Billy Graham's New York "Crusade"

Bill Humble
Kansas City, Mo.

The long-awaited and much-prayed for Billy Graham evangelistic crusade in New York City is now under way. The services are being held nightly at famous Madison Square Garden, and thus far, capacity audiences of 18,000 and more have attended each service. Last Saturay evening, the service was telecast nationally, and it has been estimated that more than twenty million people watched.

Billy Graham is the most successful evangelist to appear on the religious scene in many a year. His success in European and Asian crusades has confounded skeptics. When he was in London, the Harringay Arena was filled practically every night for three months, even though critics had laughed and said that even an orator like Sir Winston Churchill couldn't fill it for two consecutive nights. When Graham spoke over BBC-TV f r o m Glasgow, Scotland, in 1955, the viewing audiences was estimated at thirty million, second only in British history to the number of viewers for Queen Elizabeth's coronation. The queen and royal family watched the telecast service from beginning to end and later invited Graham to speak at private services at Windsor Castle.

THERE WILL BE thousands of "decisions for Christ" in New York. Each night when Graham pleads for sinners to "surrender their lives to Christ and trust him for salvation," hundreds come forward. Already, the total is more than 10,000. Some of these will have been moved to come by an impelling emotional appeal, in some cases the "conversion" will not last. But in many cases, real changes will occur in peoples' lives, and many enthusiastic new members will join New York churches.

Yet, there are some things that will not occur during the New York crusade, and these things will be conspicuous by their absence.

UNFORTUNATELY, those who make "decisions for Christ" will not be told to "repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). That message is never included in Graham's sermons! Thus, thousands will be persuaded that they have been saved, but they will not have done what the Bible commands as conditions of pardon. The Lord taught plainly, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16), but the thousands in Madison Square Garden will never hear that message. Rather, they will be told, "Only believe. Just give your heart to Christ and you will be saved." How tragic that thousands will go through life unaware of the difference between what they were told and what the Bible teaches.

It isn't that Dr. Graham denies the inspiration of the Bible! It's just that he cannot and does not preach its full message. Billy Graham is a Southern Baptist and he believes that baptism is an immersion in water, but he couldn't preach that in his crusade services. If he did, he would alienate thousands of Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc., who work enthusiastically for his crusades. And even if he did preach immersion, he would not say that it is for the remission of sins. He would never tell people to "arise and be baptized and wash away their sins" (Acts 22:16), for then, even the Baptists would abandon his revivals.

Other Bible teachings that will be conspicuous by their absence in New York are the unity of Christ's church and the sin of denominationalism. Dr. Graham will tell his converts to "join a good church where the Bible is preached." They will not be told that when they are truly saved, the Lord adds them to his church. Nor will they be told that "there is one body" (Eph. 4:4). These are great Bible truths. The Lord died to establish one church, not many denominations. All who were saved in the first century were added to this one church, the body of Christ; and Christ himself is the head and savior of that body. Yes, these are great Bible truths, but they are not popular truths. And they will not be preached in Madison Square Garden.

As we view the New York crusade, we can only say, "Would God that Billy Graham were preaching everything that the Bible teaches about salvation. If he were, his present popularity would be diminished, but how much greater the lasting good that he could do!"

Truth Magazine I:11, pp. 809
August 1957