Ordained to the Gospel ministry by the Southern Baptists, Graham accepted a call to the Baptist Church in Western Springs, Illinois in 1939 but left in two years to run a radio ministry, little realizing it would be his only pastoral charge. In 1948 he led a small college in Minnesota as the youngest college president in the nation. Graham conducted a series of “revival meetings” in a circus tent in Los Angeles in 1949, which lasted eight weeks and received national media coverage from the Hearst publication empire. That event became the beginning of a phenomenal rise to fame and recognition as a Gospel preacher, the likes of which the world has never seen before or since.
1966 Billy Graham Crusade in Oslo, Norway
The centerpiece of the messages preached by Evangelist Billy Graham included the “new birth,” brought about by a simple faith in Christ which resulted in a “relationship with God,” and a life characterized by “love and peace.” He emphasized the infallible, God-breathed Word of God, as the basis of truth, but in later years discarded the idea of biblical inerrancy. He taught that God superintended the general outlines of history but left man with an uncaused free-will to do as he pleased, including “accepting Christ as your Savior.” By the time he had retired in 2005, he had preached to 215 million people in person in ninety-nine countries, and to perhaps two billion through live closed-circuit telecasts. His “crusades” drew crowds of 185,000 (Wembley Stadium in the UK in 1955) and 250,000 (Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro in 1974). A five-day meeting in Seoul, Korea drew three million attendees.
Billy Graham’s 1954 London Crusade at Wembley Stadium