Evangelist Billy Graham was interviewed by CHRISTIANITY TODAYon the twentieth anniversary of his first large-scale evangelistic campaign, held in the fall of 1949 in a tent in downtown Los Angeles. Mr. Graham made these remarks during the Southern California crusade in Anaheim last month.
What recollections come to mind of the Los Angeles campaign in 1949? What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in the intervening years?
Those are big questions. At the time we came to Los Angeles in 1949 we were using the names and methods of the so-called old-time evangelism of the early twentieth century and the latter part of the nineteenth. The word crusade was never used—it was called the “campaign,” and the counselors were called “personal workers.” In those days evangelists took love offerings. We used the same Gospel, but it was couched in quite a different framework.
The thing I remember most is the tremendous blessing of God. You have to put it in the context of its times. Mass evangelism was something of the past. During the thirties and the forties there were few evangelists. A crowd of 5,000 was almost unheard of until Youth for Christ came along and got larger crowds on Saturday nights.
There were some evangelists, like Dr. Rice and Dr. Appleman and Dr. Jones, who were having a joint campaign in Chicago about that time. They had three or four thousand people a night. That was considered a very successful meeting.
In those days no evangelist and no religion had much coverage in the press; as a matter of fact, you almost never saw anything about religion except on the back pages. About that time, God, in what I believe was his own way, broke through to give us this start in Los Angeles. ...1
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