The Modesto Manifesto
In 1948, Billy Graham was just beginning his evangelic ministry. God was blessing it, as he had so many others. But one by one many other evangelists were failing, morally, spiritually, and their marriages were falling apart.
So, at a meeting in Modesto California, Billy called his team together, “I asked them to go to their rooms for an hour and list all of the problems they could think of that evangelists encounter. When they returned, most lists were remarkably similar. We made a series of decisions that day how the team and I would conduct ourselves and we’ve stuck with them as long as I was active in the ministry.”
Here’s a summary of what they came up with and why they thought each was important.
1. Money – At the time, nearly all other evangelists took a “love offering.” The temptation was to wring as much money out of the audience as possible with passionate appeals and little accountability. Money often distorted the message. So, Billy Graham chose to be a salaried employee, and the salary would be set by a Board of Directors. They would take an offering at each meeting, but Billy’s personal income stayed the same no matter.
2. Sexual Temptation – With Billy on the road without his wife for many months at a time, they knew even if Billy wasn't tempted, they wanted him to remain "above reproach." So from that day on he did not travel, eat or meet alone with any woman except his wife and children.
3. Criticizing the Church – There was a tendency of many evangelists to carry on their ministry completely apart from the local church and even to criticize local pastors and churches. Billy’s people believed that was not only counter-productive, but wrong from the standpoint Of the Bible. So they decided they would only go to a city to conduct a crusade, if invited by local churches that local churches would do the follow up.
4. Publicity – The tendency among many evangelists was to exaggerate their successes and claim higher attendance or converts than they really had. At Modesto, they committed themselves to integrity in our publicity and reporting. The truth was, Billy’s people had generally acted this way, but at Modesto, it was sealed in cement.
Thirty years ago, I worked as the volunteer president of the John Guest Evangelistic Team. We held smaller, Graham type meetings all over America. We too adopted the principles of Modesto. And we never regretted it. Our church put a window in every pastor‘s door.
I have wives call me occasionally, with questions about their husbands behavior or lack of spiritually. I personally, will only meet with a woman alone once to hear her concerns, but for any more meetings she has to bring a friend. And I will not have a meal in public with a woman, without another person present. I’m 72 and no stud muffin! But that’s not the point. Tongues wag. My first mentor, then 70 himself once gave me this sage advice about sexual temptation, “Clare, the eyes are the last thing to go!” So, if you are on a board of a ministry or supporter of one, ask about this policy for your leaders. We only have to look at Ravi Zacharias Ministries to see what happens when board members and donors are so enamored with a personality, they think he or she can’t be tempted.
“Those who want to get rich (or famous) fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plague people into ruin and destruction.” 1 Timothy 6:9 (or famous) is mine
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8