Pastor Greg Laurie has reflected on his decades-long friendship with Billy Graham and said the famed evangelist is the "most Christlike man" he's ever met in all his years of ministry.
In an exclusive interview with The Gospel Herald, Laurie, pastor of California megachurch Harvest Fellowship, revealed he would first identify the 98-year-old founder of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Organization as an "authentic follower of Jesus Christ."
"In person, he's everything you would've hoped he'd be and more," Laurie recalled. "He's gracious, he's kind, he's interested in other people, he listens, he's not critical of other people, and he is a very humble man."
He added, "He always is a joy to be around, and he is a man that I think has a real heart for God. He wanted to please the Lord. That really comes out."
Laurie, who himself has been called been called "the next generation's Billy Graham" and has known the evangelist for over 25 years, added that spending time with Graham gave him glimpse of what it must have been like to sit at Jesus' feet thousands of years ago.
"Billy Graham is the most Christlike man I've ever met, because being around him reminds me of what it would have been like to be with Jesus," the pastor said. "There isn't a mean bone in Billy's body. If he has a fault - if you could call it a fault - he always believes the best of people. Sometimes people would take advantage of him because of that. He is a very kind man, and I think that's why God has used him so mightily.
Billy Graham has, in the past, referred to Laurie as a "personal friend and one of the great communicators of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our generation." And like Graham, Laurie has led crusades - his are called Harvest America - that have seen hundreds of thousands of people accept Christ. Both men have written best-selling books and have the same mission: declaring God's salvation through Jesus Christ.
Despite their similarities, Laurie is quick to deflect any praise away from himself: "God chose to use Billy Graham in a singular way, like no other person has ever been used," he said. "Billy Graham is like the gold standard of evangelists. It takes a special man to be able to have the opportunity Billy has had and not become proud and arrogant, and even mean."
The pastor added, "It's been said it takes a steady hand to hold a full cup, and I think Billy has a steady hand."
Laurie shares more about his friendship with Graham in his forthcoming book, Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon, which releases June 13.