The Riptide of Revival
Editor's note: The Fall 2006 issue of Christian History & Biography tells the story of the New Evangelicals. This vibrant, mid-20th-century movement eagerly sought active engagement in the culture, the application of Christian truth to society's problems, and the spread of biblical, historic Christianity throughout the world. From those early days, Billy Graham emerged as one of the movement's foremost leaders, as this article from the issue describes.
The giant tent that housed the 1949 Greater Los Angeles Revival has become an iconic image in accounts of the ministry of Billy Graham, now considered the world's most famous preacher. The 30-year-old former Youth for Christ evangelist prowled the platform in a voluminous double-breasted suit that hung on his bony frame like a scarecrow's garment. He was still unknown to most of America, but he was ready for a larger stage. As his hands became pistols to fire accusations of shortcoming into the transfixed crowd or machetes to hack through the jungle of contemporary sin, it was not difficult to believe he had a candidate in mind when he declared, "When God gets ready to shake America, He may not take the Ph.D. and the D.D. God may choose a country boy. … God may choose the man that no one knows, a little nobody, to shake America for Jesus Christ in this day, and I pray that He would!"
As the revival neared the end of its planned three-week run with only modest results, popular radio star Stuart Hamblen (who later wrote the gospel song "It Is No Secret") began attending, underwent a dramatic conversion, and plugged the meetings on his radio show. Then came an even more crucial break. One evening, a cluster of reporters and photographers met Graham when he arrived at the tent. ...