Christian Retailing

Christian publishers reflect on legacy of Billy Graham Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 11:33 AM America/New_York

BillyGraham-BGEA-300Global evangelist Billy Graham has died in his home in North Carolina at 99.

Graham has preached the gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history—nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, books, films and webcasts.

Graham wrote more than 30 books, many of which became top sellers. His autobiography, Just As I Am, published in 1997, achieved a "triple crown," appearing simultaneously on the three top best-seller lists in one week.

The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association selected Nearing Home as the 2012 Christian Book of the Year.

Graham’s book How to Be Born Again (1977) had the largest first printing in publishing history with 800,000 copies; Angels: God's Secret Agents (1975) sold 1 million copies within 90 days; and The Jesus Generation (1971) sold 200,000 copies in the first two weeks.

Since 1975, Thomas Nelson had been Dr. Graham’s majority trade book publisher. In that time, the publishing group partnered with Dr. Graham on numerous million-copy best-sellers, including Angels: God’s Secret Agents and How to Be Born Again. In September 2015, at the age of 96, Graham released his last  book, Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, and Our Life Beyond. His two previous releases, Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well (October 2011) and The Reason for My Hope: Salvation (October 2013), were both New York Times best-sellers. Zondervan and HarperOne, sister company to HarperCollins Christian Publishing, co-published Dr. Graham’s autobiography, Just As I Am, in May 1997. 

“To have published Billy Graham is one of the most treasured experiences of my life,” said Matt Baugher, who worked as Billy Graham’s publisher for 10 years. “Billy Graham had one reason, and one reason only, to preach, teach and write. That reason was the foundational gospel of Jesus Christ. He never watered down that message, yet was somehow accepted around the world by a wide variety of individuals, groups and belief systems.”

Mark Schoenwald, president and CEO of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, called it “a privilege to have Billy Graham as part of our publishing family.”

He added: “His work here on earth has been unsurpassed, and we are comforted that he is at the side of his heavenly Father.  Our world is forever impacted by the example he set as a follower of Jesus Christ, and for that we are grateful.”

David Moberg, senior vice president and group publisher for HarperCollins Christian Publishing Trade Books Group, shared more about the relationship Graham had with his publisher.

"Despite the great publishing success that Billy Graham enjoyed for over 50 years, it was never about best-sellers,” Moberg said. “It was always only about one thing: the gospel.  We have been blessed and inspired to have served as his publisher for many years and will always treasure this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Stephen Strang, Charisma magazine founder and author of God and Donald Trump, believes Graham’s message still rings true in America today.

“The entire Christian community mourns the passing of the greatest religious figure of the last century,” Strang said. “We thank God for his life and influence, which continues through his children and the organizations he founded. He preached that America needs God, and that’s true now more than ever.”

Tyndale House Publishers Chairman and CEO Mark D. Taylor also offered his reflections on Graham’s life.

“Billy Graham was a quiet man of God, but he was also a visionary,” Taylor said. “He led hundreds of thousands to a personal faith in God. His books influenced millions. Many ministries can point to ways in which their work was deeply influenced by Mr. Graham. That is certainly true for us at Tyndale House Publishers. When Tyndale House was still a kitchen-table operation, Mr. Graham began to promote Living Letters, the first part of what eventually became The Living Bible. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association gave away millions of copies of Living Letters and the subsequent books in that series. And when Mr. Graham insisted on paying Tyndale House a royalty for the copies that were given away, Ken Taylor, the founder of Tyndale House, used that royalty check to start Tyndale House Foundation. Mr. Graham was criticized for encouraging people to read a paraphrase of the New Testament, but he recognized the value of a translation that reads ‘like today’s newspaper.’ We thank God for the life and ministry of Billy Graham.”

Paraclete Press had a book about Graham in the works when he died.

"Billy Graham was one of the most influential Christians of the 20th century,” Paraclete Press Publisher Jon M. Sweeney said. “This is a sad but glorious day, as he goes home to heaven. We are moving the publication of Lon Allison's powerful and personal book, Billy Graham: The Man and His Message for Today, up so that now it will be in stores the Wednesday after Easter."