Billy Graham: A New Kind of Evangelist

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Bettmann / CORBIS

Evangelist Billy Graham leaves the White House

The first one to come forward was a round, sensible-looking housewife with thick glasses. She stood as still and undramatic as if she were waiting to be served at the meat counter. The next was an eleven-year-old boy who kept his head low to hide his tears: a thin girl appeared behind him and put her arm comfortingly on his shoulder. These three were joined by a broad-shouldered young man whose machine-knitted jersey celebrated a leaping swordfish. then by a pretty young Negro woman in her best clothes with a sleeping baby in her arms. Suddenly there were too many to count, standing on the trampled grass in the blaze of lights. Some of them wept quietly, some of them stared at the ground and some looked upward.

Above them all stood a tall, blond young man in a double-breasted tan gabardine suit. His handsome, strong-jawed face was drawn and his blue eyes glittered; for a few seconds he gnawed nervously on a thumbnail, and bright sweat covered his high forehead. He was speaking softly, but with an urgency that seemed to tense every muscle of his body:

"You can leave here with peace and joy and happiness such as you've never known. You say: 'Well, 'Billy, that's all well and good. I'll think it over and I may come back some night and I'll—' Wait a minute! You can't come to Christ any time you want to. You can only come when the Spirit of God is drawing and wooing you ... I beg of you to come now before it is too late. You know you need

Christ in your life. Leave your seat now and come forward. If you have friends or relatives here, they'll wait on you. Whether you're old or young, or rich or poor, white or colored—come quietly up now and say. 'Billy, tonight I accept Christ.' " The Flame Around the World. Night after night in New Orleans' 16,000 capacity Pelican Stadium, this gaunt young man with the Hickey-Freeman clothes and the eagle-sharp manner is bringing men and women down from the packed stands and up the length of the baseball field to make "decisions for Christ." This would be news enough in that tamed but still sin-ridden city of blues and bourbon. But the flame that is searing New Orleans is also burning greater and greater swathes across the whole U.S. and around the world. Billy Graham is the best-known, most talked-about Christian leader in the world today, barring the Pope.

He has preached on the steps of the Capitol in Washington and in the shadow of the Iron Curtain, on Korean battlefields and in Hitler's former stadium in Berlin. In England, where religion has long been in decline, 2.000,000 people last spring came in penitent droves, and 38,447 pledged themselves as converts. Even when they do not understand his language or share his American tradition, people flock to hear him speak short sentences to be echoed in their own language by an interpreter. In Scandinavia, Finland, Holland. Germany and France this summer, 296,600 came. Since 1949, Billy Graham has preached personally to 12 million people and brought 200,000 of them to various stages of Christian commitment.

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