You can’t spend too much time in the evangelical church without hearing about the “Billy Graham Rule.” This was a personal conviction America’s Pastor held that compelled him not to travel, meet or eat alone with a woman other than his wife. While the efficacy of this rule and its implications for women are the subject of several articles, did you know that this rule was only one of four Graham and his ministry team followed?
“[The rules settled] in our hearts and minds, once and for all, the determination that integrity would be the hallmark of both our lives and our ministry,” Graham wrote in his autobiography Just As I Am.
The four rules would later be dubbed “The Modesto Manifesto” by Cliff Barrows. Graham’s ministry team was composed of Barrows, Grady Wilson and George Beverly Shea. The four men came up with the rules in 1948 while they were in Modesto, California, for a series of evangelistic meetings.
According to Graham, he called the team together to discuss common problems that “evangelists and evangelism encountered.” He asked the men to go to their rooms for an hour and list all the problems they could think of. When the men returned with four very similar lists, they made “a series of resolutions or commitment among ourselves that would guide us in our future evangelistic work.”
Billy Graham’s 4 Rules of Integrity for Evangelists
The first rule involved money. Since most evangelists at that time were supported by “love offerings” that were taken at church services or evangelism events, Graham says the temptation was there to “wring as much money as possible out of an audience, often with strong emotional appeals.” To combat this temptation, the group decided to “downplay” the offering at their meetings and “depend as much as possible on money raised by the local committee in advance.”
The second rule is the one we are all familiar with. Graham writes everyone in the group knew of evangelists that had fallen to sexual temptation during their travels away from their families. Taking a cue from 2 Timothy 1:22, the group decided their form of fleeing youthful lusts would be to avoid traveling, eating or even meeting alone with a woman who was not their spouse. Graham seems to acknowledge the intensity of this commitment by stating they were overtly trying to avoid even the appearance of “compromise or suspicion.”
Rule three concerned the team’s relationship with the local church. The team recognized the tendency among evangelists to “criticize local pastors and churches openly and scathingly,” a tendency they felt was counterproductive and even antithetical to the Bible. They determined to eschew an “antichurch or anticlergy attitude” and to work with anyone who shared their common goal of publicly proclaiming the Gospel.
The final rule involved publicity. Graham writes some evangelists were in the habit of exaggerating numbers and success, which caused the press to be suspicious and thus choose not take notice of their work. The team committed to “integrity in our publicity and our reporting.”
The Modesto Manifesto Still Applies Today
While it’s been a few decades since 1948 and our world has changed drastically, these rules speak to issues the church is still battling today. It seems whenever a big ministry leader “falls” or gets into trouble, the trouble almost always involves one (or any number) of these four things.
What do you think? Could your ministry be helped by following these same rules or drafting your own? What would you add to this list?