Billy Graham, Rock of Witness Dedication, Forest Home 1967

Billy Graham, Rock of Witness Dedication, Forest Home 1967

From the files of Dr. Henrietta Mears–called “Teacher” by many she has led to Christ and built in the faith–comes the following personal testimony of evangelist Billy Graham. In 1948, prior to a great crusade in Los Angeles, Dr. Mears invited a young virtually unknown minister to speak at Forest Home, the Christian conference grounds she was instrumental in founding. Here is his account of one of the most important weeks in his life. [Excerpt first published in Teach Magazine, Spring 1962, p44]

In 1967, Billy Graham returned to Forest Home as part of the dedication of the Rock of Witness commemorating this pivotal moment in his life and ministry.  He also spoke at the dedication of the Sermon on the Mount Chapel at Forest Home where he again spoke of the significance of this event and the influence of Henrietta Mears.  His message is at the bottom of this post.

Where Billy Graham Dueled His Doubts–And Won

People gathered around Mears Lake to participate in the dedication of the Sermon on the Mount Chapel at Forest Home

People gathered around Mears Lake to participate in the dedication of the Sermon on the Mount Chapel at Forest Home

I came early to Forest Home to plan for the coming week. Spiritual problems seemed to focus here and wrestling with the Spirit was inevitable. I was having my doubts concerning the Word of God. The authoritative note, so characteristic of great preachers of the past was lacking in my own ministry.

Billy Graham "Glory to God" Tree Dedication, Forest Home 1967

Billy Graham “Glory to God” Tree Dedication, Forest Home 1967

I prayed that the Spirit would have full sway in my heart. And as I walked down the paths, suddenly I came to grips with myself. I was caught in a spiritual cross-fire. I was having a duel with my doubts and there finally in desperation I went to my knees before God with my Bible and I began to pray:

“Dear Lord, there are thing that I cannot understand from They Word, but Thou has told me that the just shall live by faith. Everything I have received I have taken by faith. Here and now by faith I take the Word of God to be true. I take it all, I take it without reservation. And Lord, if it please Thee, give me great authority as I preach Thy Word.”

Billy Graham's Tree Today (2013)

Billy Graham’s Tree Today (2013)

Tag on Billy Graham's Tree

Tag on Billy Graham’s Tree

I have often said this experience at Forest Home transformed my entire ministry. I went to the Los Angeles Crusade and, instead of having fear, I found the burning fire of the Spirit within my soul. I stopped trying to prove that the Bible was true. I had settled it in my own mind by faith that it was. And this faith conveyed itself to the audience. Over and over again I found myself saying, “The Bible says.” It seemed as though i was not speaking, but I was only a voice through which the Holy Spirit was speaking.

Sermon on the Mount Chapel, Forest Home (2013)

Sermon on the Mount Chapel, Forest Home (2013)

A plaque in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in memory of Sir Christopher Wren reads: “If you would see his memorial, look about you.” So I would say of Dr. Mears and Forest Home. If you would see anything that we could erect as a memorial to her faithful years of service, look about you and see the lives that she has helped to lead into the knowledge of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Billy Graham

Billy Graham’s Dedication of the Sermon on the Mount Chapel, Forest Home 1967

Screen-shot-2013-10-29-at-11.12.29-AMWednesday, October 23rd would have been the 123rd Birthday of Henrietta Mears. In commemoration of the Miss Mears’ impact and contribution to ministry, I thought it was only appropriate to share a passage of scripture that she often cited.

In Joshua 1: 2,3 God says to Joshua:

“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.”

Henrietta Mears led Hollywood’s First Presbyterian Church Sunday School from 1928-1963, founded Gospel Light Press (1933), Forest Home Camp (1938), and GLINT. I don’t think that Henrietta Mears would have wanted for us to eulogize her achievements or her memory—as the passage says “Moses my servant is dead.” In the same way that Moses vacated his position as the visionary leader of the people of Israel and passed it on to Joshua, so did Henrietta Mears. We cannot, as glorious as our past is, we cannot relive our past. But it can inform and inspire our future. It must inform and inspire our future. Although Moses was dead, Joshua would now enter the land that God had promised and take it. Taking the land wasn’t some sort of “name it and claim it” process, it was real work. While God fought many battles for the greatly outnumbered and untrained soldiers of the nation of Israel, they were still required to take the land.

Miss Mears took this passage literally. When she decided that the resort that would then become Forest Home was what she wanted—people thought her dream was impossible. But, no one advised Miss Mears except God. She believed that a training ground was needed to train the next generation of leaders that would take the Gospel around the world. In spite of how impossible the dream seemed, she took the land. She went out and walked the property and asked God for every part of Forest Home her foot touched. Through the prayers and gifts of 100′s of people, Forest Home was purchased for $30,000 in 1938. It seemed that Miss Mears got what she wanted.

Today, I believe for the organizations that Henrietta Mears founded and the church in general, that God will give us “every place that the sole of [our feet] will tread upon”. However, I believe that it will require work. And, I also think it requires a return to the principles that Mears’ vision and leadership were based upon. Don Williams in a message to the College Department, in June of 1963, summarized the core of Henrietta Mears’ vision as four things:

  • a Christ-centered Gospel
  • a Bible-centered church
  • a Mission-centered vision
  • a People-centered ministry

Here are some quotes from Henrietta Mears on each of these.

On a Christ-centered Gospel:

Growing youth is a vine seeking a trellis. If you do not strike a pole around which a vine can climb, and to which it can cling, then it will trail along the ground. This is just what is happening to youth today. They reach out the tendrils of their senses and desires, and finding nothing to lift them up they crawl along the ground. Strike the Lord Jesus Christ as a stake in the midst of young life, and see how this Presence will lift the child. His personality will become an integrated one around this great Savior and Lifter of men. Put a child’s face between your hands and lift it heavenward. Let him see the Savior “whom to know aright is life everlasting.” Let the Light of the Word shine into His heart.

[We] must continually point pupils to Christ and the necessity of a commitment to him. Christ says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” When we teach Him we teach everything. We will never be satisfied until we see young hearts and lives committed, not to his teachings, but to Him.

On a Bible-centered church:

Do you teach the Word of God? The Bible is the living seed that brings life. We are born, fed, enlightened, equipped for service, and kept by the Word of God. Youth must know how to use this Chart and Compass. Are you presenting the Word to each life and heart. Other things may be good, but this is the best. Always specialize in THE BEST!

We have a statement that the Word is the seed. This is what we, as teachers, will sow. God has given us His Word but there is a false impression that all of God’s Word can be adapted to every age. I believe the Bible clearly teaches that the Word contains “milk” for babes, “bread” for youth, and “strong meat” for men. It is not all for everyone. I believe it would be impossible to adapt the teaching in Revelation, for instance, to a six-year-old. . . . So there are portions of God’s Word beyond the realm of the experience of the child, but there is much that is within his grasp so that nothing need be substituted for the Bible in teaching him. The Seed is the Word; this we know. But good seed can be lost on the wrong soil.

We know there is nothing wrong with our textbook, the Bible. It must be in the way we have presented the great facts and teaching of the Word. When we consider the reasons for the tragic lack of interest that exists in the study of the Scriptures, we will have to admit that we have committed a spiritual crime. We have made children say, “When I don’t have to, I’ll never go back to Sunday school. There’s nothing there for me.”

On Mission-centered Vision:

Do you enlist for Service? Are you helping youth find God’s plan for their lives. We let them go out on an uncharted sea. Let each one know that he is accountable to God for his life, and that the Lord has a place for him in this world. What is more exciting than finding God’s plan in one’s life? Nothing gives greater satisfaction than the sense of building according to that plan. Several hundred young people from our college department have found God’s plan for their lives and are today engaged in full-time church vocations both at home and abroad. But hundreds more have found that God’s will had led them into professions and business and the ministry of teaching. Christ has all commissioned officers in His service.

Our duty is to enlist lives for the Lord and Master, and every opportunity is seized to accomplish this all important task.

We are training young people for world leadership in answer to Christ’s command, that they should “Go in to all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

On People-centered Ministry:

A good curriculum should be Christ-centered and child-concerned; the Bible should be our only textbook. We believe that the child’s life experiences must be based upon the foundation of God’s infallible Word. We must give him facts so that he will know how to build his life correctly.

Good curricula are written by those not only acquainted with the Bible but with the characteristics and need of the child himself. It is just as necessary for the farmer to know his soil as it is for him to know his seed if he is to gather a good crop. So the teacher must know the child’s heart in order to be effective. It is important to remember that you are teaching children not materials.

The things that Henrietta Mears built ministry upon haven’t changed. I believe future ministry still rests upon these four ideas. What do you think?

Guest post by Damon DeLillo;

Damon DeLillo, Dr. Dale & Kathy Bruner

Damon DeLillo, Dr. Dale & Kathy Bruner

To the right is a picture of me with Dr. Dale Bruner and his wife Kathy. Among the many people at the 123rd Birthday Celebration of Dr. Henrietta Mears last Wednesday, they shared some memorable stories of Dr. Mears–like chasing a skunk out of Miss Mears’ closet in the middle of the night. (Which is really funny, considering all of the furs that Miss Mears wore.)

Dr. Henrietta Mears in FursAt the celebration I shared some quotes from a letter that Dr. Bruner wrote to Miss Mears in his final year at Princeton Seminary. I thought they were a fitting tribute to some of the important aspects of Miss Mears’ life and ministry. Here’s what Dr. Bruner wrote:

“I have not had a single occasion here [Princeton Seminary] to be embarrassed by my Sunday School teaching . . . I just go to my knees and thank God for the wonderful and wholesome biblical teaching I received in my home church, at your feet. Not once, dear Teacher, in the face of some of the finest scholarship, have I had reason to be embarrassed by what you taught. And do you know why—or at least why I think this is so? You teach Christ. And He is never superseded. . . . Your passion and preoccupation was Christ. You never tired of teaching Him and we never tired of hearing of Him. As you once said when you came to that part in Ephesians: “…the unsearchable riches of Christ”—“it might seem that to preach Christ and Him only would be a dull subject and that we would be soon done—but in Him we have unsearchable riches and we will never be done with Him.”


Dale Bruner, April 1958

Dale Bruner, April 1958

“You know what Teacher, I don’t even remember you exalting the Bible, or teaching as a subject “The Bible” in our College Dept. Do you know how I came to my high doctrine of the Scriptures? By the way you used them, and delighted in them! I don’t recall you ever carefully defining your view of the Scriptures, or spending much time in talking about the Scriptures. You seemed so thrilled with what the Scriptures taught that you excited me and so many others to go to the Scriptures ourselves and be thrilled! So we did, we liked what we found, and we just naturally came to love what we affectionately called “the Word.” I never remember having a doctrine of Scripture before I came to Seminary. But, by the grace of God, how I loved the Scriptures!”

Excerpted from a post at

What do you think are the most important qualities of a Kidmin leader? How do you find those kind of leaders?

Henrietta Mears shares 5 timeless qualities of a Kidmin leader and why it is important to recruit busy people.

The 5 Most Important Qualities of a Kidmin Leader


First Presbyterian Church, HollywoodIn the 1950′s, Hollywood Presbyterian Church boasted a Sunday School of over 6000 people. Each Sunday, there were more people attending the Sunday School than the worship services. According to Dr. Henrietta Mears, Hollywood Presbyterian Church Christian Education Director, nearly 60% of the people attending the Sunday school were unchurched. Mears believed that the Sunday school was the most vital way for a church to reach unchurched people and influence the community.  Below is a recording of portions of an interview with Henrietta Mears from November of 1962.  She talks about how the Bible has the answer to the world’s problems, the importance of presenting Jesus to every boy and girl, man and woman.  She also talks about the role of the Sunday school in the church.

Evangelism and the Importance of the Sunday School

No Longer Silent

Damon Delillo —  October 11, 2013 — 3 Comments

Reel to ReelIf you have been following the Henrietta Mears blog over the last several months, you probably noticed a slow down in posts lately. About 2 months ago I stumbled upon a box of old audio reels that contained over 70 audio recordings of Henrietta Mears.  So, for the last several weeks I have been converting the reels to mp3, instead of blogging  :(.  In the coming months, I will be releasing portions of messages Henrietta Mears gave in the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s on topics ranging from evangelism, teaching, qualities of a leader, Sunday School, college/career ministry, personal evangelism, recruiting volunteers, training etc. . .

Much of what you will be hearing hasn’t ever been released before. Stay tuned!

Click on the image to download the magazine.

Click on the image to download the magazine.

Have you ever thought of yourself as a leader? Every Sunday school teacher is a leader–whether he thinks so or not. You are leading your class in many ways as you teach them God’s Word. Check your teaching against these qualifications for leadership.

Purpose: Most people in this world have no purpose. What is your purpose as a Sunday school teacher? Take a sheet of paper and write down three things you want to see happen in your class. Begin to make them happen. This will help you have a real purpose.

  • Decision and Courage: Carrying out a purpose means having courage to make a decision. Queen Esther had a purpose. She also had courage and made her decision with the comment, “. . . if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16)
  • Planning: First you make your decision; then you make your plan. Are you making plans for your class? Make big plans, but make them workable. Then work to carry them out.
  • Cooperation: A leader must be able to work with others. You can’t be a leader and do everything yourself. Plan so others do some of the work. Use your students. The Lord chose 12 men, just to be with Him (Mark 3:14). How marvelously He worked with those men! He never let them fail. He stepped in and helped them when necessary (Matthew 17:14-21). Be that kind of leader. Help those you’re leading to always succeed.
  • Enthusiasm: A real leader must be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm, or the lack of it, is contagious. You can sweep others along to a wholehearted response to the Lord; or you can kill men’s spirits by your very lack of enthusiasm. Practice being enthusiastic! Enthusiasm is God given. It is the very Spirit of God in you–”in theos.” Ask the Lord Jesus to come into your life and live out what He has given to you. Give yourself away. Be accessible to others. Christ will use this enthusiasm to move the world.

Teaching is the highest calling. Teach to lead others to Christ and in the way everlasting. Teach . . . and be a leader!

Editor’s Note: Teach . . . and be a leader first appeared in Gospel Light’s Teach Sunday School Idea Magazine, Spring 1961. (Click here to download the magazine.)

Click on the image to download the magazine.

Click on the image to download the magazine.

A prepared teacher succeeds; an unprepared teacher fails. Real preparation involves many things. It does not mean only that the content of one’s lesson must be grasped. You, yourself, must be prepared. “How?” you ask. Let us consider four major points.

The first is dedication–dedication to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Your students must see in you a “sold-outness” to God. There must be a love for Christ that creates love for others.

The second is discipleship. We must not only love Christ and dedicate ourselves to Him, but as the Lord says, “Leave all, and follow Me.”

The third is discernment. The Holy Spirit has promised that He will give us discernment in spiritual matters, if we ask for it. Few have keen spiritual discernment. Pray for it. Seek it.

The fourth is discipline. This makes you strong and effective in service.

You cannot have the privilege of teaching others without paying a price. Do not take a responsibility that you cannot fulfill.

I learned a lesson about discipline when I was a young woman. At the time we wore waists with elaborate balloon sleeves, tiny ruffles and intricate embroidery. I wanted to make one for myself. My mother pointed out that it was a very ambitious project. But I insisted on starting it.

The first sleeve in the garment was completed with great interest and diligence, but then I grew weary of the tedious work. In dismay, I realized there was still a second sleeve to do. I wanted to quit but mother always insisted that we finish what we started. After hours of painstaking work, I finished the task. The lesson has always stayed with me. I say to you all, “Count the cost. There is always a second sleeve.” But remember the cost will not be greater than He will enable you to pay, and the reward for faithful service is great.

All Sunday school workers are leading others. No leader can do a good job unless he is prepared–mentally, physically and spiritually.
Prepare . . . then teach.

“Prepare . . . then teach” first appeared in Gospel Light’s Teach Sunday School Idea Magazine, Fall 1961.  (Click here to download the magazine.)

Teach Magazine, Winter 1961

Click on the image to download the magazine.

G. Campbell Morgan, the great Bible expositor of our century, once told me the weakest link in much Bible teaching is the failure to give students a comprehensive scope of the Scriptures. To teach only isolated facts means there is no logical progression–no comprehensive view of the whole Bible.

It is no wonder that a young man with a  Phi Beta Kappa key admitted to me that, although he had gone to Sunday school all his life, he would probably flunk if he had to take an examination on the Bible!

If students are to understand the great scope of the Scriptures, each lesson must take its place against the thrilling background of the entire Bible.

A correctly-graded, Bible -centered curriculum that is designed to present God’s Word with logical progression, gives you the essential foundation for such teaching. But the best materials are only the beginning. You the dedicated teacher, must give living reality to each lesson as you relate it to God’s Word.

Look carefully at your curriculum. How many ways can you discover to bring the entire Bible into your teaching? These are vital:

  • Show preschool and primary children that their Sunday school stories of God’s love and care are from the world’s most wonderful book–the Bible.
  • Lead juniors to discover the chronological order of their lessons as they see where in God’s Word each story is recorded. Use each lesson to emphasize that Christ is the central figure of the Bible.
  • Strengthen the junior high’s faith by bringing entire books of the Word of God into clear focus.
  • Explain to questioning high school and college young people the miraculous unity of plan and purpose in books written by 40 authors who were separated by centuries. Here is exciting proof that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God . . . ” (II Timothy 3:16).
  • Offer adults Bible study courses that present God’s Word as strength and guidance for daily Christian living.

Thousands of years ago God directed Aaron to “. . . teach . . . all . . . which the Lord had spoken . . . ” (Lev. 10:11). The challenge is the same today . . . teach the whole Bible.

Article first appeared in Gospel Light’s Teach Sunday School Idea Magazine, Winter 1961.  (Click here to download the magazine.)

It may have stopped raining, but her discipline problems will continue unless this first grade teacher learns some of the “how’s” of teaching. What is her main fault? What characteristics and needs of 1st and 2nd graders is she forgetting?  See below for the answers.

Here’s what’s wrong:

  1. The teacher is reading the Bible story directly from the manual. Lack of eye contact prevents her from being master of the situation. See the article, “Discipline Begins with the Teacher” on page 3 of Teach Magazine, Winter 1960.
  2. Because she is a slave to her manual, the teacher is using no storytelling techniques at all. If the teacher had learned her story in careful preparation for the lesson, she could be telling it in an interesting way, and the children would be paying attention. Check out “Bring Those Stories to Life” by Ethel Barret on page 21 of Teach Magazine, Winter 1960.
  3. God made early elementary children to wiggle, but our teacher is trying to make them sit perfectly still while she wades through her story. Check out this post on story play. See the tip “God Made Primaries to Wiggle” on page 12 of Teach Magazine, Winter 1960.

Adapted from Gospel Light’s Teach Magazine, Winter 1960.