A Businessman, Burdens, and the Power of Billy's Book
I imagine the believers of the early churches in the New Testament huddled around Paul's newly arrived epistle, waiting for whichever leader could read Greek to tell them more about this "Good News." The scene is exciting in its novelty of encountering Scripture, inspiring in its nascent faith.
Fast-forward 2,000 years, and many of us who grew up in the church feel strangely disconnected from the life-changing experience of reading Scripture. The words are familiar phrases we've heard for decades; our faith is as old as our memory.
What I love most about Mike Oldham's story is that I can completely relate to it. He, like me and like so many other Christians, grew up in a Christian setting and attended church regularly. He'd heard the words a thousand times. But sometimes it takes a fellow believer to articulate the Gospel in a way we can hear, perhaps for the first time. For Oldham, that articulate voice was one of the greatest evangelists of the last century: Reverend Billy Graham.
It was 60 years ago that evangelist Billy Graham voiced the need for a biblical and trusted Christian periodical that could help evangelicals find truth—within the church, cultural and social issues, politics, and all areas of the Christian's life. The result was Christianity Today (CT), now seen as the evangelical standard-bearer in the US and internationally. Its work has been the dutiful, persistent task of placing beautifully orthodox words on people's coffee tables, across pastors' desks, in families' mailboxes, and, more recently, within inboxes and Internet browsers.
Mike Oldham has been a part of that tradition since the 1990s when he first became a subscriber to CT magazine with a hunger to be spiritually fed. He's been reading it ever since.
Oldham is a husband, father, and corporate leader in the tech industry. As an adult, Oldham read Graham's book Just As I Am, and he was never the same. I got to hear Oldham's story of conversion and why this one experience led to a transformed life.
You speak of your testimony of reading Billy Graham's book as a real conversion. Did you grow up in the Christian tradition?
I grew up in a small town in Montana and was raised in a home where my mother provided Christian influence and ensured that we attended church regularly. I attended a Christian grade school through 4th grade and was confirmed in the 8th grade. I was taught Bible stories and the meaning of being saved by grace. Our family didn't talk about its faith at home. Although my mother had a strong faith in those years, it did not exhibit itself outwardly.
What about your father?
After I left home, my father committed his life to Christ in the midst of a crisis in his business. A striking memory for me was the mesmerizing effect that Billy Graham's TV crusade sermons had on my parents. They would be fixed on his words, and as I look back, Billy Graham was delivering a message they hungered to hear.
Where was your life headed before you read Graham's book? What did your own faith life look like?
Through the years, I came to realize how much my mother was praying for my wife, me, and our three children. My wife and I were going to church, but I had not given my whole life to the Lord and did not trust in him to guide me in life. After joining Microsoft in 1991, I was recognized in my first few years for outstanding sales performances. However, by 1996, my job had become more complex and with our three children under five years old, I was drowning in personal, marital, and professional challenges. Some days, the outlook seemed bleak. I was not managing any of these situations well. I was not acting as a leader at home or work, as I was not close to the Lord.
When was the critical "conversion moment" for you?
By early 1997, I was moved to a different job at Microsoft, which sometimes happens if you are not performing in an existing role. That year was a time of introspection for me and through God's leading, I began to read the new Billy Graham biography Just As I Am. Like my parents, I was drawn to the clear Bible teaching that he provided. Like my father, a crisis in work life created a path to God for me. The biography was a 700-page book that I took with me on many business trips, and I was moved by the Scripture Billy Graham cited and the miracles in his ministry. I recalled many times how the message of Billy Graham must have been penetrating for my parents when they watched television crusades.
By the end of December 1997 when I finished Graham's book, the Holy Spirit moved me to confess my sins, tearfully acknowledge my weakness, and ask for forgiveness. I was a broken person in need of the Lord. Immediately, I felt a great relief as I was no longer trying to steer and control events, instead trusting in the Lord. My life changed in an instant as I looked into the endless stars on a clear night. My goal was to serve others and not myself. I was hungry to dive deep into learning about the Word. I immersed myself in the words of great teachers on Christian radio and read recommended Christian books. I looked forward to reading the Bible during my many business trips.
What effect did the conversion have on the problems you experienced before you read Graham's book?
My home and work life changed dramatically after that point. At home, I felt a great urgency to minister to my wife and children, to ensure they could know the gift of Christ for eternity. At work, I was no longer striving to expand my career, only yielding to God and following his direction. Although the Lord's plan is different for everyone, through multiple promotions at work that were granted to me I was given an opportunity to lead teams of people. Within two and one-half years of coming to the Lord, I was managing 100 people. I called on God often as my knowledge and experience were not sufficient, and I needed Him daily. This gave me an opportunity to testify for my faith both by example and through speaking about the Lord at opportune times (especially to those in pain and crisis). I have continued my career in technology and the Lord has shown me the way.
I am forever blessed that I can call on Him at any time. I have seen the power of heartfelt prayers from my family and godly friends. Praise God that my wife and children know Christ as their savior!
What drew you to be a CT subscriber?
It was the Graham connection—to reach out to anything that would feed me with biblical content but keep me current as well.
CT is bringing out what is relevant but it's staying biblical and not compromising. I like, for instance, the testimonies section that is at the end of each issue. I read that section first. It's a powerful section. Those kinds of things are resonating with me.
Samuel Ogles is a writer and serves as assistant editor and marketer for Church Law & Tax. You can follow him on Twitter @samuelogles.