If you care enough to pray, a number of incredible things will happen during Billy Graham’s New York Crusade, beginning May 15.
Here are a number of predictions, based on taking God at his word and what he has done in the past—not with an idea of trying to go before him:
1. Billy Graham will tell more people about Jesus Christ during the next six weeks than he has during all of his phenomenal ministry, with the exception of the worldwide radio program, “Hour of Decision.”
An estimated 20,000 will be present for each meeting in Madison Square Garden. Scores of other meetings, will be held daily by various members of the team. The demand for seats will grow and result in several stadium rallies, boosting the possibility of extending the crusade.
(London’s Harringay Arena was filled practically every night for three months after critics laughed that even an orator like Sir Winston Churchill couldn’t fill it for two consecutive nights. A crowd of 120,000 attended the final rally at Wembley Stadium.)
Daily radio and television opportunities will take the message into hard-to-reach areas of the huge city, often referred to as the capital of the world because of the United Nations headquarters. Nationwide telecasts from Madison Square Garden over the ABC network from 8 to 9 p.m. each Saturday night, beginning the first week in June, will start with an audience in excess of 20 millions. The number of viewers will show such a startling growth each week that the “gray flannel suit” advertising executives on Madison Avenue, most of whom worship comparative rating charts, will rush new evaluations on the power of God.
“Thank God he’s going off the air at 9 o’clock,” muttered an agency vice-president, without any attempt at reverence, when informed about the program. His show to sell coffee for another sponsor begins at 9.
(In 1955, Mr. Graham spoke from Glasgow, Scotland, over BBC-TV. The audience was estimated at 30,000,000—second only in British history to the number of viewers for the Coronation telecast. Queen Elizabeth and members of the royal family watched the service from beginning to end. She was so deeply moved that she wrote a letter, inviting him to speak at private services in Windsor Castle. In less regal surroundings, teen-agers passed up parties to hear a preacher. Bartenders said men lined their rails and watched for an hour without buying a drink).
Response To Invitation
2. The number of inquirers who respond to the invitation at the close of each message, by the grace of God, will surpass any campaign to date.
From New York’s melting pot of 60 nationalities, the inquirers will represent every phase of society—a name television performer, major league baseball player, playboy, prostitute, business executive, criminal, housewife, teen-age gang leader, etc. The same message, used by the Holy Spirit, will affect all types.
Scoffers then will ask the question: “Will it last?”
Some won’t last. All didn’t last when Christ was doing the preaching. Part of the seed fell on rocky ground and was blown away. Some fell on poor soil and failed to take root. But other seed fell on good earth and grew.
Billy Graham, a fun-loving young baseball player, made a decision to live for Christ over 20 years ago. He has lasted. His buddy, Grady Wilson, was sitting in the choir next to him and made the same decision. He has lasted. People will stand up around the world, look you straight in the eye and testify they have lasted.
Revival In Churches
3. Ministers and church members will be revived. Unity and love will spread as they place Christ first and denomination second, endeavor to help instead of hinder, offer comfort instead of criticism.
(A minister in Great Britain told Mr. Graham: “You are having a serious effect on my ministry. For years I have taught in my church that many of the stories in the Bible are myths, but I realize now that I have never had any power in my sermons. You stand there on the platform night after night and tell these same stories as the gospel truth. And I have seen with my own eyes the power of God as the people get out of their seats and walk to the front.…” The revolution against formalism spread fast among ministers of Britain, most of whom had never given a public invitation for people to accept Christ. One clergyman gave his first invitation and was shocked when 25 people walked down the aisles. Next day, he sought out the crusade chairman and asked, “Now that I’ve got them, what am I going to do?” He was advised to, first, start a Bible class; second, begin a weekly prayer meeting, and then to inaugurate a regular visitation program with the new members doing the visiting.)
(Dr. Marc Boegner, a past president of the World Council of Churches and known in his native France as “Mr. Protestant,” refused to take any part in the five-day Paris campaign. He changed his opinion after talking with two former members of his church who found Christ at the evangelistic services. At a testimony meeting a few weeks later, Dr. Boegner rose to his feet and declared, “I didn’t take any part in the campaign, but I’m sorry that I didn’t. I have been shown very clearly that the decisions were real and I believe they will be lasting. I want to state in public that if Dr. Graham returns to Paris for a campaign, I will be privileged and happy to support the meetings in any way possible.”)
4. The name of Jesus Christ will be for many the biggest topic of conversation on the streets, in factories and offices and on the dimly-lit night circuit of such spots as the Stork Club and Toots Shor’s.
Not all the conversation, of course, will be favorable. But God can use criticism to arouse interest. Sophisticates already are inventing excuses to explain why they are going to attend at least one meeting. The smart, bored set, on the spur of the moment, will make up gay little parties to visit Madison Square and squeeze another laugh out of life. Some will find eternal life. The new existence will mean so much they will tell their friends about it. (A few name performers already are strong boosters of the crusade.)
With Christ brought out into the open, partly through the talk of unbelievers, encouraged Christians will rejoice in the new-found freedom to witness for Christ.
The Press Speaks
5. The effect of the campaign will be felt in many parts of the world.
The press and radio will spread the news from Madison Square Garden to all nations, where thousands have been praying for months. Some of the stories will be written by reporters with suddenly-changed perspectives. They will go to the meetings with clever journalistic phrases of derision running through their heads. Expecting a religious circus of sorts, they will be strangely impressed by the sincerity of the effort, as Cliff Barrows leads the mammoth choir in old songs of the church, as the voice of George Beverly Shea comes rolling from a loving heart and as Billy Graham, carefully avoiding any emotional tactics, paints a clear word picture of man’s need to be born again by the Spirit of God.
Not all the writers will be impressed. A few will jeer to the end. But others will toss their false pride into a cocked hat to publicly surrender their hearts and talents to the Lord.
(At a press conference in India, Mr. Graham was asked to explain about sin, death and eternal life. His answers came from the Bible. As reporters were milling around the room at the end, one walked up to him, stuck out his hand and said, “I want to become a Christian.” … In the press room at Glasgow, two writers were discussing the campaign. “Every night,” one voiced, “Graham says Christ died for me.” A puzzled expression came over his face. He repeated the words, slowly, “Christ died for me.” The Holy Spirit had shot home the meaning. He made a public profession.… England’s most famous columnist, Cassandra, complained that Mr. Graham had all the best of it in a setting of worship and asked the evangelist to meet him on “sinners’ ground.” They met in a pub. Cassandra had beer. Mr. Graham had milk. And they talked. Next day in print Cassandra retracted the disparaging things he had written, saying, “Sincerity and truth are weapons too sharp to oppose”.)
6. Communists in New York will face the rising threat to their godless way of life by smearing Mr. Graham in any way possible.
(In another city the communist publication said, “We are assured that not a penny for Billy comes from the churches, ministers or countries that invite him to run campaigns. If this is true, then his activity is subsidized by the American Wall Street interests. It is one way or the other. He is spreading what is really a definite anti-Christian and pro-capitalist gospel in the name of Jesus Christ.” The communist paper in Germany, after a meeting in Berlin, gave a detailed eye-witness account of Mr. Graham taking his team to a night club, buying liquor by the case and then getting thrown into jail for trying to slip out without paying the bill.)
The communists evidently are unaware that people laugh at such “whoppers” instead of believing them.
7. Opposition will continue to come from small extreme groups within the Church.
Some of the criticism will fall away as the expected blessings of God on the campaign become too evident to ignore. The jeers will turn to joy for many as God honors the simple preaching of his Holy Word, without pulled punches. Along with Paul, these people will say, “Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice.”
(Two years ago, when Mr. Graham was preaching in Scotland, rumors spread through America that he had compromised his hard-hitting Bible sermons in favor of a modern social gospel more pleasing to man. Dr. John R. Rice, widely-known evangelist and publisher, visited Glasgow to see for himself. After hearing several sermons, he told this writer, “Thank God for Billy Graham and members of his team. He is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in all its simplicity, authority and power—like Dwight L. Moody and Billy Sunday. He preaches a plain message leading to a definite point—repentance and faith in Christ.… Have you ever noticed that when a man runs 15 yards in a (football) game, he always seems to have plenty of interference, but when he gets loose on a long touchdown run, he has to get way out ahead of the interference and some of the blockers don’t like to be left behind.… I followed the converts into the counseling room. Billy didn’t tell them what church to join, but he told them to get into a good church where the Bible was preached”.)
Mr. Graham has announced on scores of occasions that he will preach the same kind of sermon in New York. He will go there with no strings attached.
United In Prayer
8. Most important of all, Jesus Christ will be glorified.
Members of the evangelistic team secluded themselves in a home recently to spend a weekend in prayer and meditation. Friday and Saturday were spiritual feasts. On Sunday morning they met for devotions. Dr. Ralph Mitchell, who fills an important role as spiritual counsellor, began to speak. His words went something like this:
“The man was burdened for real revival. He recalled a sermon illustration he had heard about a Christian and a circle. Even though aware that his actions probably would seem peculiar, he drew a large circle in the kitchen of his home, knelt inside and prayed, ‘Oh, God, send a revival to our city and let it start in me.’ He spent hours there pleading with God. His wife had seen him pray many times, but didn’t quite know what to think when she came home and found him kneeling in the circle. After he explained, she said, ‘You have room in there for me.’ They prayed together. Later, their daughter arrived and asked what was happening. She listened quietly before saying, ‘There is enough space left for me.’
“They prayed for revival, with each asking, ‘Let it begin in me.’
“From the prayers of this united family came the beginning of a great revival in that city.”
Dr. Mitchell paused for a moment, then continued:
“In my mind’s eye, I am going to draw a circle here on the floor.”
He dropped to his knees and prayed, “Oh, God, send a revival to New York and let it begin in me.”
Billy Graham was sitting at the back of the room. He rushed to the front and fell on his face before God. Nineteen persons were present. Within seconds, all were kneeling in the unseen circle, with each pleading, “Oh, God, send a revival and let it begin in me.”
A Broken Heart
It was an unforgettable moment. Members of the most publicized team in the history of evangelism prayed, wept and confessed.
Mr. Graham, visibly affected, spoke for a few moments before the closing:
“You men know that I am not very emotional, but while we are here I want to confess that as late as one month ago my heart had grown cold. I didn’t have the passion and love that I should have had for the souls in New York. I don’t know why. Maybe some of the criticism centered around the campaign got into my heart unawares and brought on the coldness. On a mountaintop in North Carolina, alone before God and deeply troubled, I told him that I couldn’t go to New York without tears for the lost and love for all people. In my prayers I asked the Lord to break my heart—no matter how awful the consequences might be, no matter how dear the loss.
“A week later God answered my prayers. He broke my heart and filled it with compassion, without making me go through the pain of a close personal loss.”
These are the men who are going to New York for a crusade which can, under God, be the most significant and far-reaching event within Protestantism in our generation.
Dependent Upon God
The men are talented and superbly trained, but they will go, in their own words, totally dependent upon God.
Mr. Graham will give all the praise and honor and glory, without hesitation and before any group, to Jesus Christ. Better than anyone else, he knows that the organization and publicity will amount to nothing unless the power of God falls. A warning ever before him will be, “It is not by might nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord,” and, “My glory I will not share with another.”
Greater things than the few listed here can happen in New York.
They will happen … if you care enough to pray—without ceasing!
George Burnham, news editor of Christianity Today, has covered all major Billy Graham campaigns abroad the last three years for as many as 600 secular and religious publications. His two books on the world tours are entitled Billy Graham: A Mission Accomplished and To the Far Corners. Burnham, formerly with the Associated Press and The Chattanooga News-Free Press, will record significant highlights of the New York Crusade for Christianity Today.
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