“I’m going to ask you to do something you may never have done before,” evangelist Billy Graham told his Essen, Germany, audience on the opening night of ProChrist ’93 in March. “But it is something your grandparents and parents, your relatives and friends may have done many years ago.” As he continued to give the “invitation,” 333 seekers crowded to the front of the auditorium.

It was 1960 when Graham first preached in Essen in Germany’s industrial Ruhr valley. The chair of the local committee took his advance team to visit the venue for the crusade, a soccer stadium in ruins from bombing raids during World War II. There were no seats there, no electric power.

Aghast at the prospect, the advance team arranged for a tentmaker who supplied Germany’s famed autumn beer festivals to sew several beer tents together. And when the evangelist pitched his outsized canvas tabernacle and switched on the power generators, a nightly average of 22,000 persons came to hear him preach the gospel.

Now, 33 years later, the aging evangelist has returned to a modern exposition center with a 7,000-seat auditorium with an overflow capacity.

Evangelistic bean-counters should not jump to conclusions about this year’s opening night attendance of 10,500. In 1993, Essen serves as a “studio” for ProChrist ’93—a made-for-satellite evangelistic crusade aimed at 317 venues across German-speaking Europe. The live, opening-night broadcast had an audience of 193,000. And when combined with the satellite transmission of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s Mission World effort to 55 countries in 42 European, Asian, and Middle Eastern languages, the estimate of the first sermon’s congregation was close to 1.8 million—perhaps the largest audience Billy Graham ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: