Occasionally God puts people in our lives that make a difference, a huge difference in our spiritually development. Charlie Riggs was such a person for me. He passed away Monday, July 21 at the age of 92. He was a friend to Billy Graham and a long-time BGEA team member. Charlie taught more people how to share their faith in Christ than any human who has ever lived! I know that seems like a grand claim. But it can easily be proven.
I first met Charlie in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. At that time he was a already a living legend among the Billy Graham Team members. I was straight out of Seminary and working my first assignment for BGEA. We shared only a brief conversation, but I was struck by his humble walk and sincere manner.
Later, while working as Coordinator of Counseling and Follow-Up for the Billy Graham Team in Tallahassee, Florida, we had much more interaction. I was as green as you can get, working in my first actual Crusade (Amsterdam was a conference for evangelists). Charlie was a seasoned veteran. He chose to spend time with me to try to teach me how to be a better follower of Jesus. I will forever be grateful.
We worked in many crusades together after Tallahassee, but I will never forget how this seasoned soldier was willing to take a risk on me and allow me to learn and grow.
Franklin Graham wrote of him: “Charlie was an author, teacher, prayer warrior, mentor and friend to many. He modeled the life of a Christian soldier and left his mark on all those with whom he invested his time and wisdom. He was honest, direct and stretched people to be all they could be in Christ and encouraged them to use Scripture in application to everyday life. He often said, ‘Through my ups and downs, God has become very real to me. I would like Him to become very real to others.’ Even after he retired, he continued to be a friend and mentor to those he had known for decades, even ministering weekly until he was 87 years old in four prisons in Canon City, Colorado, where he had retired.”
Those of us who knew Charlie well often share “Charlieisms”. He was a reservoir of wisdom. A Charlieism is one of those pithy statements loaded with punch and spiritual insight. Let me share two that I’m particularly fond of.
Charlie said, “You don’t have a ministry. Your life is your ministry.”
By that he meant “You cannot share what you don’t possess” and “your life speaks far more powerfully than your mere words.”
Another one of which I’m particularly fond is, “Always try to be in over your head.”
By that he meant, “Unless you are attempting something for God that is far beyond your ability to pull off in your own power, you are not living by faith.”
Charlie’s legacy lives on in me and dozens of others that he impacted personally. May a double portion of his spirit rest on all of us!