Events and strategies behind a remarkable summer of evangelism

The manager of London’s best-known exhibition center and a liberal, charismatic sociologist make an unlikely pair to set in motion a chain of events leading to a huge evangelism mission in a country first converted to Christianity 1,400 years ago. But so it has proved to be.

Just over nine years ago the London office of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association got a phone call from the managing director of Earls Court, home of such venerable institutions as the Royal Tournament military tattoo and the Motor Show. It was also the site of Billy Graham’s major crusades in London in 1966 and 1967.

The gist of the call was that structural changes being made to the huge auditorium within the next four years would make it impossible for such large-scale meetings thereafter. Had they any plans for another major crusade beforehand?

The liberal sociologist was Clifford Hill, a distinguished Congregational minister, writer, and well-known broadcaster, especially on racial issues. After many years in the ministry he became disillusioned with the liberal theology he had espoused since theological college. After experiencing charismatic renewal, he worked in London’s East End, seeking to make Christ relevant to the dwindling number of residents in crumbling inner-city areas. He joined the 138-year-old Evangelical Alliance in 1978 as Secretary for Evangelism and Church Growth and was largely instrumental in the group launching the 1980s as a “decade of evangelism.” After he left the alliance in 1980, Hill called together a number of church leaders to launch “New Way London,” an evangelistic thrust in the nation’s capital.

It was several years before these initiatives bore fruit ...

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