Warren Wiersbe, one of the preeminent Bible teachers and writers of our day, recently had his heavenly homegoing at the age of eighty-nine. A number of the obituaries written about Wiersbe noted that he had come to saving faith in Jesus Christ at a Youth for Christ rally where Billy Graham was the featured evangelist. Here is some more of the instructive story of Wiersbe’s Christian conversion.
Wiersbe grew up in East Chicago, Indiana, a steel town twenty-five miles southeast of Chicago. With his family he faithfully attended the Indiana Harbor Mission Covenant Church. “Most of the people in the church would have pointed me out as a ‘good Christian boy,’ but I had never really been born again,” Wiersbe later testified. “I was faithful in my attendance and was even confirmed in 1944 [at fifteen years of age], but I had never made that life-changing decision to trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Everett Ostrom was the church’s pastor when Wiersbe was confirmed. There were only four students in the class, but Ostrom faithfully taught and prayed for them. “I didn’t know until years later that every Saturday after confirmation class, Pastor Ostrom would fall on his face on the study floor and weep over me and pray for me. He knew I was pretending to be a Christian and he yearned to see me make a true decision for Christ.”
A year later the Chicago Youth for Christ ministry organization held three Saturday evening rallies at the auditorium of Washington High School where Wiersbe was a student. He was one of the many students who passed out invitations to the special meetings at school. He was also asked to serve as an usher at the rallies because he was considered “one of the best Christian boys” in town.
A then little-known evangelist named Billy Graham was invited to be the speaker at the opening rally on May 12, 1945. Graham, who was twenty-six years old at the time, had recently resigned a pastorate to become Youth for Christ’s first full-time evangelist. When the earnest young evangelist began to speak that evening, Wiersbe’s attention was completely “captivated.” He stood against the back wall of the auditorium, unable to move and unable to take his eyes off the evangelist.
“I heard every word he spoke and every Bible verse he quoted, and everything he said went right to my heart. Sure, I had heard it all before, but for the first time it came together and made sense. I saw that in spite of my character, my confirmation, my church attendance, and my host of religious relatives, I was a lost sinner who needed to trust Jesus Christ.”
Wiersbe did not wait for a public invitation to be given. “Right where I stood, I asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart and save me, and He did! I didn’t raise my hand for prayer, I didn’t fill out a card, I didn’t even go forward when the crowd sang ‘Just as I Am.’ But I did trust Christ and become a child of God.”
Wiersbe went on to devote his entire adult life to pointing people to Jesus as the Savior and helping them to grow in their Christian faith and their knowledge of God’s Word. He was always careful to emphasize that we don’t become a Christian and God’s child through our church affiliation and activities. Rather, we’re born again into God’s spiritual family by personally believing and receiving Christ Jesus as our Savior and Lord. (For those teachings in the Bible, see John 1:12 and 3:1-18.)
You can learn much more about Warren Wiersbe’s remarkable life of Christian faith and service in his excellent, humble autobiography Be Myself: Memoirs of a Bridgebuilder.
Copyright 2019 by Vance E. Christie