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From Collection 360, Scrapbook 2.  Billy Graham in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1947.
Billy Graham in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1947

“I Learned to Look Straight at Them.”
The Apprenticeship of Billy Graham, 1937-1949

Expanded version of the Treasures of Wheaton Presentation by Bob Shuster of the Billy Graham Center Archives
May 9, 2009
Barrows Auditorium, Billy Graham Center
Additional material added February 2013,
Further revised September 2013

 

 For the last fifteen years, the Billy Graham Center Archives , along with the other archives on campus - the College Archives and Special Collections and the Marion E. Wade Center, has used the annual Treasures of Wheaton talks to tell some of the stories from our collections.

For our part at the BGC Archives, we have talked about the real life of Corrie ten Boom and how it looked on film, ministry in the year 1898, American rescue missions,  the last years of church growth theorist Donald McGavran,  John Perkins and the civil rights movement, the different ways people tell their conversion stories,  the sinking of Zamzam, and a whole bunch of other subjects. These various topics reflect the Archives efforts to document the many facets of American Protestant Evangelical evangelism. But we have never taken a topic from the life and ministry of Billy Graham.

 Until today, that is. For this, the last of our Treasures of Wheaton presentations, I am going to talk about the apprenticeship of Billy Graham, from the spring of 1937 to the fall of 1949. These were his years of first steps in ministry - learning, practicing, experimenting.

 This is a story not of his private life, but his public one, not of his Christian walk or spiritual struggles, but of Billy Graham learning to be not only an evangelist, but a public figure. So it is an appropriate story for the BGC Archives to tell, We do not have Rev. Graham’s personal papers in the Archives. What we have are a vast amount material that tells the story of an organization, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association or BGEA. These include copies of sermons and radio and television programs, minutes of meetings, newspaper clippings, budgets, forms, etc., etc. And we have many, many small and large donations of material about Billy Graham that people have sent to us, almost all of which are about some aspect of his public activities, such a crusade hymn book or an audio tape someone recorded from the audience of a sermon. The BGEA was founded in 1950, so by definition, almost all its records are before the time period I am speaking of now. And the other accessions from private individuals are also largely from 1950 on.

However we also have a few items from a variety of sources earlier days. And I will use these to tell a story this first period of his public life, when there was no BGEA and the country and the fundamentalist community did not know Billy Graham from any other son of Adam. It is, as I said, the story of an apprenticeship. And not a short one. A child entering first grade when it began would be graduating from high school when it ended. What I want to do is show you various documents from our collection that can serve as signposts along the way.

 

We’will start here, with a photo. This shows Billy Graham with his first public, his Sunday school class back in his church in his home town of Charlotte, North Carolina, from around 1936 or 37. It was taken only a couple of years after Graham had given his life to Christ at the age of 16 during a meeting led by evangelist Mordecai Ham

 

The next documents are the pages an inexpensive Five and Dime store scrapbook, kept by Graham about his first preaching experience away from home. For in 1937, Frank and Morrow Graham packed up their car and, like millions of other Americans before and since, took a child away to school. The Grahams had a dairy farm on the outskirts of Charlotte. There Graham had had a fairly typical rural boyhood, not away from home for any long period of time except for the period selling Fuller Brushes in the Carolinas during the summer of 1936. This was not his first journey away to school. In the fall of 1936 he had enrolled in Bob Jones College, then in Tennessee.

But he left after a few months both for health reasons and because he found it difficult to adjust to the school’s discipline. He had, however, had time for a brief stab at campus theatrics, as see from the program for the campus production of Macbeth. As the program illustrates, at Bob Jones, Graham was never more than one of the crowd.

 

Morrow Graham, Billy’s mother, had read in the magazine Moody Monthly about another Bible school in Florida. So at the start of 1937 the Graham family packed up and drove south, taking Billy to begin his education again at Florida Bible Institute, known as FBI. The school was a small fundamentalist institution called Florida Bible Institute, outside of Tampa and known as FBI. FBI, like other Bible schools around the country. emphasized Bible study, spiritual development and practical training for Christian workers.

Roy Gustafson, a classmate, remembered Graham’s appearance on campus.

 

 

I met Billy Graham first in Tampa, Florida at the Florida Bible Institute. As I recall, it was in the winter of 1937. He had gone to Bob Jones College for the fall term. [A classmate there] was a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, and he had gone to Bob Jones that term as well. I believe that Bob Jones was going to kick [him] out of school, so he came down to Florida Bible Institute. He wrote to Billy and told him about the Florida sunshine, the orange juice, the relative freedom, and the pretty girls down there at the Bible school. So I believe that it was in January that Billy showed up, wearing a pair of chartreuse trousers and with a Boy Scout knife strapped to his belt. His motive in coming down there was stimulated by Wendell’s letter: to be down there in the sunshine and to get away from the regimentation of Bob Jones! He was full of life, and many of us wondered what kind of kid this was that we saw running around on the adjoining golf course and swimming in that Hillsboro River, which was full of deadly water moccasins. To this very day, he never fails an opportunity to tell of one of our first encounters. I had a little book, a commentary on the book of Romans, written by a fourteen year old boy. Since I needed a little money, and this new kid seemed always to have some, I urged him to buy the book for one dollar. He has never let me forget this.

 

That tape is from Collection 141 in the BGC Archives. That collection consists of hundreds of tapes containing thousands of hours of interviews conducted over several decades, almost all of them done by one woman, Dr. Lois Ferm.

She and her husband Robert Ferm were BGEA staff workers and she dedicated herself to getting down on tape the memories of hundreds of people about BGEA’s history and evangelistic work (sometimes assisted by Bob). Most of her interviews were about specific crusades, but there are also many about Billy Graham’s early days.

 

It was at FBI that he received his first formal training in Bible study, constructing a sermon, preaching. Here are some of the mimeographed notes that the young student received

 

and samples of early sermon he composed for class. The FBI faculty believed that you learned by doing. Just a few weeks after Graham started attending FBI,

 

John Minder, the dean of men of the school, took Graham with him to visit Rev. Cecil Underwood, who was supply pastor at Boswick Baptist Church. Here is the a recording of Minder, made in 1977, in which he described Billy Graham’s first preaching experience on March 28, 1937, Easter Sunday:

 

 

While visiting that afternoon, Billy and I, he [Rev. Cecil Underwood] announced that he was…had been invited to supply for the pastor because he was away for the day. And just before we got to the church, Mr. Underwood turned to me and said, “Mr. Minder, will you preach for me tonight?” I said, “No, Billy’s going to preach.” Billy said, “No, sir, I never have.” “Well,” I said, “you are preaching tonight.” And he said, “No, sir, I can’t.” Well, I said, “You go ahead and preach; and when you run out, I’ll take over. I never run out.” So we went to the meeting and that was the beginning.... [portion of transcript omitted] Mr. Underwood then asked me…introduced me. Then I introduced Billy and announced that he was a student from the Florida Bible Institute, as it was then called, now Trinity College. He got up and preached, I guess, about ten or fifteen minutes. Gave a very nice message. Then he sat down. I took over and spoke a little while. There was a good spirit in the meeting. I gave an invitation for those who needed help from the Lord to raise their hands and we had quite a response. They all came…quite a number of them responded to the invitation to come forward except one man who was alone. So Billy went back to do some personal work. Having announced that he was from the school in Tampa, this man looked him square in the eye and he said, “Lookey here, young fellow. You don’t have to think just because you go to that there school down there that you know everything.” Well, Billy was rather taken back, but anyway, he recovered and told us about it later on.

 

 Minder made Graham youth director and assistant pastor at the Tampa Gospel Tabernacle where he himself was pastor.

 

 In that pulpit and others in the immediate area in Florida and Georgia, Graham began to preach regularly. He began to show initiative and inventiveness in finding evangelistic opportunities. Roy Gustafson recalled Graham’s preparedness:

 

 

Gustafson: The thing as far as his ministry is concerned, that I often tell people, is that Billy realized, I think, that he, that he was going to be a preacher. And like we often say the thing that I am going to be I am now becoming. And the thing that I remember as far as his ministry is concerned, and I’ll come to other phases of my impressions of him, was that Billy in those days, as he is today, was always prepared. Now, he used to take Biederwolf’s sermons [William Biederwolf, 1867-1939, an early 20th century evangelist], I remember, and Moody Colportage books and he would go down the banks of the Hillsboro River and put that book on that cypress stump. And he would memorize a paragraph or two and run up and down there and preach it there to the stumps. And I’ll never forget that one time he was preaching he looked across the way and there was a black man sitting across there fishing, so he had his audience over there. But he would memorize these sermons. In fact I got a little bit of some help from him at that time, I found myself preaching the same ones that he’d get out of Moody Colportage books. And then after he had memorized these sermons, or learned them, so that actually it was not only memorization, some parts of it, but it would be extemporaneous. But he was always prepared, in those days I can say this, he was always prepared and he knew what he was going to say when he got up to speak, which is an enviable thing for anybody to do. And then go, there was a little place, oh, a couple miles down the road called Sulphur Springs. We used to have street meetings there every Saturday night. And I’d go and I’d play my horn and Billy, we had a little trio, men’s trio, and we’d sing and Billy would come down and preach that sermon. And then Billy was a self starter. Many kids in Bible School will wait until somebody sends in and says 'Can you please send us someone to come and teach a Sunday School class?' But really, Billy didn’t wait for anybody to send for him. He made the openings to go and speak. And he would probably go and speak on Sunday mornings somewhere. But I know on Sunday afternoon there was a, what we would call a stockade. These fellows were picked up, they may have been drunk or picked up on some other things, and they were in the Tampa stockade. And again, we would go down there to the stockade.



And then there was a little mission, a little Spanish mission on, called Hope Mission on Laurel Street in Tampa. And Billy was going to preach there. And believe it or not he’d preach there with the same gusto and slap his hands, you know, and everything with the enthusiasm that he does now when he has fifty or seventy-five thousand people.



And then, of course, he’d also...the first trailer parks in America were in Florida. And nobody was going to the trailer parks but Billy saw this opportunity to preach the gospel and reach these people in trailer parks because they have a little auditorium where they’d play bridge and other little social functions. And he took a boy by the name of Ponzi Pennington, and had a girl’s trio, and a girl to play piano, and would go out there to the trailer park. And in those days, as now of course, in those days we never thought of how much money we would get out of it because chances were we wouldn’t get anything. But here was an opportunity to preach, and so he would go and preach in these trailer parks. But always, after he’d memorized this sermon he’d preach it in the street, he’d preach it in the stockade, he’d preach it in the trailer park, and then there was a little Christian Missionary Alliance Tabernacle in Tampa. Well, he’d go in there on Saturdays and preach. And I’ll never forget the janitor’s name was Frank something, I know, but he’d have him for an audience and Billy would stop and say, 'Well, how was that Frank?' Oh, Frank would just grunt away, but Billy would preach it there. So he actually became almost the pastor of that Gospel Tabernacle there in Tampa, Florida.

 

When he went home to Charlotte, he preached a Christmas sermon in a nearby church, a local boy who made good. Notice the use of the name that his family and home town knew him as, Billy Frank. Friends in Charlotte began to call him the boy preacher.

 

The local Charlotte paper began to publish occasional notices about Graham, such as this one from 1939 which is perhaps the first record of his use of mass communications, in this case radio.

 

He quickly grasped the importance of advertising and when he visited churches to lead evangelistic meetings,

 

he did what he could to make sure that the whole community knew something was going on.

 

The Archives has many of the handbills that he printed and distributed.

 

This is perhaps the first photo of Billy Graham preaching from a pulpit at the camp John Minder ran at Lake Swan in Florida, ca. 1939. Here is John Minder’s memory of Graham’s first extended evangelistic campaign, in late 1938:

 

Minder: Also, at Lake Swan, I think one of the first meetings that he ever held, extended meeting, was when he came up to help in the tent, the Children’s camp, there at Lake Swan, they had a children’s camp there. And Billy was invited to, they, he was there to help, he came up with me to help and they, just whatever he could, you see, no particular assignment. And then he, the children became attached to him and he was asked to speak, I think on Tuesday night, or Wednesday and the camp started on Monday through Friday. And then the camp closed on Saturday, but when the camp closed, there was not a single child who had not made a profession of salvation. It was after this that he went to Palatka, where he held, it was East Palatka [Florida], where he held the first meeting with Cecil Underwood.
Interviewer: The one we talked about previously.
Minder: “Yes, the one previously. And I was to, he was to, the meeting was to start on Wednesday night. I took him up from Tampa and I preached that night and then Billy spoke on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning, but he would not give up his Sunday night youth meeting at Tampa. So he came back. And I asked him then, ‘How did the camp go, how did the meeting go?’ He said, ‘Oh, those people don’t want to hear me preach,’ and he didn’t seem to think that they were especially interested and he wasn’t too enthused about going back. So I said, ‘You’re going back. You pray and trust God and God will honor His Word, and you’ll still have a good meeting.’ And he very reluctantly went back on Monday. But he got there in time for the Monday night meeting. But when he got there, he found that he had a good crowd there and the crowd continued to build up. And about the middle of the week, he called me and he said, 'Mr. Minder, I don’t know what to do.' I said, “What’s wrong now?''Well,” he said, “these people don’t want me to stop. What shall I do?''Well,” I said, “that’s up to you. You are of age now and you have come to a time when you’ve got to learn to make decisions for yourself. The thing for you to do is to pray and see what you feel the Lord wants you to do and then do it.' He said, 'Yes, but I told my folks we’d be home on Thursday.' Well, I said, 'You’ve been away from home for over a year, and I don’t think it will bother them one, very much to, a day or two either way, and especially if they know that you were doing what they, what you feel the Lord wants you to do.' Well, the next thing I knew he continued the meeting, he extended the meetings and so I came up for the last night of the meeting. When I got there the church was crowded, and no room for anyone else inside, they had loud speakers on the outside, and I was, there was just enough room for he and I to sit on the end of the front pew. And this was quite a change from his first reception. And as we sat there, I remember he was, this was his final service, and they’d been announcing all week that he was going to preach on the second coming. And I noticed him squirming a little bit and I said, “What’s wrong?” 'Well,' he said, 'I don’t have a sermon.' He’d been announcing all week that he was going to preach on the second coming of Christ. So I gave him a sermon outline and he got up at the proper time and preached like an old soldier. 

 At FBI as well, he learned the effect of scandal on ministry. The president of the school was accused of moral indiscretions. Some faculty and about a quarter of the student body left. Graham was convinced that the charges were false and stood by the president, as did most of the other students and faculty. Years later in his autobiography he wrote, “Dreadful as the experience was, I was grateful that the dark cloud passed over Florida Bible Institute while I was there. It was a big learning experience for me in many ways, and it taught me to be very careful myself.”

 

During the three years that he spent at FBI, he not only gained experience, but notice. This is perhaps Graham’s first appearance on the front page of a newspaper, when he was leading a revival meeting at the local Baptist church in Robeson, North Carolina. You notice that it was not an uneventful day. In Europe, the German army was completing the conquest of France.

 Visiting Fundamentalist pastors and church leaders who pasted through Tampa on vacation might hear Graham preach or meet him when he caddied for them on a local course. Among some of the visiting preachers were Homer Rodeheaver, William Bell Riley, and Mel Trotter.

That is how Elmer Edman, the brother of V. Raymond Edman, president of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois came into contact with Graham. He and Paul Fisher had come to Tampa on vacation and Graham caddied for them. They were so impressed that right on the golf course they offered to help Graham with costs if he would attend Wheaton when he graduated from FBI, to add a liberal arts education to his Bible training. Friends of Graham's from FBI also urged him to go.

 

The FBI graduation was in May 1940

 

Graham kept a newspaper clipping of the graduating class, with advisor John Minder in the lower right corner.

 

In the fall of the same year Graham was heading to Wheaton College in the frozen North for the next step in his preparation. Like Minder before him, President V. Raymond Edman of Wheaton was impressed by Graham.

 

But instead of making him his assistant, Edman arranged for Graham to be in charge of the United Gospel Tabernacle, where he, Edman, had been pastor. It was a great responsibility and opportunity for the 23 year old sophomore.

 

The Tab met in a local hall in downtown Wheaton (the building still stands) and was not really a congregation but a preaching platform. It was an outreach to the community as well as a welcoming spot for Wheaton students far from their home churches. Graham preached twice on Sundays and led a prayer meeting Wednesday evening.

He also continued to preach at other churches,

 

which began to invite him from greater distances.

 

While keeping fairly full schedule of speaking engagements, he also lived the life of a college student, majoring not in Bible but in anthropology because of the influence of one favorite teacher, Anthony Grigolia. He tried other things as well, including a very brief and unsuccessful career as a college wrestler.He even appeared in the 1943 college bulletin, as an example of Wheaton’s student body.

 

He was also learning to lead. In his senior year he became president of the Christian Service Council and spoke to his fellow students about their responsibilities for Christian work.

 

More important than the speaking and the studying, it was at Wheaton where he met his future wife, Ruth Bell. She was a daughter of China missionaries who intended to go back to China. She was a popular girl on campus, asked out by many of the young men.

 

Here is she at the Washington ay banquet with Harold Lindsell.

 

But she and Graham were drawn to each other and were soon engaged

and then married after their graduation in the summer of 1943.

 Besides Ruth, Graham was getting to know many others at Wheaton: teachers, class mates, and local Christian workers, people like Hudson Taylor Armerding, Grady Wilson, Carl Henry, Ken Hansen, Jimmie Johnson, and Harold Lindsell, Robert Evans. They were almost the first links in the vast network of friends that was going to be so important in his ministry. As Graham said in 1977, at the groundbreaking for the Billy Graham Center, “Through contacts made here at Wheaton I first launched into a nationwide and then subsequently worldwide ministry of evangelism.”

 

Anna Hansen was his landlady for most of his stay in Wheaton. In an interview recorded thirty years later, she recalled what he was like at that time:
“Billy was the kind of boy that would come home happy in the afternoon and go up to his room. I would hear him walking back and forth, back and forth. Once in a while he would come down and he would say, “Mrs. Hansen, do you have a crust of bread? I’m kind of hungry.” I’d say, “Sure.” So I would just give him anything, he didn’t care, it could be a dry crust of bread. All he wanted was something to sort of munch on while he was studying. He would walk back and forth. I could hear him talking and talking.”
Interviewer: “What was he doing when he was talking?”
Hansen: “I have an idea that he was just practicing his message for the Sunday message. He was the student pastor at the Tabernacle.... However, we had many lovely conversations with Billy. One that stands out in my mind the most was an evening we were upstairs in the hail talking. We were saying things about boys that would take jobs and didn’t do them right. They would get them half done or they would leave and then it would cast reflections on a college boy’s work. Billy stood and listened for a while and finally he said, ‘Mrs. Hansen,’ and put his fist down in the palm of his hand, ‘Mrs. Hansen, by God’s grace, I’m going to serve Him.’ He was a junior then. But I can still see that fist going down like that in his palm. ‘By God’s grace, I’m going to serve Him!’”

 

In June of 1943, he and Ruth graduated, ending for him a period of seven years of higher education. [For more on Graham at Wheaton, see A Walking Tour of Billy Graham's Wheaton.] After graduation in 1943 came a pastoral interlude. When Graham was a senior, he was approached by Robert Van Kampen, a Chicago businessman, about becoming the minister at

 

 the Baptist church of about fifty members in nearby Western Springs, where Van Kampen was on the board of elders. He accepted and was the pastor of record for the next year and a half. The church met in the basement of its uncompleted building. Here Graham, for the only time in his lengthy ministry, had the experience of a full-time pastorate.

 

He led the church on a vigorous campaign of evangelistic outreach that doubled the size of the congregation in a year. The name was changed from the Western Springs Baptist Church to the Village Church to make it easier for nonBaptists to attend. A newsletter was begun, the auditorium was modernized, a pipe organ installed, a program was initiated to help several missionaries, included two wholly supported by the Village church, the Sunday school tripled in attendance and Child Evangelism and Boys Brigade groups begun.

 

He also helped start Western Suburban Men’s Fellowship, which attracted hundreds of Christian laymen from around the area to a monthly dinner at a local restaurant with fellowship, singing, and a speaker talking about the Christian life. Graham was able to attract speakers such as Walter Maier of The Lutheran Hour radio program, Bob Jones Jr., Dr. Edman, and Pulitzer Prize winner Vaughn Shoemaker, cartoonist for the Chicago Daily News.

 

And he brought to the church something its members had probably never dreamed of. Rev. Torrey Johnson of the Midwest Bible Church turned over to the Village Church his radio program, Songs in the Night and Graham worked on increasing the outreach of the program, his first experience in having personal responsibility for electronic evangelism.

 

His most important move was to approach popular Gospel singer George Beverly Shea for the program. Shea was already well-known from his regular appearance on the radio program Club Time and his recordings for RCA.

In an article in Christian Life in November 1968, editor Robert Walker reminisced:
Something more than 20 years ago Bev Shea and I first worked together. It was on a five-day-a-week radio show aired over Chicago’s WCFL. I wrote the script; Shea served as soloist. Our sponsor was Club Aluminum Products Company whose president, Herbert J. Taylor, wanted Chicagoans to hear the Gospel through hymns as well as purchase his cookware in department stores. The program proved successful, so the company moved us up to the NBC Network, and “Club Time” went nationwide. It was the only program of its kind in those days and received a good bit of publicity.

After about a year a major problem was encountered. The young pastor of a suburban Chicago church which Shea attended was an enthusiastic chap. Although “evangelism” as we knew it then had pretty well died out several decades before with Billy Sunday, the young minister was not only conducting what he called “evangelistic” meetings locally but he also was giving “the invitation.” To the astonishment of all except him, a few people were beginning to respond. Shea served as soloist at the meetings. Then to our consternation the pastor was invited to hold a meeting in another city and, of course, invited Shea along. After some jockeying with the studio it was agreed that the program could be “cut on wax” in advance, not a common practice in those days, and Shea made the trip. On his return he told us a strange story. Not only was the attendance good but when “the invitation” was given people crowded the aisles to go forward to the altar. Shea’s description sounded incredible. Supposedly, people were won to Christ only through “personal evangelism.” Soon the young pastor was receiving other invitations to cities more distant. Each time Shea’s accounts were similar. “You ought to see it for yourself, Bob,” he said. “Then you will see what I mean.”

Several months later I did. I shall never forget the sight of people streaming down the aisles to the sound of Shea’s deep bass-baritone voice singing, “Just As I Am.” Since then I have attended many other meetings at which evangelist Billy Graham has given the invitation. On each occasion I am deeply moved as I witness the power of the Holy Spirit at work turning the hearts of men and women to Jesus Christ. And I shall always be grateful to Bev Shea for urging me to witness what appeared to us then a great phenomenon. So great, indeed, that more than 20 years ago CHRISTIAN LIFE Magazine carried the first article ever published on the sensational young evangelist, Billy Graham.

 

Graham’s recruitment of him for Village Church (which he joined) and Songs in the Night helped bring in many more listeners,

 

who heard not only Shea’s singing

 

but Graham’s sermons.

Graham’s outreach efforts had invigorated the church in an amazing brief time.

 

However, it became clear that the work of a pastor was in conflict was the life of an evangelist. Graham got invitations to speak that were taking him more and more often took him away from Western Springs

 

And then came the invitation to ride the whirlwind.

 

Torrey M. Johnson was an dynamic preacher who was founder and pastor of the Midwest Bible Church in Chicago.

 

He also had become the leader of the Chicago branch of an evangelistic movement that was springing up independently in cities across the United States called Youth for Christ. YFC grew from seeds planted in the late 1930s and early 1940s when men like

 

Percy Crawford in Philadelphia and

 

Jack Wyrtzen in New York City began programs that gave young people an exciting, peppy Christian event to go to on Saturday nights

 

In the mid 1940s, dozens of YFC clubs were beginning in different parts of the United States, following this model. YFC in later years would be exclusively for high school students, but at its beginning, it was aimed at a range of population from high school to young adults, especially the millions of young service men and women who were traveling between bases or assigned to cities far from home. And the rallies of the organization often drew people of all ages. The movement was marked by loud ties on its preachers, exciting music, bold preaching,

 

No evangelistic meetings since the days of Billy Sunday twenty years earlier had been attracting this kind of attention or crowds. YFC meetings got a good deal of publicity in the nation’s newspapers, much of it favorable when newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst told his editors to publicize the movement.

 

George Beverly Shea was instrumental in organizing the first YFC meetings in the Chicago area. Johnson was soon involved with the group almost full-time. Johnson and Graham had known each other since about 1941. As Graham wrote five years later, when he heard Johnson on the radio,”I am going to get acquainted with a fellow who can preach the Gospel like that.” They met while Graham was still a student at Wheaton and Johnson became a mentor to him. In May 1944, he began to call on Graham to speak at rallies of thousands of people, starting with one at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall.

 

One early spectacular of the movement was a rally on Chicago’s Soldiers Field. held on May 30, 1945, just a few days after the end of World War II in Europe. 65,000 people attended. Graham had a small part in the program and this was probably the largest crowd he had spoken to up to this time. The Chicago club from the beginning was alive to the value of publicity and they made a silent film of the rally, to be shown in YFC clubs and churches. Here are some excerpts from that film, which give a taste of the energy and exuberance of the YFC movement

 [At this point about 2 minutes of clips were played from the film, F4 in Collection 285]

 

At the end of 1944, Johnson asked Graham to join YFC full-time. Graham agreed, although he officially remained pastor of Western Springs until the fall of 1945.

 

He told Torrey Johnson when offered the job, “I am not coming in to put organization first. I want that understood. I am not coming in to do one bit of paper work. My main objective is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and win as many young people to His saving grace and knowledge as I possibly can.” He need not have worried. In the first nine month of working for YFC he traveled to Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Toronto, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Miami, Orlando, Charlotte, Des Moines, Norfolk, and Jackson Mississippi. In April 1945 alone he traveled to fifteen cities in the United States and Canada. In his first year he traveled by plane alone over 135,000 miles, more than any other civilian in the country. He was getting to know all the parts of the United States better than perhaps any other evangelist. YFC represented an explosion of opportunity such as neither he or anyone else could have imagined a few months earlier. With relatively little experience, he was being place in a situation of seeming unlimited opportunities for evangelism and many unseen difficulties and snares, learning to think on a continental scale and how to work with a wide variety of people.

 

In summer of 1945, the different YFC clubs sent representatives to Winona Lake, Indiana to form a national organization. Johnson was elected first president and Graham was the first field representative. These minutes are an example of many minutes, reports, letters, clippings and similar documents, scattered through many collections in our Archives, which help tell the story of the Graham’s ministry from 1944 through 1949 in a vivid way.

 

Graham was soon recruiting almost every preacher he knew. He himself very quickly became was one of the premier speakers of the organization

 

He helped form the typical YFC Saturday night rally, programs that included, besides a concluding talk on salvation through Jesus Christ, vigorous group songs, Gospel musicians and a variety of attention-grabbing events and stunts,

 

 from chalk drawing to

 

Ranger the Gospel Horse.

 

Besides Graham and Johnson (called the apostle to the Bobby Socks), there were dozens of popular speakers in the movement included Charles Templeton from Toronto, T. W. Wilson, Bob Pierce, Bob Cook, and Robert Evans.

 Text of Graham's 1946 report to YFC

And while Graham was learning how to speak to tens of thousands, he was also learning how to lead through organization (yes, with some paperwork), how to work with a team , to set objectives,

 

 find support,

 

 encourage the development of new clubs and new leaders, how to manage.

 

He was also being initiated into the process of fund raising and the vagaries of donors. Chicago businessman Andrew Wyzenbeek, converted in 1910 at a Billy Sunday rally, was one mainstay of YFC. He recalled:
Interviewer: Did you use to attend the rallies, the Youth for Christ rallies?
Wyzenbeek: Yes, I use to attend them. I attended them quite regularly. And they were in different churches and so forth, so they wanted to make a real impression here in Chicago. And both Billy and Torrey Johnson came storming into my office when I was in business here, and they said, "Andy, we got a chance to rent the Auditorium." That’s on Wabash Avenue there. Yeah. And I said, "How much does that cost you?" And they said, "Five thousand dollars." And I said, "Have you got any money yet?" They said yes, they had three thousand. So, we were prospering. I turned to my bookkeeper. I said, "How's the exchequer?" He said, "It's in good shape." [Laughs] I said, "All right, boys. I'll give you a check." [Laughs].
Interviewer: What were the programs of the meetings like?
Wyzenbeek: Well...it was a great deal of music. Good singing. Good soloists. And good preaching. And many kids were converted. And it was a tremendous help to the churches. To keep their young people in line. I think it was directed by God in those days. It was a necessary thing. And the Lord used Billy Sun...Billy Graham and Torrey Johnson to do it.

 

Perhaps most important for his own development, he was on the first YFC team from the US to travel overseas, for an exhausting series of six weeks of meetings in the British Isles and western Europe. The team was a group led by Torrey Johnson and also including Charles Templeton and song leader J. Stratton Shufelt. Wesley Hartzell also accompanied the team to write stories about the tour for their supporters back in the United States. (Bob Jones Jr. had also originally been intended to be part of the group, but the arrangements did not work out.)

 

All of YFC’s already formidable skill in public relations was used to focus support for this first trip. There were farewell rallies around the United States before the group left.

Then to Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, one of the most important Fundamentalist pulpits in country. Pastor H. A. Ironside dedicated the group at a large service the evening before their flight.

 And hear you see them leaving from the now defunct Meigs Field in downtown Chicago
[film clip was shown here from Collection 285, F1]

 

This was Graham’s first trip outside of North America. Many people looking back saw the two trips he made to the British isles in ‘46 as of major importance in shaping and empowering him. Torrey Johnson would recall years later

 

[]“The British basically are more Bible teachers. The Americans are more basically evangelists. And church history will establish that in the nineteenth or the twentieth century the Americans have gone to Britain and had great campaigns, and the British have come to America and had great Bible conferences. Now earlier than that of course you had [John] Wesley and you had [George] Whitefield coming here, and they were evangelists but in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries this was true. So they didn't have much in the way of evangelists. So we felt one of us ought to go back, and as we talked and prayed together we felt that God had laid his hand on Billy Graham to go back. And Tom was...Tom became the president of Youth for Christ in the British Isles. And so he guided Billy Graham in that first winter for about six months of meetings in the British Isles. Had not Billy gone to Britain at that time the story might be a great deal different than it is.” [Click here to read the entire transcript of Johnson's interview.]



British businessman turned evangelist Eric Hutchings recalled the arrival of the team in England:
He first arrived in England in ‘46. On the 23rd of March, 1946, he arrived in Manchester for the first public meeting he ever had on British soil. He was accompanied by three others, including Torrey Johnson. They came as a Youth for Christ team. And I was chairman of the Manchester evangelistic campaign that welcomed them. They’d had lunch with Tome Rees in London and they got a train out to Manchester where we’d got a reception in a hotel to welcome them. And when they came off the train they were all dressed in black, because a wellwisher in America had told them that if they were to go over big in England they must dress like morticians: black hats, black Hamburgs, black ties, black suits. And I recall saying, 'Do you dress like this in America?' And they said, 'No.' So, I got them a hotel room, before the reception, and they changed, very kindly, and when they came down, in the words of Churchill (or rather like Churchill) never in all the history of human apparel had so much color been aggregated on so few. We went into the reception and they had a, we had a very wonderful time. Then there were two great rallies in the city of Manchester, they all stayed with us in our place. And I recall the crowds that came. Billy was shaken to find the crowds so ejaculatory. We were having regular meetings in Manchester. Immediately after the wartime blackout lifted we’d had these great rallies and Billy was amazed at the numbers that were turned away. But right from the start, amongst the four who were there, we were all agreed that Billy was the one that God was going to use in a big way in the future. We could see in his earnestness of soul, his directness in speech, his...his candor, his honesty, his...his compassion, that Billy Graham had (shall we put it in ordinary terms) a great future should the Lord tarry.”

 

The team that traveled throughout the British isles and met some opposition,

but mainly support

 

 for the young colorful Americans,

an oasis of enthusiasm in a drab postwar land

 

where rationing still the rule and there were still blocks of blackened, bombed-out buildings in the major English cities.

Text of Hartzell's first three weekly "diary" Wesley Hartzell accompanied the team, helped with publicity and scheduling, and wrote weekly, detailed reports on their adventures.

 

Canon Thomas Livermore, the British minister who actually invited the team over and who became head of the British branch of YFC, recalled,



And Billy Graham at that time was preaching at a tremendous pace which I believe he still maintains in America, particularly on the radio. But this we found rather difficult. In fact, I heard English people say at the time he seemed to be so breathless that they wanted to take breaths for him! And I had in my congregation several expert shorthand-writers, stenographers who tried to get down his sermons but they estimated that he was speaking at about 240 words a minute. And their shorthand wouldn’t measure up to that.



However, one thing was clear and that was that people, I had a very mixed congregation from dockers, and sons of dockers and retired head teachers of schools and so on, graduates and non- graduates - people who graduated in sin as well as in university and all that sort, a very wonderful mixture of people. And the thing that impressed me was that they all listened with great pleasure to Billy Graham. They enjoyed the way he said things. They laughed at the right moments, and they were serious. He somehow understood how to talk to our people. Now this, in my experience — I’ve heard other American preachers before the war and for the most part they didn’t talk in a way that English people enjoyed. Just a few did, the notable evangelists obviously had, but a great many people didn’t. So he, while he wanted to come back to us, we were ready to welcome him.



Graham had fallen in love with England especially. Here is Canon Livermore again:
Then the Youth for Christ team went to major cities in Great Britain and then on to the continent and before they went back Billy Graham said, ‘I must come back to England. I love this London and I love this country. I must come back here. Will you pray?’ Well, the business went on and by October, 1946, Youth for Christ had decided to send him back with Mrs. Graham and Cliff and Billie Barrows.

The YFC team also visited continental Europe, splitting up to visit different countries in Scandinavia and the Benelux countries and France. They then returned back to the United States. During the summer of 1946, Graham summarized the results of this first trip: "It was also my privilege, as you know, to go to Europe, where we had 101 meetings in 46 days, and traveled 20,000 miles, speaking to some hundred thousand people. All of us together had some 1,500 young people who came to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ."

 

Graham felt called of God to return to England and several ministers who had heard him speak invited him back. So he returned and traveled throughout the British Isles for last part of 1946 and first part of 1947. On this trip, he was the unquestioned motivator of the team, the one with the vision for the work. Now he began to exercise a wider leadership, to experiment with way to hold something more than a couple of days of rallies per city. He also began in a serious way to feed his hunger for a deeper understanding of Christian spiritual discipline and the history of revival in the life of the church.

 

He was accompanied by a new song leader, Cliff Barrows and his wife Billie, who served as pianist.

 

The Barrows and Graham worked together on a few previous occasions. So when Stratton Shufelt had to cancel just before the tour began, Graham turned to the Barrows. George Wilson of YFC also accompanied the group during the early part of the tour to help with the schedule and arrangements.

 

In a 1982 interview, Barrow’s recalled Graham’s invitation. (Unfortunately, we do not have a tape of this interview, only a transcript.) Rev. Barrows said Bill asked me when we were at Pinebrook Conference in the summer of 1946. He said, ‘Cliff, would you and Billie go back with me?’ No one else wanted to. They thought he was crazy. He said, ‘God has laid a burden on my heart for Great Britain.

 

 I don't know what will happen but there is a need. There are no youth in the churches. The churches are destroyed. There's just a total vacuum spiritually. I believe God could do something great if we could go back and pray. It will be a sacrifice. We won't have any income.’ We cut our salary in half in YFC. We weren't getting much but we cut the salary in half to go.

 

We got a couple of rallies - like Kansas City, YFC Detroit, Ed Darling's Voice of Christian Youth - to help buy our tickets. And they sent us off to Great Britain. Never [expecting] to see us again!

 

The they held extensive meetings of at least a week each in Manchester, Newcastle, Belfast, London and Glasgow and briefer one or two day rallies in many other cities

Text of one of Graham's prayer letters from the
1946-47 tour

as reported in this 1947 by prayer letter by Graham.

 

Besides speaking to crowds about salvation, Graham was also assuming the role of a leader behind the scenes.

 

He played an important part, along with Gavin Hamilton, Thomas Livermore, Eric Hutchings, Torrey Johnson and others in bringing together Evangelical leaders from around Britain to form the British Youth for Christ. And Graham spoke to Christians about their responsibilities for service and showed confidence in speaking the insights that he felt God had given him. Eric Hutchings recalled

 

And then, shortly after that, Billy went to London and I organized a meeting in the church now well known as [G.] Campbell Morgan’s chapel. We had it for the occasion. He spoke to Christians. And he challenged those who were ready to give themselves to serve the Lord full time, anywhere, come forward. I must confess, I was very annoyed. I saw my wife go forward. I was very satisfied with Manchester, and all our big rallies and all this, and yet Billy had used...Billy’d been used to challenge her to give herself completely. And I could feel the hand of God was closing in on me, because previously, in a hotel in Birmingham, where we spent the weekend with Billy, Billy had pointed his finger at me and said, ‘One day, God will dig you out of your security, and home, and everything, and fling you around the world as an evangelist.’ And I said, ‘Billy, you’re crazy.’ And I recall now the clear words, ‘I may be crazy, but sometimes I’m right.’ Joking, you know. And...and...and I could feel this was stage one, ‘cause I was not willing to go, my wife was. When I got her out into Victoria Street I was very angry with her, and didn’t want to take my hand off the leadership position we had in the city of Manchester as chairman of the crusades, drawing the crowds second only to Tom Rees. in London. However, by ‘48 Billy’s prophesies had come true.”

 And while he challenged others, he was challenged himself. Rev. David Shephard recalled Graham’s visit to his church in Wales in 1947 (we do not have the tape of this interview, only the transcript in Collection 141):
“Well now, you see, when he came to Gorseinon we loved the openness of the man, when he said to a minister in our church: ‘Edwards,” he said, “there’s sin in your church. Because,’ he said, ‘I always preach that sermon’ (alluding to the sermon he preached the first night) ‘and people always get saved.” Now this is fantastic openness. Edwards turned to him and said, ‘You [don’t] preach the Gospel , Billy.’ And Dr. Billy said, ‘I do preach the Gospel.’ He said, ‘You don’t’ he said. ‘You preach the New Testament, but not the Gospel.’ And Billy hung his head as it were and said, ‘You know you’re right, Edwards. There’s something that I seem to be needing.’ And I met him two or three years later and he preached the same sermon but the man was ten times the size. Do you understand?”
Interviewer: “Do you think he learned something in that experience?”
Shepherd: “Very much. Very much. And he was very teachable. Very teachable. This is the kind of thing, you see. Willing to admit that he preached the same sermon the opening night. Who else would admit that in Britain today? You see? And Billy admitted that there was something missing in a sermon. This was a great idea. Of course, he came to the place where the Welsh Revival was. He stayed with people who were converted in the Welsh revival. And of course, they regaled him with what God had done. I just know that he was greatly impressed.”

 

In the 1982 interview, Cliff Barrows remembered the 1946-47 tour as a kind post-graduate course on evangelism for himself and his wife Billie as well as Ruth and Billy Graham “It was there for six months that we got into the books. We began to go to these old second hand bookstores. We visited the libraries. We began to read classic commentaries. We spent hours. When Ruth came there were four of us in these junk shops, in these bookstores through out Great Britain. Looking for religious books....”

 

“There was a spiritual hunger in Bill’s mind especially, because of YFC and the sermonette deals he had been involved in. I don’t mean he was giving sermonettes, but it was that Saturday night, that one night deal, that there was a hunger to go deeper and to know what made the great revivals of history such significant spiritual entities in the lives of these two great nations. He began to read D. L. Moody. All the English things. The deepening of our own spiritual life and walk with God and a vision of what God could do in cities if we could get back to some of the preaching that they did then. Why, it happened there and we began to sense something of the impact of those spiritual leaders.”

 

He also met and was influenced by British evangelists students of evangelism history such as J. Edwin Orr and Stephen Olford. Barrows remembered about Olford, “It was Stephen who in that hotel [in Cardiff, Wales]...we sat day after day and he laid upon our hearts and we shared together what God could [do] and a hunger for the Word. He really ministered to Bill and me, getting us into the Word and giving us direction. We prayed together. He arranged for us to meet Alan Redpath and Tom Rees. He was a significant person in those days who ministered to us.”

  Click here to read an interview with 1947 interview, made soon after he returned to the United States, about his 1946-47 British tour.

 

 It was while he was in England, experimenting and praying and studying that he received an invitation for a campaign in his hometown, the place he had left ten years before as a skinny teenager, the town. where the married 29 year old minister was still known as “the boy preacher.”

 

 Barrows recalled, “So when we were over there Bill said, You know, Cliff, maybe God will lead us back to our country to hold some, instead of this rally business, maybe we can go and hold some one week meetings. Or two week meetings. Let’s begin to pray.’ Well, it was while we were over there that he got the invitation to come to Charlotte with the Christian Businessmen. His daddy [Frank Graham] was part of it. The old Fishers of Men club wanted to have a home town boy come back and hold a meeting. Bill said ‘Let's pray about it. Maybe we can get Bev to come to. the meeting.”

And so he was putting together a team that would endure for more than half a century. Cliff Barrows was already song leader and master of ceremonies. George Beverly Shea joined them as soloist. Childhood friend and fellow Wheaton alumni Grady Wilson was nearby in South Carolina and he was recruited to preach at meetings when Graham could not.

 

The first recognizable Billy Graham crusade, the pattern of the crusades that were to follow, was held in the fall of 1947 in the inevitable spot, his home town of Charlotte.

 

This first crusade was not funded by YFC, the team had to raise the money themselves, just as they had had to do in England. Barrows recalled: Listen when we went to Charlotte, we had no money for that campaign and Bill was going to mortgage his house.... The little house he had in Montreat. You see what Bill wanted to do (the businessmen didn't think it would be valuable) he wanted to have a real advertising campaign. He got an agency that would do it for $5,000. Well., nobody had $5,000.... So he said, ‘Well, I'll mortgage my home.’ I didn’t have a home to mortgage. I would have mortgaged it. I didn't have anything to mortgage. My trombone wasn't worth anything.... Whether it actually materialized in him mortgaging it or at least putting it up as collateral, saying he would, they said, “Okay, we’ll go.” They put [on] a publicity campaign, that's when they had the banners, we had posters. That's when we had stuff going across the street.”

 

Graham’s own campaigns were obviously based on what he had learned from YFC meetings and his experiences in Great Britain. In particular he believed in involving the supporting pastors and congregations in the planning of the campaign, to build the community support that would bring Christians and nonChristians to the meetings. The same churches provided hundred of people for ushers, choir members and counselors.

 

He believed in vigorous first-class advertising,

 

sometimes over the opposition of the local committee.

 

 And, again, to attract the nonChristian, he would meet in civic auditoriums or tents when ever possible rather than churches.

 

The meetings themselves were energetic combinations of testimonies, group singing, soloists and musicians, all climaxed by an unapologetically evangelistic and vigorous sermon that talked about contemporary anxieties and invited people to give their lives to Jesus Christ. Instead of a one night rally, the campaign would be a week or two weeks long, in order to give time for the message to sink in, people to respond and for word of mouth to grow.

 

And those who came forward to accept Jesus received brief counseling at the end of each meeting and filled out cards that were turned over to local supporting churches for follow-up. There were to be many, many refinements in years to come, but most of the basic elements were in place, built not only on his own experiences, but also on the collective experience and practice of centuries of Trans-Atlantic interdenominational evangelism. Graham and his coworkers were to perfect an existing system and adapt it to the age of radio, television and satellites.

 

At Charlotte, too, talking for the hometown papers, he had begun to reflect on his experiences so far.“I learned to look straight at them. Say I am reaching to an audience of three or four thousand. I can look straight at them and I can tell when a man way in the back blinks his eyes. When he does that, I know it is time for a change of pace or I’ll lose some of the people. That’s what I’ve trained my voice for. It’s a change of pace that’s the secret.”

 

Yet on the at the very moment when he was beginning to become the seemingly inevitable leader of this venerable movement in evangelical tradition, his life took a humbling turn. At the end of 1947 he became the unwilling president of a college, four years after graduating from Wheaton.

William Bell Riley placed unyielding pressure on him to take the position, one that involved him in all the concerns of college president - fund raising, planning buildings, educational policies, faculty debates. Riley was a giant of the fundamentalist movement. He was based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he had pastored the First Baptist Church for 45 years and also served as president of World Christian Fundamentals Association.

 

 He and his wife founded Northwestern Schools, a Bible Institute, a seminary and a liberal arts college, to train ministers, evangelists, teachers, missionaries, and Christian laypeople. Riley had met Graham as a student down in Florida and was impressed later when he heard him speak at YFC rallies. Riley’s health was failing and he desperately wanted to find a successor with the authority and fire to carry on the work he had started.

 

At first he attempted to get Torrey Johnson and Graham to come to the Northwestern as a team, with Johnson as president and Graham as first assistant to the president in charge of publicity. When Johnson categorically refused, Riley, concentrated all his fire upon Billy Graham.

When Johnson categorically refused, Riley, concentrated all his fire upon Billy Graham. Graham refused several times and finally asked Riley to stop contacting him about it. As Graham said at the time and later, it was not a job he wanted or felt called to, but Riley approached him in a way that he could not refuse.
I'll never forget that day, that Dr. Riley thought would be his last. And he asked me if I'd come into his room alone. For two and a half years her had written me letters and I had written him the same answer time after time. And I sent him a letter from Winona Lake the summer before last. And I said, "Dr. Riley, I would appreciate it if you would not write me any more. Or disturb my heart or conscience any more." I said, "Please, let's cease negotiations." My mind was made. I announced to the entire group at Winona Lake, my colleagues who had been in prayer with me. The decision had been made. I came to Minneapolis to speak at a conference, a Youth for Christ Conference here. And Dr. Riley asked me if I’d come out to his home. And he was lying in his bed, so weak that he could not sit up. And he asked Mrs. Riley if we could be alone. And he took out his Bible and he said, 'Beloved.' And he looked at me with fire in his eyes that day. He said, 'As David was appointed king of Israel, before David realized he was to be the king,' he said, 'I now appoint you.' And he said, 'I 'll met you at the judgment seat of Christ with these schools.' And I was broken down. I had no reply. And I made him this promise. I said, 'Dr. Riley,' I said, 'I don’t want to go to Northwestern.' I said,”I don’t feel slightly inclined to go. I realize it is a tremendous opportunity.' But I said, 'I cannot not turn a request like that down. I would not be true to God.' I said,'I will take the schools should the Lord call you home, for a period of time at least, until God either shows me or makes other provision.' He seemed to be satisfied. And since that cold December day last year we have been trying to do our best to fulfil the promise made at his bedside that stormy August afternoon a year ago. We can do no other. And by the grace of God, that promise shall be fulfilled in days to come.

 Text of Graham's 1947 report to the Northwestern Board of Trustees

His ministry up to this point had consisted of meeting one exciting challenge after another. Now, after Riley’s death in December 1947, he shouldered the heavy responsibility of another man’s vision, a responsibility he did not want but would not refuse. There was what seemed a huge construction project, for the schools’ main building, Memorial Hall. The funds, it seemed, could not be found. He was being tried and tested as he had not been before.

 

”It soon became apparent to me that the problems connected with the erecting of Memorial Hall were almost too great. And I must confess that I lost heart and had a lack of faith time after time. I even went so far as to feel that perhaps we should close up and stop right where we were because of our lack of funds.”

 

That is from the earliest recording of Billy Graham’s voice in the Archives, his November 1948 dedication of Memorial Hall. For the money was raised and the building was completed. From his brief time at Northwestern ( he resigned in 1952) came many people who would later be essential members of the staff of the BGEA,

 

above all George Wilson who was assistant to the president for business administration. He had been Riley's right hand man for all practical details of administration. He was also the leading figure in the YFC club in Minneapolis and worked closely with graham on many projects. Wilson had gone with Graham and the Barrows to England in the fall of 1946 and handed most of the organizational aspects of the tour. In the years to come, he would provide the immovable organizational base for Graham’s half a century of unstoppable evangelistic travel. And Minneapolis was to be the headquarters for the BGEA, after it was founded, for half a century.

 

1948 was to be a big year. At Northwestern, besides getting used to being president of a school, there was the fund raising effort for Memorial hall to lead.

He was also speaking all over the Midwest and the Northeast United States and would lead major evangelistic campaigns in Augusta Georgia, Des Moines Iowa, and Modesto, California.

 

And it was at this time that Graham meetings began to have significant organized local prayer support, at first largely from the initiation of the local committees. Prayer groups were organized in individual churches and between churches to pray for the campaign and for the spiritual needs of the people living in the city.

And just like in 1946 and 1947, Graham spent a portion of it overseas, speaking in London in March and in August attending the first YFC world congress at Beatenberg. YFC was still largely an American movement, based in the United States and largely American led, but it was beginning to put down roots on other continents, and the leaders of the movement were beginning to seek guidance on what they should be doing not just as evangelists in their own countries but as members of the world wide body of Christ.

 

 Graham came to Beatenberg and was in the midst of a movement he had helped form and inspire, watching as it adapted and began to accept new responsibilities, even as he was. Immediately after Beatenberg he briefly attended as an observer the founding congress of the World Council of Churches, where he was exposed to other strands and struggles within the worldwide church. All of this was filed away for the time, decades in the future, when he would provide leadership in bringing a long series of regional and world evangelical conferences.

 Evon Hedley was a Canadian delegate to the Beatenberg congress and in his home movies captured Graham at this moment in time. [at this point a film clip was played from video V14 of Collection 48, Hedley's movie to which he added a narrative many years later]

 

Back in the United States, Graham, Barrows, Shea and Grady Wilson held a campaign in Modesto California in October. And while there they took the opportunity to meet, pray, look back and think ahead. The result was what Barrows jokingly called, “The Modesto Manifesto.” Based on their personal experience which by this time included hundreds of meetings all over several countries in a wide variety of circumstances, plus what they had seen, heard and read of many, many other evangelists ministries, they talked about what had hindered or destroyed evangelistic ministries in the past and what lessons they should draw for their own work to come.
Barrows recalled how the team gathered in one of their rooms at the Rock Motel in Modesto and said to each other, “‘What things do we remember that have been used by Satan to hinder and defeat the cause of evangelism. Let's come back, and compare notes. Then let's present them to the Lord and then ask Him to preserve us and protect us....’ We shared these things and it boiled down to about four things.

 

One was morals. One was finances. One was criticism of pastors. One was pride and becoming, you know, the biggest this and the biggest that and you know America's number one evangelist and all that. We said, ‘Oh God, help us and protect us and somehow give wisdom so that we can be guarded from it. The temptations are going to come but show us.’ We committed those four areas especially to the Lord in those times.

 

So all seemed ready for his ministry to take off. Early in 1949 he held encouraging meetings in Miami and Baltimore.

 Then, in June 1949 came what Graham in his memoirs his biggest flop. A two week long meeting in Altoona, PA, was based on all the prayer, planning and preparation that he had been developing. The response was so tepid that he says he actually considered leaving evangelistic work. This public disappointment was matched, probably not coincidentally, by a private crisis of faith, as described in his memoirs. Here, at the end of his apprenticeship was perhaps the severest testing of his beliefs and his skills. But he came through it renewed, in his relationship with God, his confidence in the Bible and his belief in his call to be an evangelist of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

 

So in September 1949 he began his campaign in Los Angeles that he and all others have always considered the crucial turning in his ministry.

 

From our perspective today, we can see that Graham was finishing twelve years of training and preparation. He had been mentored by Minder, Edman, Johnson, Livermore, Olford, Riley and others. He had learned how to study the Bible, how to prepare a sermon, how to give an invitation. He had tried being pastor and a college president and knew that he was meant to be an evangelist. He had been through a time of seemingly unlimited opportunity and a time heavy burdens and doubts.He had studied and drawn lessons from the past - his own and the Evangelical tradition.

 

He had built up a thick network of ministers and active Christian businessmen laypeople all across the

 

United States, England and Western Europe, people he could rely on and who trusted him. These were the people who would soon be leading committees in their own communities to send him invitations to hold evangelistic crusades

 

Through YFC especially he had learned how to work with and lead evangelists as extroverted as himself, how to plan and evaluate a national effort, how to motivate, how to encourage. He had spoken at every sort of venue from street corner to stadium and learned that most difficult skill, how to speak simply and naturally to tens of thousands of people.

 

 During his meetings in England and the week-long evangelistic campaigns he had begun to hold, he had learned about prayer support and how to base a campaign on the participation of the community.

 

He had started to build a team of co-workers who knew and supported each other and would stay together harmoniously for decades. And he had begun to develop an organization that would specialize in organizing local churches for cooperative campaigns.

 

He had learned how to advertise to get the attention of the secular world.

 

Since traveling to Florida Bible Institute in his family car and speaking over the local Tampa radio station, had traveled hundreds of thousands of miles across the United States and Europe and had broadcast many times over the radio. This gave him not only a good feel for the American mind and mood but also a first hand understanding of the impact of modern transportation and communications and what these would mean for evangelism. The young man who had used crude handbills and painted posters to advertise his meetings was father to the man who in 1954 would insist that he would only hold meetings in New York if full use was made of radio and television to reach the largest possible audience.

 

This gave him not only a good feel for the American mind and mood but also a first hand understanding of the impact of modern transportation and communications and what these would mean for evangelism. The young man who had used crude handbills and painted posters to advertise his meetings was father to the man who in 1954 would insist that he would only hold meetings in New York if full use was made of radio and television to reach the largest possible audience.

 Before a lamp can light, it must be lit. A candle only illuminates a room when it has received a flame. I am having been talking this morning almost exclusively about the public Billy Graham because that is the story told by the documents we have in the Archives. But let me conclude with two private moments that illustrate God’s working, through granting vision and calling.

 

 

In 1977, Roy Gustafson recalled something Graham had told him about their time at Florida Bible Institute: ”He said he was walking around the g...the golf course at Temple Terrace, where the Bible school was. And he said that the Lord impressed upon him, showed him (how He showed him, don’t ask me to explain, but the Lord can reveal to un different ways, impress things upon our minds) of the things he has seen today - that is the crowds, the response to the Gospel He said not that he ever dreamed that he’d be involved in it. And God never impressed that on him, that he would be the one involved in all of this. But he said he saw in those days what he is seeing today.”

 

Ten years later, Graham, in a time of stress and difficult decisions, told an audience in Minneapolis about his certainty of his own calling: “I told him that God had called me to another field of service, that I was to be an evangelist and God had not given me the gift of administration, or the gift of a teacher, or the gift of an education, that if I had any gift from God, it was the gift of winning men to Jesus Christ.”

 

As the Modesto Manifesto showed, he and his co-workers were seasoned enough to use their experiences to critique their ministry and young enough to apply an energy and enthusiasm to their campaigns that would disarm almost every critic and overflow every obstacle. They combined this activism with a notable piety and reliance on prayer and a seeking of God’s will, including the enlisting of hundreds and then thousands of prayer partners around the country. The evangelist Billy Graham had matured in his vocation and was very well known and respected among the fundamentalist and evangelical community.

 

Now he was going to enter the national spotlight. The curtain on the second act was about to go up.

 


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