An Episcopal rector of Hollywood was quoted by Time (September 6, 1963) concerning Billy Graham’s Los Angeles crusade, “I believe he’s putting the Church back fifty years.” At the ministers’ breakfast during the closing week of the crusade, Dr. Graham referred to the remark with kindness and humor: “I’m afraid I have failed. I had hoped to put the Church back 2,000 years.”
Actually, this is what the discerning observer noticed about the crusade. There was something of Acts 2 about it: prophetic preaching of the Lordship of Christ, the coming of the day of judgment, conviction of sin, repentance and faith, and an invitation to “save yourselves from this crooked age.”
Homiletically, some seminary senior might have preached a better sermon than Peter’s, but the powerful plus is that God used it. Billy Graham’s homiletics could be criticized; as someone on the sponsoring committee remarked, “Whatever his text, he really has only one sermon.” But it is a sermon plus God. Its content is simple, its application direct, and the amazing thing is that people of all classes, races, and educational backgrounds are moved to Christ.
I saw this in 1957 at Cambridge, where undergraduates, graduates, and professors alike were crowded into Great St. Mary’s 3,000-capacity church and hundreds of them made commitments to Christ. At a luncheon in Dr. Graham’s honor given by the faculty, I talked with men whose names were world-famous in their various disciplines. At first they were curious, then interested; then as I watched their heads nodded unconsciously in agreement with Billy’s simple message of sin, judgment, grace, and salvation.
At Yale in 1957 I was eating with some students in one of the colleges before the first meeting of a week’s preaching ...1
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