Recollections of Billy GrahamComment
1959, the first of the four month Australian tour by Dr Billy Graham. The Sydney Agricultural Show ground and Sydney Cricket ground were the venues for these crusades. The final Sydney crusade attracted 150,000 people. The music directed by Cliff Barrows, the choir made up of singers from churches from all over Sydney, prayer partners, volunteers directing attendees, bus drivers (“the buses will wait” was a directive given from the pulpit after the message for those who responded to the call to come forward to learn more about following Jesus).
I was 10 years old and attended with Oyster Bay Girls Brigade. We travelled in on a bus and parked with hundreds of other buses depositing people who flowed into the venues. If you lost sight of your group you would have been afloat in a sea of people.
When Billy Graham stood up to preach the air was still with anticipation. He would open with prayer and open his Bible. His phrase “The Bible says”, followed up with Scripture to reinforce the message of the saving grace of Jesus Christ was often repeated leaving no doubt of our destination if we decided to take his message seriously and allow our lives to be changed through the forgiveness offered through Christ’s death on the cross. Some listened intently because this was an experience never before seen in Sydney, or respond with the all too common “I don’t need this cause it’s rubbish and I’m good enough”.
At the end of the message, Billy Graham would ask anyone who wanted to know more to move from their seats and hundreds of people responded to the call to come down the front to receive literature and contact information for follow up. For every person a Counsellor with a name badge would tag along with a “prospect” and escort them to the front of the pulpit. It was like watching a river flowing from the stands.
A late night, I fell asleep on the bus going home and the memory of the enormity remains.
1968, nine years after the huge success of the 1959 crusades there had been a change in the attitude of society creating a less dynamic series. The crusades were still well attended. I went again and took a good friend with me who had “an attitude of this is not for me” and had only come to be with me. I have often wondered if an impact was made as there hadn’t been then. Only God knows the state of the heart.
The message was as dynamic and fully backed up by Scripture as expected, the response seemed similar and it was a privilege to again sit under the preaching of Billy Graham.
1979, 20th May, Randwick Racecourse. I though it odd at the time to have a crusade at a racecourse but the venue provided the space to hold such an event. I went in on an event bus from Camden with Julie Smith.
Even with changes in culture, morals, attitudes toward religion and the serious beginnings of the computer age these crusades were attended by tens of thousands. The message was consistent and in line with the Bible. “The Bible says” being the confirming words of the authenticity of Billy Graham’s presentation. The format was much the same with a huge choir, a solo item and the introduction of Dr Graham followed by a call to come forward and learn more about committing your life to Jesus Christ, given literature and an introduction to a local church for follow up.
The impact of Crusades the world over is incomprehensible. I still hear from people today who committed their lives to Jesus Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade and a lot who went into the ministry and I hear from people who did so then but no longer believe that they need Christ in their lives.