One of Christian radio’s most beloved and longest-running programs hit airwaves across the country 60 years ago this month. The Hour of Decision with evangelist Billy Graham, which began as a step of faith by a budding ministry, has grown into one of the most widely distributed radio broadcasts in the world.
In his autobiography, Just As I Am Billy Graham recounts the story of how “The Hour of Decision” was birthed in part from a Crusade in Portland, Ore., in 1950. Despite feeling he didn’t have the time, at the persistence of two men who wanted him to start a radio broadcast, one day Mr. Graham laughingly said he would be willing if he were donated $25,000 for that purpose before midnight. He announced it at the Crusade that evening, and at the conclusion of the meeting $24,000 had been donated for the broadcast. When Mr. Graham returned to the hotel, two donations of $500 each awaited them – both for radio.
“Stunned, I bowed my head and said a silent prayer,” said Graham. “Emotion so overcame me that I could not think straight. Clearly, the funds had come from God.” The team soon signed with ABC and the first broadcast was live from the Billy Graham Crusade in Atlanta, Ga., on November 5, 1950.
It was also through this occasion that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association officially began in 1950. Since then, in addition to producing The Hour of Decision, BGEA has organized hundreds of evangelistic meetings worldwide and been extensively involved in training Christians to reach their friends with the message of the Gospel. BGEA continues this urgent work today through training ministries and large events with evangelists Franklin Graham and Will Graham.
Around the Globe
Today, The Hour of Decision airs on 581 radio stations across the country and on several networks. Internationally, the program airs on 39 radio outlets in Canada, 345 across Australia and 38 Spanish-language outlets. In all, the program airs in five languages – English, Spanish, French, Mandarin and Farsi – in 55 countries on six continents.
“After all those years, the fact that tens of thousands of people around the world connect each weekend to a simple radio program carrying a simple message is beyond amazing. It’s evidence of God’s faithfulness, really,” said Jim Kirkland, Director of Radio for BGEA.
“The message of His son, Jesus Christ, and the hope that’s found through a relationship with Him, is the most relevant news anyone is going to hear, regardless of the day or date. People’s souls are starving to hear the news of Jesus. And that news lies at the core of every Hour of Decision.”
One 70-year-old man from Zimbabwe heard the Gospel message presented through the Hour of Decision program, and just at the right time. “It gives me great pleasure to tell you that I was listening to your station (and) I received Jesus Christ as my personal Savior when Billy Graham was preaching on the prodigal son. The familiar parable became real to me and I was convinced by the power of the Holy Spirit,” he said.
“I felt like a useless, condemned sinner. I felt as though Jesus Himself was standing beside me, telling me how much He loved me – to the extent of dying on the cross. I just cried and thanked and praised Him. Me, a Gentile… Praise the Lord!”
Another listener in Ghana says, “I have been listening to your inspirational program for sometime now and the Lord has invariably spoken and guided me in my walk with Him. There are times when I get almost discouraged due to opposition but your program wakes me up and moves forward in faith.”
A Familiar Voice
Cliff Barrows, who traveled the world with Billy Graham for more than 50 years directing Crusade choirs, has been the program’s only host since 1950 and remains its host today.
“It’s been my joy and privilege these 60 years to introduce listeners across the world to my good friend Billy Graham,” said Barrows, a member of the National Religious Broadcasters Hall of Fame. “The messages Billy preached 60 years ago and over the years are as relevant today as when he delivered them. God continues to use Billy’s faithfulness to reach a hurting world with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We thank God for the faithful prayer support of so many who have been our partners in ministry all these years.”