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June 2010: Billy Graham and the Village Church

Above: Above: Masthead of the Village Church newsletter
Below: Photograph from the February 1945 issue

Evangelist Billy Graham has undoubtedly spoken in thousands of churches around the world. He has led lengthy evangelistic campaigns in the arenas, stadiums, and auditoriums of hundreds of major cities. But in more than 70 years of ministry, he has only held two brief church pastorates. The first was at the United Gospel Tabernacle in Wheaton. The second and last was at the Western Springs Baptist Church in Western Springs Illinois.

Graham had served as the minister of the United Gospel Tabernacle in Wheaton, Illinois from 1941 to June 1943, when he was attending Wheaton College. But he could only give it part of his attention, since he was also a full-time student, taking a full load of courses. He also was invited to speak at many other churches around the American Midwest while a student. One of these was Western Springs Baptist. The congregation of seventy-five liked what they heard and Graham was invited to fill the pulpit permanently. He accepted and became pastor in June 1943, just after graduating and shortly before he married Ruth Bell, a classmate from Wheaton.

Graham almost immediately brought several innovations to what became known as the Village Church. He took over the radio program Songs in the Night from Rev. Torrey Johnson of the Midwest Bible Church and began broadcasting from Western Springs. Besides Graham's sermons, every program included a solo with George Beverly Shea, the beginning of Graham and Shea's long association. Graham also started several other outreach efforts, as well as beginning the physical renovation of the church and accepting frequent invitations to speak around the country. He had a serious illness in the fall of 1944 and when he recovered, he began traveling practically full-time as the representative of Youth for Christ. Thus, his pastorate really lasted little more than a year, although his formal connection with the church did not end until 1945. Many aspects of his time at Western Springs would bear fruit in his later ministry.

The BGC Archives includes (in Collection 74, Box 11, Folder 2) many newsletters from the church. These show the energy and direction Graham brought to his ministry. Below are links various articles from the newsletter that illustrate this formative period in his life.

Messages of Billy Graham, 1944-1945

Report on the first year of his pastorate

Early Billy Graham biography

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Last Revised: 06/01/10
Expiration: indefinite

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