Billy Graham This is the Hour of Decision with Billy Graham, coming to you from Minneapolis Minnesota Billy Graham, has preached to more than 210 million people through a live audience, more than anyone else in history. Not only that, but Mr. Graham has reached millions more through live televison, video and film. This has led Billy to be on the Ten Most Admired Men in the World from the Gallup Poll since 1955 a total of thirty-nine times. This includes thirty-two consecutive more than any other individual in the world, placing him as the most popular American for about forty years.
This essay is going to talk about Graham’s personal life, and what kind of family he grew up in and im also going to talk in detail about how he became an evangelist, because I feel it is very important yet interesting. His accomplishments in the fifties are uncomparable, so I will be including a considerable amount of information concerning that topic. Finally I will be talking about his personal achievements, books written, and how he has been a companion to some of the American Presidents. William Franklin Graham Jr. was born in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 17, 1918. Graham was raised on a dairy farm by William Franklin (deceased 1962) and Morrow Coffey Graham (deceased 1981).
In 1943 he married his wife Ruth McCue Bell, and had four children Virginia 1945, Anne Morrow 1948, Ruth Bell 1950, William Franklin, Jr. 1952, and Nelson Edman 1958. At age eighty, he keeps fit by swimming, playing with is nineteen grand children, and from aerobic walking, in the mountains of North Carolina, where he currently lives. (Billy Graham Best Sellers, 1999) Billy Graham told Time Magazine in one article about his life before becoming a preacher. I lived on a farm. The only difference was I had to get up early in the morning and go milk cows. When I came back from school that day, I had to milk those same cows. There were about twenty cows I had to milk.
By hand. That was before they had those machines. I loved being a farmer. But God called me to this work that I’m in now. I knew it was God calling.
I said, Yes. I will follow what God wants me to do. And so I went to two or three schools to get education. Then I became a pastor of a church. Then I went into evangelism.
(Graham, 1999) Graham got his first lesson of the worlds way of the mysterious God, while he was a teen working on his father’s farm. Graham’s father who was a working man had a calling to go out and to become a preacher, but because of the farm, he never got the chance to do so. Instead he tried to live his own passion through his son, Billy Graham. He was raised by two strict Calvinist parents, who showed him that hard work and honesty was the way all people should live in Gods World. Although Graham rejected these views by his parents, he was still influenced spiritually from his upbringing. At age seventeen, Graham was in the position just like many other seventeen years old’s he knew.
Graham was popular in high school with the girls, played sports such as basketball and baseball, but was lost on what his future would have in store for him. During this time an evangelist named Mordecai Ham came to Charlotte, to have a three-month revival. He never took too much to the idea, because he did not want to be stuck in a long and boring job that would make him sorry he was ever born. When all of Graham’s options for summer nights ran out, he decided to go to the revival, and to see what it was all about. All the time keeping in the back of his mind how he grew up in such a religious family, and how his father always wanted him to take up preaching.
One night Ham was speaking out against sinners, and Graham felt that he was talking directly to him, although he was considered a good kid. So to escape the direct gaze of Ham, he joined the revival choir. Graham began to listen to Ham daily. He became captivated and breath taken by his holy words, and how he spoke of God as if he knew him personally. Graham felt he was now ready to follow Jesus and devote his life to God.
Like most high schoolers who lack direction once they graduate, Graham blindly enrolled at Bob Jones College in Cleveland, Tennessee for the simple reason that Jones’ preaching had once impressed his mother. If Graham did not know who he was prior to entering school, he soon learned that he was not meant to be a Bob Jones student. He found the discipline to be absolutely restrictive and the theology to be at odds with the notions of God that were swarming in his head (Frady 96). They urged Graham and the rest of the young evangelists at the Jones school to practice their preaching. Graham was nervously waiting for a call from any church, to be asked to speak in front of the congregation. Finally the day came when he got a call from a small church near Palatka, which wanted him to give a sermon in the church.
That night he rehearsed his message that he was going to use, that he timed to be about two hours long. But being so young and eager, Graham stood up in front of the crowd that gathered to listen to his sermon, and his blurted the whole thing out in only ten minutes. The people were stunned, and many were asking themselves, was this man a real preacher or just an impostor. This led Graham to have many doubts in his mind, doubts that he agonized over day in and day out. The stress was building on the young man’s shoulders and he was finding it hard to sleep at night, because he developed painful back aches.
Late one night, when he could not sleep, he went for a walk in downtown Tampa to clear his head. Trying to preach wherever he went, so he could make himself feel that he was needed as a preacher, led him into trouble. He walked by a sleazy bar, and he protested to people inside, that they were living a life that was leading them to suffer in hell. The bar keeper did not think too kindly to that so he threw Graham across the street. To add to his never-ending disappointments in life, Graham gave a sermon in front of his home crowd in Charlotte, and there was his family. They were so embarrassed that his sisters tried to hide themselves from the rest of the congregation by slouching in their seats, and putting books up to their faces to cover them up.
This led Graham to decided he had to change his pointy finger You are a sinner. Christ died to pay for your sins. But you much accept Christ to be saved.(Wellman, 1999) From the urging of a good friend Graham left the Bob Jones school and enrolled in The Florida Bible Institute. It has been said that in the Florida Bible Institute, Graham finally came to terms with his life. He realized that he was supposed to be a preacher, because this group focused on the beloved God rather than a vengeful one, and Graham finally found his purpose for his existence. After graduation from the Florida Bible Institute, Graham enrolled at Wheaton College, which is considered the Harvard of Christian colleges.
It was at this college that he received training in the fine art of the pulpit and also where he met his future wife, Ruth Bell. It was now he made a promise to himself that someday he would be heard by every Christian on the green world that God created. Following graduation from Wheaton Graham entered what could be considered a transition state that lay somewhere between formal education and the great preacher as whom we know him. During this time he amassed several personal skills that would benefit him once he began his own ministry, and also made contacts with people that would later work for or with him. Immediately following graduation he took a pastorship at Western Springs Church near Chicago.
He left this job to travel with Youth for Christ, an evangelistic movement geared especially for young people and returning servicemen. Youth for Christ was different in its approach than other evangelistic movements in that it focused on the benevolence of God rather than the God who was quick to invoke wrath. The message was displayed with upbeat music and flashy clothes. Graham stayed with them from 1945 until 1948, and there is no doubt that what he learned influenced him in his own ministry. To this day, Graham will tell you that he sees God as a loving father rather than a harsh judge.
(20/20) It was in the Youth for Christ, preaching from one place to another, that he became known as a very charismatic speaker. Graham now had matured, from the young boy who was full of doubts, to a man that could speak to large masses of people, who were often left in silence. From 1947 until 1952 Graham was the president of Northwestern Schools, which was a system of Christian colleges in Minnesota. He changed Northwestern Schools, to be like another Wheaton, in order to train more evangelists. It was his time at this school that Graham developed administrative skills that would later help him in the formation of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
But Graham left the Youth for Christ, in order to obey his urge to preach to the masses of the world. Graham thought the best way to accomplish this was to go on his own and try to reach as many people as he could with the message of God. In 1949 in the city of Los Angeles, a group of men who called themselves Christ for Greater Los Angeles had invited Graham to come and hold meetings there, because they were impressed with his ability to speak to a crowd. When at first Graham had questioned the invitation, they found more money and more church support. Apparently things were pulling together to bring Graham to Los Angeles. He came and on September 25 opened a series of meetings that not only left the city of Los Angeles changed forever, but vaulted Graham’s previously unassuming ministry into a national spotlight and into the decade of the fifties.
The meetings began slowly with little press coverage and relatively low attendance. Empty seats were easily seen in the early nights in the Canvas Cathedral, a tent erected specifically for the crusade. The tide turned, however, when Stuart Hamblen, a well known radio celebrity invited Graham to be a guest on his show. Having boasted earlier to Graham that with his endorsement he could fill the tent, Graham was eager to accept the invitation. In many ways he was not far off in his boasting.
Hamblen was well known up and down the West Coast for his popular radio show, heard every afternoon for two hours. Especially once news of Hamblen’s own conversion at one of the meetings reached the airwaves, people came to see what was so great that everyone on the radio was talking about. A second media break came when Randolph Hearst, owner of newspapers across the country including two major ones in Los Angeles, inexplicably told his papers to puff Graham. They did, and when Hearst’s papers puffed Graham, of course Hearst’s competitors papers followed suit. Soon the Los Angeles campaign was being talked about and read about nationwide.
The crusade was extended from its original intended length of three weeks to a length of eight weeks, at which point the tent was still being packed, but the organizers physically could not continue. On November 20, nearly two months after it began, the crusade closed. (Bucheimer, 1999). Graham has been said to be The Man of the Fifties, because with the help from the media, and a little help from God, his fame grew and so did peoples faith for the almighty God. But the fifties took their toll on Graham and his health. He traveled to countless American cities, as well as many foreign lands, among them Australia, Indian, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and most of the European countries.
This left Graham feeling tired and worn out. So Graham looked to the words of the bible for inspiration. Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.(Mark 16:15) This would revitalize his energy and send him back out to the world, with his bible in hand to preach to all Gods Children. The fifties held some of Graham’s greatest accomplishments, although they have often been overlooked. World War II had just gotten over and the world’s weaponry had changed into nuclear warfare, with the dropping of the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Not only that, but the Russians began a nuclear arms race with the United States.
This had put pressure on the American public, and they lost all their sense of security. The thought of death, and war with all of its pain and suffering, creped into the nightmares of the American citizens and now they looked to religion for salvation. Graham introduced religion in a way that was friendly, and refreshingly honest. The United States public was ready for a religious revival, and Graham would lead the way. In the nineteen fifties the world seemed to rotate on an axis called communism. Everyone was talking about it, and America was frightened.
In the culmination of their fright appeared most noticeably in a man named McCarthy. McCarthy claimed to have lists of names of people that secretly held allegiances with the communist party, lists that often contained names of many high-ranking public officials and celebrities. The media, was so important to the fifties, picked up on McCarthy’s blacklists and ran them in the papers. In the attitu …