Finale Ultimo: Ask Everyone If They’ve Heard the Gospel

by Lon Allison

Today, I’m returning to my final article written for the Billy Graham Center in 2013. I offer it for two reasons. First, because its message of the urgency for evangelism has not changed. Second, because this summer the Billy Graham Center and Wheaton College were kind enough to give me the position of Honorary Director of the BGC. I’m grateful to Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of the Center, and all who supported this decision. I’m overjoyed to see how many new and powerful projects are coming from the Center in 2017 and beyond. This is her finest hour. But at the end of the day, this blog is not about the Center’s finest hour, but the URGENCY of the hour at hand.


Finale Ultimo

“Ask every person if he’s heard the story, and tell it strong and clear if he has not…”

It is a lovely Sunday morning. I sit in my favorite chair looking out our window to the woods behind our home. A song drifts into my mind. It is the “Finale Ultimo” from the final scene of Camelot. You see the words above. King Arthur, in the final battle of his life and fearing the total breakdown of his dreams, tells a young boy who has hidden in the baggage hoping to fight alongside Arthur to “Run boy, run.” He is not to fight in the battle, but rather to run back to England and declare to everyone the story and the dream that was and is Camelot.

The lyric fits me well today. If I had one final ultimate message to say to all the great people I’ve known and served in my first 40 years of ministry, it would be, “Ask every person if he’s heard the story, and tell it strong and clear if he has not.” The story is the true great story, the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no message more vital, nor more urgent. I believe it is the only story that makes better people and better societies and glorifies the God of the universe.

Yesterday, my friend and colleague Jerry Root and I had a long phone conversation. In it, we summed up well our own thoughts. We agreed that all attempts outside of the story of Jesus Christ to make sense of life and to live life well have fallen short. The geo-political dream of governments and nations is fizzling out. They promise much and deliver much less. Millions throng to believe them, want to believe them and then, they can’t deliver.

The economic dream “of enough for all and more than enough for those who try hardest” collapses as well. Even the best global economies are sputtering and barely hold together by a mere thread that links them in a fragile web. The educational dream was the pinnacle of modernity. Education would pull people out of tyranny and poverty. Education would reveal and create the noble soul. But far too often it makes bad people more dangerous and evil more systemic.

So I repeat and exhort all of us, “Ask every person if he’s heard the story and tell it strong and clear if he has not.” The gospel is the great idea and answer for everyone, everywhere.

My urgency is enhanced, because this is my “finale ultimo” as the Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. I will end my 15 years of service in just a few short weeks. Our Lord has called me to a new location and community in which to tell and teach the great story of Jesus.

I will always be grateful for the immense privilege to lead the Graham Center. It was my “dream job.” I am still in awe of the majestic columns, the 500,000 red bricks forming its wall and its towering heights. The building communicates what Dr. Billy Graham and the leaders of Wheaton College intended, namely, the primacy and importance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Since its inception, it has existed to “accelerate global evangelism” by equipping leaders, networking churches and agencies around the Greatest Commission, and serving as a resource hub of evangelism and missional scholarship and strategy.

I have thought, worked, and prayed to continue its mission and preserve the legacy that preceded me. I will pray that it continues and goes far beyond anything I ever imagined in its service to the gospel. The team assembled there to serve the church and its mission are women and men of excellence in both capacity and character. I do believe they, and the next Director God brings them, will take the work to the next level. But the staff are more than colleagues.

They are brothers, sisters and friends. I will miss them very much. And, the faculty, staff, and friends of Wheaton College are some of the finest Christians I’ve known. It has been an honor and privilege to serve them and with them.

Wherever I’ve traveled in the world, the trusted name of Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College has inspired Evangelical centrality and excellence. It has also given me the rare privilege of seeing the wonderful works of God being supplied through His people everywhere.

Our God is a mighty God. His kingdom is forever. Please receive this scriptural word of encouragement: “Preach the word in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). And, “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15).


Lon Allison (@lonallison) is pastor of teaching and outreach at Wheaton Bible Church in West Chicago, Illinois. Previously, he served as executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism.