Billy Graham and the Modesto Manifesto

Billy Graham
Billy Graham

"My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which, I believe, comes through knowing Christ." --Billy Graham Billy Graham has a list of accomplishments that could fill a U-Haul. He has preached to nearly 215 million people in live audiences—more than anyone in history. He has traveled to 185 countries and territories. His syndicated newspaper column, "My Answer," is carried by newspapers around the world. His Decision Magazine reaches 600,000 homes. He has authored thirty books—many best sellers. He has been sought by Presidents, awarded numerous honorary doctorates, given the Congressional Gold Medal, and received the prestigious Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion.1

Awards, accolades, and achievements! Billy Graham has been listed by the Gallup Organization as one of the Ten Most Admired Men in the World for fifty-four consecutive years. That is a sterling reputation. Most importantly, he has achieved his life goal!

What’s his secret?

Graham would be quick to respond, “The grace of God.” Perhaps he would also add, “A pure life.” At age thirty, Graham and three key associates were in Modesto, California. While there, they discussed their concerns over recurring problems evangelists faced: abuse of money, sexual immorality, isolation from the local church, and publicizing exaggerated success stories. As a result they adopted what one called the Modesto Manifesto, a commitment stating that integrity would be a hallmark of their lives and their ministry.2

James shared Billy Graham’s passion for purity. Writing to would-be teachers who longed for a Graham-like reputation, James leaves no doubt about where it begins.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.(James 3:17 ESV)

Great reputations start with a pure life. Purity means “free from defilement.” In the same way defiled water is not fit to drink and defiled food is not fit to eat, a defiled person is not fit to follow. James knew that, Billy Graham knew that, and we know it too. That’s why God calls us to purity. It is the cornerstone for building a great reputation, the kind that honors God and influences people for him.

What does it take to live pure? Unmerited grace and uncompromising resolve! Like Graham, we must look to Jesus and run from sin. We must lay aside whatever trips us up -- sexual immorality, pride, the love of money, busyness, a hot temper, or any besetting sin -- and cling to that which builds us up: time with God, godly friends, great reading, and honest prayer.

Great reputations are not built in a day, but rather over a series of days, each one marked by a commitment to purity. Perhaps it is time to write your own Modesto Manifesto!


Today is Veterans Day. Veterans, we thank you for your sacrificial service to our country. You have protected us, kept liberty alive, and enabled us to enjoy the freedoms of the United States of America. We are grateful!  Here are two brief videos in honor of the veterans of our country. 

  • Click here to view this video highlighting Louis S. Zamperini, featured in the book Unbroken.  
  • Click here for the 2011 video from the U.S. Government with more information for honoring our veterans.


1 2 Billy Graham, Just As I Am, pages 127ff.