Hero Making: The Story of One Man Who Invested in Billy Graham, Changing the Course of His Ministry

All of us can and should look for people to invest our time, efforts, and energy in.


Many people have been talking about Rev. Billy Graham since his passing on February 21, 2018, and appropriately so. Having attended his funeral and hosted the radio coverage on many networks, I spent much time brushing up on Billy Graham history to share as color commentary during the radio broadcast.

However, what was also helpful was that, in that preparation, I was able to share something at the Exponential Conference in Orlando related to ‘hero-making’.

The Exponential Conference this year was built around the theme of people who have invested their lives in other people and were not themselves the heroes, but made other heroes. Now, let me say first that I think Billy Graham's ministry has largely been defined by pointing to someone other than himself.

In my latest CNN article I explained that Billy Graham is famous largely for trying to make someone else (Jesus) more famous. In other words, his life was largely driven by the ministry of telling people about Jesus instead of talking about himself.

Elner Edman as a ‘hero maker’

However, one of the stories that may surprise many people is the story that I shared during my mainstage session at the Exponential Conference. My colleagues at the Billy Graham Center, Paul Erickson and Bob Schuster, shared with me one example of a hero maker by the name of Elner Edman.

Elner was the brother of V. Raymond Edman, a past president of Wheaton College. Elner and Herman Fischer, who was on the Wheaton Board of Trustees at the time, were on vacation golfing in Florida. There, they met Graham, who was then a student at the Florida Bible Institute, a then-unaccredited Bible college (today, it is Trinity College in the Tampa Area).

They listened to Billy preach, but ...

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