After Rev. Billy Graham's death at the age of 99, pastors, authors and faith leaders alike remembered the evangelist as someone with great humility and a passion for the Bible's teachings.
Some praised Graham – who preached to more than 200 million people in his lifetime – as "the most important evangelist since the Apostle Paul” and “one of the most faithful followers of Jesus.” Others recalled the impact he had on their faith or that of loved ones.
About 2,000 people, including prominent religious leaders, were invited to Graham's funeral service, which took place Wednesday under a tent outside the Billy Graham Library near his home in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Rev. Franklin Graham delivered the main funeral address for his father after personal messages from Billy Graham's three daughters and younger son.
"My father was F-A-T. He was Faithful, he was Available, and he was Teachable ... May we all be that way," Graham's son, Nelson, told the crowd of mourners.
"My father was not God but he showed me what God was like," Graham's daughter, Ruth, added.
Several other religious leaders stepped up to the podium to thank Graham for his unwavering faith and leadership.
"Mr. Graham, on behalf of millions of international Christians around the world... thank you for your bringing salvation message to our part of the world," Billy Kim, former president of the Baptist World Alliance, said during the noon service.
As he’s honored, here’s a look at how Graham is being remembered by fellow Christian faith leaders.
Franklin Graham, the late reverend's son, recalled something his father once said about Heaven.
"My father ... was once asked, 'Where is Heaven?' He said, 'Heaven is where Jesus is and I am going to Him soon!' This morning, he departed this world into eternal life in Heaven, prepared by the Lord Jesus Christ — the Savior of the world — whom he proclaimed for 80 years," Franklin Graham said.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, part of the Southern Baptist Convention, said it’s almost “impossible” to count the number of people he knows who have become Christians through Graham’s work.
In an interview with Fox News, Moore praised the authenticity of Graham, saying he was someone who was the same in both his public and private life.
"The death of Billy Graham is a time for all of us to reflect on the hope that he preached – forgiveness of sins and peace with God through Jesus Christ."
“My earliest memories are watching him preach on television as a very small child. I remember being struck as a child with the gravity with which he took the Gospel. That continued with me for the rest of my life,” Moore said. “When I met Dr. Graham, that same sense of weightiness of the Gospel was evident in him personally – just as it was in public.”
Moore added that Graham was “successful” because his work wasn’t all about himself, comparing him to the John the Baptist.
“I think the death of Billy Graham is a time for all of us to reflect on the hope that he preached – forgiveness of sins and peace with God through Jesus Christ,” Moore said. “I hope there’s a great deal of reflection, not just on what he did, but why.”
Pastor Greg Laurie went from watching Graham on his black and white television to attending one of his crusades in San Diego, California, to serving with him as a board member on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“I wasn’t in any way disappointed that I got to know him. He was every much the man you would have hoped he would be,” Laurie, the pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, told Fox News.
"I don’t think anyone will ever take Billy’s place. But we can all, in our own way, follow his example and proclaim the same Gospel as he did."
Laurie said Graham, who he has been friends with since the early 1990s, was a “very humble man” who enjoyed meeting and talking with new people. Graham was faithful in his message, Laurie said, which was simply: We’re all sinners, but God loves us and sent his son to die for us.
“I don’t think anyone will ever take Billy’s place. But we can all, in our own way, follow his example and proclaim the same Gospel as he did,” Laurie said.
“Billy Graham served God’s purpose for his generation and then he died,” Rick Warren said.
The venerable pastor and author’s stark statement about Graham is a reference to Acts 13:36, a Bible verse that says, “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed.”
That epithet, Warren told Fox News, is perhaps the greatest praise he could give someone. He complimented the late evangelist’s integrity, single focus and humility.
"It would be hard to overestimate Billy Graham's impact on my life and ministry."
“There will not be a replacement” for Graham, he said. But that’s not necessarily a bleak perspective.
“He was irreplaceable and unique, but the world has changed. In each generation, God raises up new women and new men to serve his purpose in his generation,” Warren said. “It’s one of the greatest lessons we can learn from Graham.”
Warren also said, "It would be hard to overestimate Billy Graham's impact on my life and ministry."
Graham “affirmed the next generation” through his encouragement. Warren, the senior pastor of Saddleback Church in California, said he still has multiple handwritten letters and cards from Graham, sent to him in encouragement when Warren was a young pastor.
Now – carrying on Graham’s legacy – Warren continues the tradition.
Calling Graham a “brother in Christ,” Dr. James Dobson said he would miss the evangelist greatly.
“It’s not often that you can say someone truly changed the world, but when it comes to Billy, he changed the face of eternity as well,” Dobson, author and founder of Family Talk, said in a statement to Fox News. “Through his crusades, he helped turn many millions of hearts to Christ.”
“While superlatives abound regarding the life and deeds of Rev. Graham, I believe he would want us all to point our admiration and adoration back to Jesus,” he continued.
Paula White, pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida, told Fox News that Graham’s “love of God was so tangible in his life.”
“This man truly lived out Christ-likeness,” said White, a spiritual adviser to President Trump, adding that when she met with Graham it was like she was having a conversation with Jesus himself. “His words were powerful and profound, but it was the presence of God in his life.”
White continued, “He always pointed everything to Jesus Christ. It’s one thing about Dr. Billy Graham – in word, deed, action, presence – he pointed everything back to his Lord and Savior.”
It was only the second or third time Thom Rainer was able to meet Graham before a Louisville, Kentucky crusade, but when the reverend saw him, he said, “I am so honored to see you again.”
Rainer, president and CEO of the Nashville-based LifeWay Christian Resources, recalled the meeting, telling Fox News that it points to the “incredible humility” that embodied Graham.
Aside from his humility, Rainer praised Graham’s ability to understand the context in which he lived in. As an evangelist, Graham was always asking questions, always searching for a better way to reach people, Rainer said. He did that through his crusades, then with the radio and eventually through television programs.
“He was an anointed man – we can only explain that through the right theology of God – but God used him because he was willing to understand the context [of the era],” Rainer, the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, said.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez recalled watching Graham preaching on his black and white television when he was a young teenager. His sermons about reaching the world with the gospel inspired Rodriguez to do the same, he told Fox News.
The president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Rodriguez praised Graham as the “quintessential unifier,” pointing, in particular, to the integration of his crusades at a time when segregation was prevalent.
"He understood that every single person is created in the image of God without exception."
“No Christian leader in modern history brought more unity to the Christian body than Billy Graham,” he said.
“He understood that every single person is created in the image of God without exception,” Rodriguez said of Graham, who he also called a “civil rights advocate.”
Additionally, Rodriguez said Graham brought together different factions of Christianity – charismatics and non-charismatics – through his preaching.
“He taught me if you teach the word, but most importantly if you live the word, if your character lines up with your rhetoric, then God will convict the hearts of mankind,” said Rodriguez.
Anne Graham Lotz
When evangelist Anne Graham Lotz thinks of the late preacher, she doesn’t necessarily think of the public figure – but her father, she said in a statement.
“But when I think of him I also think of his message because he was immersed in it. Saturated in it. He was his message…a simple man who had responded to God’s love by placing his faith in Jesus, receiving the assurance that his sins were forgiven, that he would not perish, but would have everlasting life,” Lotz, an author, said. “Simple faith. Faith that matters more than anything else.”
Lotz recalled that she’s said she was raised by a single parent, as Graham was often away for his ministry.
“Now, he has left again. This time, he will not be coming back. At least, not until Jesus does, too,” Lotz said. “While he may be physically absent and his voice silent, I am confident that his message will continue to reverberate throughout the generations to come.”
She said she hopes her father’s death will be a “rallying cry” for others to “rise up to take his place.”
Pastor and author David Jeremiah said people should “rejoice that this child of God is reunited with his Father in Heaven.”
“I thank God for the life and ministry of this man to whom so many of us pastors, ministers and church leaders have long admired and whose example has inspired so many others to spend their lives in service to Jesus,” Jeremiah, senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in California, said in a statement provided to Fox News.
Jentezen Franklin, the senior pastor of Free Chapel church in Gainesville, Georgia said, to him, Graham had the most commitment when it came to preaching.
“Upon hearing him preach for the first time one could immediately realize how dearly this man loved Jesus and wanted others to experience that same love – it overflowed from the very depths of his heart,” Franklin said in a statement provided to Fox News. “His passion and commitment to sharing the love of Jesus all around the world was instrumental in my own life, inspiring me as I began my ministry.”
Author of the bestseller “Case for Christ,” Lee Strobel tweeted a simple message following Graham’s death.
“A life of sharing the Good News with the world. Well done, good and faithful servant!” he wrote.
Author and evangelist Beth Moore also took to Twitter to remember Graham.
“There simply will never be another Billy Graham," she posted. "What a gift of God to this world."
Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church in the Charlotte area, paid tribute to Graham.
“You showed us how to leave the 99 for the 1. Thank you, Dr. Graham,” Furtick tweeted.
His social media post referenced the Biblical parable about a shepherd who leaves his flock of 99 safe sheep to look for the one that wandered off.
Evangelist and author Joel Osteen shared photos of himself with Graham with his Twitter followers, calling the late religious leader a “hero in our home.”
“Next to my own father, Reverend Graham was the most humble and gracious man I ever knew. I am honored to call him a friend and mentor,” Osteen said.
Author and financial counselor Dave Ramsey remembered Graham as “possibly the greatest man of the last 100 years.”
“The world is darker today as Billy Graham goes home,” Ramsey said. “Thousands of souls applauding in Heaven as he walks in and hears: ‘Well done good and faithful servant.’”
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell expressed his prayers for Graham’s family on social media.
“The Christian faith has lost its greatest orator of the last century who gave hope to billions that, even [though] we are all sinners, there is hope & eternal life thru faith in Jesus Christ,” Falwell said.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said his family had “respect and admiration” for Graham, despite a difference in religious beliefs.
“There was no question that the Dolans were a Catholic family, firm in our faith, but in our household there was always respect and admiration for Billy Graham and the work he was doing to bring people to God.”
Archbishop of Canterbury
Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, said Graham was “an exemplar to generation upon generation of modern Christians.”
“When it comes to a living and lasting influence upon the worldwide church he can have few equals: for he introduced person after person to Jesus Christ,” said the archbishop, the leader of the Church of England.
"Now he is face to face with Jesus Christ, his saviour and ours. It is the meeting he has been looking forward to for the whole of his life."
“The debt owed by the global church to him is immeasurable and inexpressible,” Welby continued. “Personally I am profoundly grateful to God for the life and ministry of this good and faithful servant of the gospel; by his example he challenged all Christians to imitate how he lived and what he did.”
“He was one who met presidents and preachers, monarchs and musicians, the poor and the rich, the young and the old, face to face. Yet now he is face to face with Jesus Christ, his saviour and ours. It is the meeting he has been looking forward to for the whole of his life.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.