Skip to main content
Logo for Ozark Christian College

What Happens When Andy Griffith Meets Billy Graham?

  • By President Matt Proctor
  • Published 12 01, 2021
News What Happens When Andy Griffith Meets Billy Graham Image

What does it take to make a minister? At least three ingredients: a minister, a student, and a classroom. I'll ask your help to provide the classroom, but first, Andy Griffith meets Billy Graham…

“You teach what you know, but you reproduce what you are.” If OCC wanted to produce ivory tower theologians, we would hire faculty with lots of degrees and little pastoral experience. But if we want graduates with Bible knowledge, practical ministry skills, and a heart for the church, guess who we’d hire?

Gerald Griffin.

For twenty years, Griff preached in Racine, Missouri, population 200. Racine is good ol’ boy country, and the folks there are my kind of people: small-town salt of the earth. In Racine, 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John are John Wayne, John Deere, and Johnny Cash, and before they got a Dollar General, Racine’s business district consisted of one gas station…named Guns, Gas, and Groceries.

But thanks to the Lord, a little band of faithful believers, and Gerald Griffin, Racine also has a church.

When Griff started preaching there as a 22-year-old Ozark student, the attendance board in the little rock building read 50. “They were a loving, patient bunch,” remembers Griff with a smile. “They were raising a kid preacher.” Twenty years later, Racine Christian Church welcomed 400 worshipers into their new building every week—a vibrant, growing congregation.

You can help reproduce more church builders like Griff, but you’re still wondering about Andy Griffith and Billy Graham…

As a small-town minister, Griff knew almost everyone in Racine. Throughout the county, at high school football games or local coffee shops, Griff would greet folks by name, with humor and a handshake. If Racine was Mayberry, then—like a spiritual Sheriff Andy Taylor—Griff pastored with wisdom and warmth. Then in 2001, he brought that warmth to Ozark’s classrooms as a full-time Bible professor.

“He’s an encourager—a Barnabas,” says one student. When another student’s teenage daughter attempted suicide, Griff “just showed up. He didn’t offer platitudes. He just sat with us.” Another said, “He’s a non-anxious presence when I need it.”

Griff puts on no airs. He’s an “old school guy” who loves his wife Sally, the St. Louis Cardinals, and Neil Diamond. (Two students once rigged a classroom sound system to blast “Sweet Caroline” when Griff walked in.) One put it simply: “Griff’s just a humble dude who cares.”

But put him behind a pulpit, and Griff transforms. The self-effacing humility becomes a Bible-empowered boldness. At Racine, Griff preached his way through biblical books. “It was a joy seeing the Bible resonate with people’s real life,” he says. “I preached through a gospel every Christmas to Easter, so in twenty years at that church, we went through all four gospels five times. I love preaching about Jesus.”

And he does so with conviction. “Griff gets fired up about God’s Word,” said one student. “He’s gentle, but when he preaches, he’s a gentle thunder.” Another said, “Griff never gravitates toward the spotlight, but he'll do whatever it takes for people to know Jesus.” One student described Griff as “part good ol’ boy, part gospel advocate.”

In other words, Andy Griffith meets Billy Graham. Not a bad recipe for making a minister.

Students catch Griff’s evangelistic passion. He once told a story in class about a long-haul trucker in Racine—a gruff, colorful character who Griff eventually led to Christ. As a new Christian, he loved the church but was still learning this Christianity thing. After one of Griff’s sermons, the trucker enthusiastically shook his preacher's hand and said loudly for all to hear, “H*** of a sermon, Griff! H*** of a sermon!”

The students heard the lesson: if you don’t have a few folks who haven’t learned yet not to cuss in church, you’re probably not taking evangelism seriously enough. In the classroom that day, future ministers were shaped.

But we need your help to update that classroom… 

It’s no surprise that Griff has left a trail of ministers in his wake. They’re pastors and preachers and evangelists, often in their own little towns:

  • Casey Kleeman is a preacher in Grove, Oklahoma (population 6,600). “Griff came from twenty years in the pulpit, and he made me want to preach.”
  • Preaching in Duenweg, Missouri (population 1,380), Rob Petersen took notes on his mentor. “Griff has an ‘aw shucks’ style, but when he preaches, Clark Kent becomes Superman, and it works.”
  • When Jim Frech started preaching in Galesburg, Kansas (population 126), the church started growing like Racine. “Griff helped me avoid mistakes, but he didn’t try to teach methods or a secret sauce. He pointed me to the One who makes things grow.”

“You teach what you know, but you reproduce what you are.” So Ozark hires “blue-collar scholars” like Griff—professors with both academic credentials and real-life ministry muscles. My son Luke said, “In every Griff class, I came out loving the church more. I learned the Bible, but with his ministry stories, I also learned that everything ‘going in’ in the classroom was going to come back out in pastoral conversations.”

Would you help equip that classroom for future students? Two years ago, we renovated one of our two large library classrooms. With your help, students walked into a learning environment including a new paint job and marker board, new ceiling tiles and lights, a new podium with multimedia controls, and a new projector, screen, and sound system.

We’d now like to renovate the other large library classroom, at a cost of $48,000. Since Gerald Griffin is retiring at the end of this school year, I’ll make two requests.

  • First: would you pray as we search for our next “blue-collar scholar” to keep making ministers?
  • Second: would you give a gift in Griff’s honor toward a classroom where that happens?

Remember Guns, Gas, and Groceries? The Christmas story reminds us: God loves small towns. (Bethlehem was a one-gas-station town—Barley, Bagels, Bows and Arrows.) You can help train the next Griff to take the good news to the next Racine. Thank you for considering a gift to produce more “Andy-Griffith-meets-Billy-Graham” graduates.

Yours in Christ,

Matt Proctor

P.S. A Christmas gift for you: watch Griff’s December 2011 chapel sermon here. You’ll laugh, hear God’s Word, catch Griff’s heart, and walk away challenged to reach your own “Racine.” (And you’ll see the old Living Christmas Tree behind him!)

Give a gift in Griff's honor toward a classroom to keep making ministers. Make a one-time or recurring gift here. Any funds received in excess of our goal may be used to underwrite OCC's general fund scholarships.