My tribute to Cliff Barrows
By Dan Southern, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALLEN, TX (ANS – November 18, 2016) — I had the amazing opportunity to go to work for Billy Graham when I was straight out of college at the ripe old age of 24. I was young and impressionable and in the almost 20 years I served as a Crusade Organizer, I pretty much saw it all from the inside of the organization.
None of my experiences were a letdown and I say with real humility what an extraordinary privilege it was to work alongside such an awesome group of individuals who sought to serve God in all they did. Many of my brothers and sisters in arms from my days in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) are now in heaven, but one of the most extraordinary leaders under whom I served was Cliff Barrows, who went home to be with the Lord in just the last few days at the age of 93.
As a musician, Cliff used to tease Mr. Graham by pointing out that evangelists would no longer be needed in heaven but that musicians would be in high demand! But Cliff was more than just a musician. He was unofficially second-in-command to Mr. Graham and served with the BGEA’s other patriarchs such as Grady and T.W. Wilson, George Beverly Shea, Ted Smith, George Wilson and Walter Smith. All these were committed and talented men of God, but in many ways Cliff was the leader behind Billy bringing it all together.
Today’s culture often teaches us that leadership is something to be achieved by fighting off the powers that would hold us back and overcoming the shadows of ignominy by promoting ourself relentlessly. Cliff Barrows shattered that stereotype for me as I watched him serve alongside one of the greatest leaders of our day. Cliff never sought personal advancement or notoriety but gladly played second-fiddle to Billy all the time I knew him. That is not to say that he was a weak person or had no identity of his own – quite the opposite. If he needed to take charge, Cliff was ready willing and able, but it was not his aim to be served but to serve; first Christ’s, then Billy’s and lastly his own interests.
On many occasions, I saw Cliff give up personal prerogatives to serve the cause of Christ. He was a great preacher, encourager, organizer and leader who could have easily led his own organization. But when given the opportunity Cliff always said, “No” to himself and “Yes” to his special place of calling within BGEA. I believe that was because he understood what God was doing and simply wanted to make sure his efforts brought maximum glory to God.
Cliff brought grace and humor to the organization he served. He was the MC in more ways than one and the personal friend and confidant to Mr. Graham that was so needed over the years. If something went wrong, Cliff was quick to step in and take the heat so Billy did not need to worry about how the situation would be handled. He could spend time with the pastors and local leaders of a city where we were working and help make the human and spirituals connection with the folks who made our outreaches so successful. Cliff was the glue we needed to hold it all together.
In my personal experiences with Cliff, I always felt cared for and edified, even in the sometime stress of putting on world-class events in cities all over the world. If I needed a friend or counselor, Cliff stood at the ready to help and encourage me. He always brought the Lord into the conversation and reminded us that we were engaged in a spiritual venture not just a human organization.
I will forever be grateful for the influence and example Cliff Barrows had on my life and can only hope and pray that I can have a portion of the influence on others that he had on me. Thank you Cliff. I look forward to seeing you again and hearing you lead a great celestial choir in eternity someday. You taught me first-hand that it is possible to play second-fiddle and still make beautiful music.
Photo captions: 1) Cliff Barrows leading congregational singing. 2) Cliff Barrows introducing Dan Southern and his wife Lori to the Arkansas Billy Graham Crusade audience at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. 3) Cliff and the entire team meeting before the Atlanta Billy Graham Crusade we held in the Georgia Dome. Dan Southern is on the far left. 4) Dan Southern accompanies Billy Graham at one of crusades. 5) Dan Southern.
About the writer: Dan Southern is a respected American leader, speaker, author and entrepreneur, who possess a true global resume. He has lived and worked in such diverse localities as Moscow, Amsterdam, New York City, Kingston, Seoul, Toronto and London. In 1992, he was one of the main organizers of Billy Graham’s historic Moscow crusade. In 2000, he was invited to be one of the lead Organizers for a momentous Billy Graham international conference for evangelists held in Amsterdam, Holland, and attended by representatives from more than 150 nations. One of his most prestigious accomplishments was overseeing the largest public meeting ever conducted by Mr. Graham in North America in New York City’s Central Park. His latest project, eGo Connect (http://www.egoconnect.com/), has been launched with his friend, Lou Podesta, and is a revolutionary new toolset to help individuals, churches and ministries carry out their assignment to reach the world with the Gospel. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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