From the archive: Billy Graham in London, 1954

by
22 February 2018

Billy Graham’s Greater London Crusade opened at Harringay Arena, in London, on 1 March 1954. This report of the event was originally published in the Church Times on 5 March 1954.

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Billy Graham preaches at Wembly Stadium on 3 April, 1954, during his Great London Crusade

Billy Graham preaches at Wembly Stadium on 3 April, 1954, during his Great London Crusade

THE EVANGELISTIC METHOD OF MR. BILLY GRAHAM

Twentieth -Century Enthusiasm

By a Correspondent

SOME twelve thousand people made their way, with great determination, to the Harringay arena on Monday night, for the first meeting of the vastly publicized Greater London Crusade of preaching by the American evangelist, Mr. Billy Graham. Several hundreds were turned away.

In the centre of the arena was suspended a great sign on which was written, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” A mixed choir of two thousand people (the women in white blouses) was ranged impressively above the flower-decked platform. Long before the service began, thousands were waiting expectantly in their seats.

They were expecting the moment when Mr. Cliff Barrows, an inspired and spectacular song leader, would mount the rostrum and lead his enormous choir in the fervent singing of popular favourites such as “All hail the power of Jesus’ Name.”

SENATOR’S TESTIMONY

But there were preliminaries. Dr. Townley Lord, the Baptist leader, came to the front and read the Invocation. Then Mr. Graham himself, tall, fair and handsome, but evidently still a humble and simple man under the weight of all that publicity, announced that two United States senators were present — they had rearranged their entire “skedule ”— and one of them would speak.

This was Mr. Stuart Symington, who said that every Wednesday morning in the Senate, some of them gathered together to discuss the Bible and to be led in prayer. Recently, their prayer practice had been attended by the President, and by “the great young American who is with us tonight.”

A portion of the scripture was read by the Rev. Grady Wilson, associate evangelist; prayers were said by the Rev. A. W. Goodwin Hudson, Vicar of St. Mary Magdalene, Highbury; Mr. George Beverly Shea sang a sacred song; Major-General D . J. Wilson Haffenden expressed a welcome, to Mr. Billy Graham, and said that the people could applaud on this one occasion. They did so.

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NOT THROUGH A MERE MAN

Mr. Graham came forward again. He was absolutely convinced that this could be the beginning of a great movement of the Holy Spirit, he said. “But I have one tremendous fear — that you may be looking for a man or a team from America to bring revival. There is only one person who can send revival, and that is the Holy Spirit.”

He began to speak with increased fervour. “God has humbled the entire western world.” . . . “I am calling upon you to pray as you have never prayed before.” . . . “I believe there is a hunger for God and that, by the grace of God before three months have passed, we are going to see a great revival in the City of London.”

He had said that this was not his message proper. What was it, then? One had the feeling that, after this impassioned introduction, anything else must be either an anti-climax or something terrific. In the event, his sermon never quite repeated the impact of those first words. He should not have used his ammunition so soon.

The choir sang a setting of Our Father, and Mr. Shea came to the microphone again to sing, in his deep baritone:—

I’d rather have Jesus
Than silver or gold;
I’d rather be his
Than have riches untold.

HUNGRY HEARTS

Now Mr. Graham came forward, with a microphone attached to his tie and a trailing wire, to deliver his Bible message. No more pictures must be taken now, he said. (Nevertheless, they were.) “This is a holy moment and a sacred moment, for which we have long prayed. There are many hungry hearts here tonight — people who have been disillusioned with life, confused and mixed up, and before you leave this building tonight you can find the greatest peace and joy and inward satisfaction you have ever known. Some of you have sinned. You can find forgiveness . . .

“I long to see new life and fire in the Church. I believe it can happen in answer to our prayers. We do not hold services on Sunday. We want everybody to be in their church on Sunday.”

Mr. Graham came to his Bible message, and got all his audience to say with him, “God so loved the world.” “Does God matter?” he kept on demanding. Did God matter in the poverty of Korea, in racial problems, in domestic problems? He spoke of the high divorce rate, in America and Britain, and immorality, prostitution, adultery. “Does God matter?”

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NO SIN UNKNOWN TO GOD

He held up the Bible and spoke about the God of creation. “God is all-knowing. Not one single thing in your life escapes his knowledge. No sin that has ever been committed has escaped the eye of God.

“God is unchanging, holy and pure and righteous, and he is a God of love. We lost contact with God because Adam and Eve sinned. When Adam sinned, the human race sinned with him. There is only one way back, and that is through Jesus Christ. On the Cross, Jesus Christ took your judgment. He will give you joy and peace and happiness. . . There is no way to know God apart from Jesus. . .

“I have seen gangsters receive Christ and become preachers; alcoholics lose their taste for alcohol; I have seen prostitutes changed; men and women in every walk of life . . .”

INVITATION

Mr. Graham was approaching the “Invitation.”

“He can be in your heart before you leave here tonight. You can leave here an absolutely new person. This is the most important moment of this service. Raise your hand . . . yes, yes . . . you and you and you. . . ”

He lowered his voice, and his eye roved round the vast arena. Here and there, people with bowed heads were raising their arms.

However it may have seemed away in the great hall, there was a feeling of anti-climax below the platform at this point, as photographers were cleared out of the way to make room for those who had resolved to come forward.

There seemed to be about three hundred of them, but some were “counsellors,” whose job it was to interview the penitents in another room. They were people of all kinds, old and young, here a boy in a blazer, there a Coloured man; many of them with Bibles. Most of them, in fact, looked as if they would be connected with some religious body. They were led slowly into a room where cards were filled in, so that they could be directed to churches and advised.

Perhaps this part of the business would have gone in a more hushed and sacred manner if there had not been such a swarm of pressmen in the way. But Mr. Graham was grateful to the Press, and prayed for the coverage of his first night.

 

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