increases, any selfish desire or ambition be killed. I want to move forward in 2017 with the clarity that only comes from Christ and a peace that transcends all understanding.

Bartimaeus chose Jesus when he was blind and he chose Jesus when he could see. I have a hundred ideas about what 2017 might hold for my family and for BOBIC, but apart from Christ they’re all worthless. I reaffirm my choosing Jesus and ask him to have mercy on me and give me a bold faith like Bartimaeus.

How would you respond if Jesus called for you and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” 

A World Without Band of Brothers in Christ?


For those of you who know me well, you know I grew up incredibly well-loved, but that my family didn’t have a lot. There were five of us in a house with one shower my whole life. We had so much to be grateful for, but things always seemed to be sort of tough.

No one needs a sob story, and that’s not where this is going. In fact, if I shared the details, you’d probably tell me . . . Read more