The Rev. Brian Harpell, lead pastor of Everett’s First Baptist Church, first attended a Billy Graham crusade at age 12. (First Baptist Church photo)

The Rev. Brian Harpell, lead pastor of Everett’s First Baptist Church, first attended a Billy Graham crusade at age 12. (First Baptist Church photo)

Everett pastor’s life was inspired by Rev. Billy Graham

The first crusade Brian Harpell ever attended was when the Christian evangelist came to his hometown.

EVERETT — The Rev. Brian Harpell was 12 when he first saw Billy Graham. An already famous Christian evangelist by the 1960s, Graham came to Harpell’s hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“It was the first crusade I ever attended,” said Harpell, who for 30 years has been pastor of Everett’s First Baptist Church.

At 65, Harpell hasn’t forgotten that day, nor the man who influenced his life. From Canada, Harpell went on to attend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

“It had a Billy Graham room, and a strong emphasis on evangelism. I had an opportunity to read a fair bit about his life. It had quite an influence,” Harpell said. “ I was always inspired by his incredible integrity and character.”

On his Facebook page early Wednesday, Harpell posted: “The Rev. Billy Graham has died at 99. He was a farmer’s son who became a pastor to presidents and America’s best-known Christian evangelist. Thanking God for this man’s faithful witness to Jesus Christ and authentic integrity!”

Graham died Wednesday at his home in Montreat, North Carolina.

Recalling the outdoor crusade where he saw Graham as a boy, Harpell said it was on the lawn of the Halifax Citadel, overlooking the harbor city.

“He would close his services with the invitation hymn ‘Just As I Am,’ ” Harpell said. Also the title of Graham’s autobiography, “Just As I Am” was the music Harpell said coincided with the evangelist’s call for people to come to the altar to “give their lives to Christ.”

Aspects of Graham’s ministry that stand out, Harpell said, include his early insistence “on racial integration in his evangelizing campaigns” and assuring that his Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was overseen by a financial accountability organization. “In this day and age, there are a lot of charlatans. There are legitimate concerns over how some pastors operate, and their affluence,” Harpell said.

Graham achieved renown and traveled the globe, but his message was simple. “He wanted to bring the simple message of the Gospel, that God loves everybody,” Harpell said. “He really meant it.”

Harpell said Graham mostly avoided partisan politics. One stain on his reputation was the National Archives’ release of tapes from a 1972 talk Graham had with President Richard Nixon. Both men disparaged Jewish people. “Did he get drawn in? Yes, but he acknowledged he got sucked in. He said ‘I messed up,’ ” Harpell said.

Asked about Graham’s legacy, Harpell said it’s more than being a pastor to presidents.

“Dr. Graham would say that this would be a different world if we realized God does love us, and called us to love one another. I think that is relevant today,” Harpell said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460;

Talk to us

More in Local News

Tuesday's career fair will be at Everett Community College, which incidentally is also one of the participants. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
Snohomish County Career Fair set for Tuesday at EvCC

Job seekers can connect with more than 40 employers at this year’s annual event.

The Voting Commissioners of the Washington State Redistricting Commission released draft Legislative District maps Tuesday. (Washington State Redistricting Commission)
Early maps of legislative districts endanger some incumbents

Under one redistricting proposal, Mill Creek joins Everett. Under another, Monroe joins Wenatchee.

Driver who died in Everett car crash identified

Thomas Ogden, 43, was driving Tuesday morning on Rucker Avenue at 41st Street when another car crashed into his.

Granite Falls altercation: Dog killed, man shot in head

A 20-year-old man allegedly shot an intruder, 54, who threatened two people and killed their dog.

Man found dead in Mountlake Terrace homeless camp identified

Oscar Banos Mejia, 40, was discovered in the bushes along the Interurban Trail on Friday afternoon.

Police respond to a crash in which Isaiah Funden, 24, of Marysville, died after his motorcycle collided with a car Monday morning on the Snohomish River Bridge. (Everett Police Department)
Motorcyclist who died in Everett bridge crash identified

The Marysville man, 24, was involved in a collision with a car and ejected into the Snohomish River.

Callie Childers 20210921
Car of slain Marysville woman was set on fire

Her body was found along a remote stretch of U.S. 2, east of Stevens Pass. Her car was found near Snohomish.

New Snohomish County task force aims to stop youth suicide

The Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force was formed last April. Members hope to educate the public.

Most Read