How Luis Palau Shaped the Faith of Lee Strobel, Luis Bush, Franklin Graham, and Many More

Image: Courtesy of Luis Palau Association / Luis Palau
Image: Courtesy of Luis Palau Association / Luis Palau

CT asked Christian leaders who knew Luis Palau, who died today at 86, about his theological impact on the evangelical world, what set him apart from his peers, and meaningful conversations they shared with the beloved evangelist:

Lee Strobel, apologetics author and speaker:

Luis Palau was my friend and hero. I marveled at his authenticity, his passion for the gospel, his fidelity to Scripture, and his warm and encouraging personality.

I recently interviewed him for a book I’m writing. We talked about heaven. Frankly, he was ready—even anxious—to get there. He actually gave me his handwritten preaching notes for a sermon he had written about heaven—a treasure I will always cherish.

But his main concern was to make sure the gospel was clearly articulated in my book. He wanted the focus to be on Jesus, not on himself. That was very much like the Luis I have known for decades.

Seize every opportunity, he would urge me, to tell others about the hope they can find in Christ. I loved that about Luis! In fact, I loved everything about Luis—and I long to reunite with him someday in heaven.

Luis Bush, missions strategist, originator of 10/40 Window movement:

Luis Palau reminded the evangelical world that at the core of what we believe is the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life eternal. Luis elucidated the biblical truth that a committed Christian is called to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. He shared the conviction that “the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord. Like rivers of water, he moves it whichever way he wishes” (Prov. 21:1).

One meaningful conversation I had with Palau took place in 1977 while completing my Master of Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. He invited me to join him on his Welsh Crusade to reach out to rugby friends from my past school days in Great Britain. I took time out from my studies to visit with several old schoolboy friends. One of them, who had been the Welsh national under-18 rugby team captain, received Christ.

To God be the glory for the life and ministry of Luis Palau.

Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse:

Luis was a passionate evangelist who faithfully preached the gospel of Jesus Christ: his birth, his sacrificial death on the cross, his burial, and his resurrection. Millions have heard this truth, and untold men and women have trusted Christ, as a result of Luis Palau’s ministry. I thank God for his life and the example he set.

Luis was a close friend of my father Billy Graham throughout the years, and he was my friend as well. His voice will be greatly missed, but his life should inspire each of us to focus even more intensely on warning people of the consequences of dying without repenting of their sins and turning to Christ in faith.

Norberto Saracco, director of Facultad Internacional de Educacion Teologica, Buenos Aires, Argentina:

A big part of Luis Palau’s legacy is unity. In 1977, Palau was invited to Buenos Aires by a group of church leaders. When Palau learned that the organizers had marginalized Pentecostals, Palau confronted them and preached from 1 John 3 where the writer reminds his readers that “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” It was a harsh call to repentance.

In 1979, the organizers decided to have a similar event and reached out to Palau. While visiting nearby Uruguay, Palau asked for a meeting with Argentine pastors to respond to their invitation. There he told them, “I reject your invitation because you have not learned the lesson and you have once again left out the Pentecostals. I will never again have a campaign if the whole body of Christ is not there.”

The church in Argentina has a special debt of gratitude to Palau for his work to bring the church there together. For many years, the Luis Palau Association allowed its staff to make themselves available to the work of unity. To this day, the president of Argentina’s evangelical alliance (ACIERA) shares his ministry with the Luis Palau Association, where he is also its director of festivals and Hispanic Ministries. This has strengthened ACIERA and helped it become one of the strongest and most developed alliances on the continent today.

Palau’s calls for unity also extended beyond fellow evangelicals. Remarkably, he evangelized in Latin America without ever preaching against the Catholic Church and was able to generate respectful and mutually appreciated relations with Catholic leaders on the continent, including the current Pope Francis. At times, this attitude caused problems with evangelicals who did not agree with his focus on dialogue. To his critics Palau used to say, “I have atheist friends and but I’m not an atheist; I have communist friends but I’m not a communist; I have Catholic friends and I’m not a Catholic.”

Bill Taylor, writer, mentor, longtime member of World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission:

I first met Luis in Guatemala in the early ’70s. His Guatemala crusades were unique to the nation. I think he was discovering himself, his “voice” and what “worked” in Latin America. He challenged evangelicals across the then-main divide (non-charismatics and charismatics) to come together before he would continue cooperating with them. I belonged to one of the intransigent anti-charismatic groups, but I thank God for Luis’s standards. He had similar problems in Chicago.

His radio programs became required listening for both evangelicals and Catholics. He honestly answered questions. In 1982, he participated in the 100th Anniversary of Evangelicals in Guatemala, and nobody could have been a better gospel champion. Across Latin America he forged relationships with political and military leaders—which constantly got him in hot water. But his apologetic for those steps was close to the Apostle Paul.

This Argentine-born never lost his Latin American roots nor friends, but he became a global voice for the gospel, and creatively adjusted the methodology to the times. He became one of Latin America’s greatest gifts to the entire world.

Howard Dahl, businessman and board member, Luis Palau Association:

It has been a privilege to watch Luis Palau up close for 30 years, including being a board member in recent years. I believe glorifying God means to make God look good by the way you live. I could write an essay on how Luis reflected each quality of the fruit of the Spirit. Luis was so loving, making you feel special while he gave you his full attention. He was one of the most joyous Christians I have ever met, with a singular sense of self-deprecating humor, a manifestation of humility.

I would like to focus on his kindness. Luke 6 says that our Father in heaven is kind to the wicked and the ungrateful. In our world ripped apart in so many ways, Luis won the hearts of so many, including a liberal gay mayor in his city of Portland. Any city that he went to for an event brought people together. I observed in one city an African American pastor stand up and point at Luis and say: “Before you came to our city, I had never prayed with a white pastor before. God has raised you up to bring people together.”

As I read John 17 and the prayer of Jesus for his followers to be one, so that the world might believe by seeing genuine, loving, unified believers, I put Luis at the top of my list of leaders who have been faithful to this task.

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Source: Christianity Today