A Look Back at Billy Graham’s Ministry

By   •   February 21, 2018

Preaching for Youth for Christ
On Feb. 21, 2018, Billy Graham passed away at age 99 after a lifetime of ministry. At 27, he resigned from his pulpit at First Baptist Church in Western Springs, Illinois, to go on the road for Youth for Christ, an organization founded for ministry to youth and servicemen during World War II. Visit Billy Graham's memorial site for more information and to leave condolences.
Tent Crusade in 1949 in L.A.
A 1949 Crusade in Los Angeles caught the attention of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. The resulting national and international news coverage launched Billy Graham into prominence. The Crusade was supposed to last three weeks but ran for eight as Billy preached the Gospel.
Inside a tent Crusade
In 1949, night after night, crowds continued to pack a Los Angeles tent as the momentum of the city rally continued to build.
Grady Wilson, Cliff Barrows, Billy Graham, Bev Shea
Billy Graham with the Rev. Grady Wilson, Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea. In the early days of Mr. Graham's ministry, he met with his team to discuss the criticisms of evangelism, namely finances, moral integrity, antichurch sentiments and no follow-up for people who gave their lives to Christ. He determined to change those things in his ministry.
Central Park crowd
Thousands gathered in New York's Central Park in 1991 to hear Billy Graham preach.
Talking to two men
At a 2003 Crusade in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with Gospel musician Kirk Franklin on the far right. Many people who have met Mr. Graham over the years say his humility and concern for each person stood out to them.
Billy passionately preaching
Billy Graham preached with passion in both speech and body language. He was confident and articulate, but said it wasn't him who moved people toward Christ. "Prayer is crucial to evangelism," he said. "No matter how logical our arguments or how fervent our appeals, our words will accomplish nothing unless God's Spirit prepares the way."
TV camera in crowd
A TV camera capturing Billy Graham's message to New York in 1957. Watch videos of Mr. Graham's sermons over the years.
Counselor praying at Dallas Crusade
A counselor praying with a young boy at a Dallas, Texas, Crusade in 2002. Each Crusade involved many months of praying and planning with local churches. Today, Franklin Graham and Will Graham continue to preach through Festivals and Celebrations.
Billy Graham on radio
Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows recording The Hour of Decision for the radio in 1959. Mr. Graham advocated for using every means possible to spread the Gospel. His ministry expanded with the use of radio, TV, print media and the internet. Listen to Hour of Decision Online, browse podcasts and other audio archives.
Bev Shea, Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows
George Beverly Shea, Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows were fast friends. Mr. Barrows, who died on Nov. 15, 2016, led congregational singing and Crusade choirs around the world. Mr. Shea, who passed away April 16, 2013, often sang Gospel tunes in his famous baritone voice before Mr. Graham would preach. Here, the three are on the set of The Hour of Decision TV show in 1952.
Cliff Barrows, Billy Graham, Bev Shea
Cliff Barrows, Billy Graham and George Beverly Shea singing together in 1984.
Billy Graham in San Diego
Billy Graham addressing a crowd in San Diego, California, in 2003.
Billy in Vietnam
Billy Graham in Vietnam around Christmastime in the mid-1960s. He visited hospitals and prayed with soldiers. He also preached and sang "Silent Night" with them. "In the middle of that war," he said, "men were making their peace with God on Christmas Eve."
Choir singing in L.A.
The choir singing at the Greater Los Angeles Crusade in 2004.
2002 Dallas Crusade
Many youth attended the 2002 Crusade in Dallas, Texas.
Greeting small group
Taking time to greet a small group of people during his travels to Europe.
Tokyo, Japan
A warm welcome in Tokyo, Japan.
New York sign about Billy Graham
A 1957 New York Crusade ran for 16 weeks, making it the longest-running Crusade. Mr. Graham preached to more than 2 million people during that time, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. offered a prayer at one service. It was also the first U.S. Crusade where Mr. Graham used an interpreter to address the Spanish-speaking population. One New Yorker later wrote to Mr. Graham: "When I first heard about your Crusade, I was skeptical of its results. I thought you were selling religion like toothpaste. ... [But] I heard God talking to me. ... I cried and am still crying tears of joy, because I feel alive."
Billy Graham preaching in Times Square
During the 1957 New York Crusade, Billy Graham preached a final message from Times Square. Thousands of people filled the streets. The evangelist later said of the Crusade: "I had nothing to give. I had exhausted my material. I had exhausted my body. ... I sat on the platform many nights with nothing to say, nothing. ... And I knew that in a few minutes I'd have to get up and preach. ... And yet, I would stand up and all of a sudden it would begin to come ... just God giving it, that's all."
Preaching in 2002
Billy Graham preaching in 2002.
Billy Graham early in his preaching days. His stage at this event was a flatbed trailer.
Preaching in Seoul, Korea
During a five-day Crusade in Seoul, Korea, in 1973, Billy Graham preached to more than 3 million people. It was his largest Crusade ever.
Crowd in Seoul, Korea
The crowd in Seoul, Korea, in 1973. From John Pollock’s authorized biography of Billy Graham, The Billy Graham Story: "For all who took part, that final Crusade service is a dreamlike memory: the solemn responsibility of ministering to such a multitude, the visual impact of so many mortals in one place. ... [When Mr. Graham gave an invitation to accept Christ] there was a hush upon the audience at first. Then one here and one there arose, until thousands were standing. ... [Billy Graham said], 'The only comment I have is, Thanksgiving to God for all He did.'"
Billy Graham with African children
Billy Graham spending time with some children during his visit to Africa in 1960.
Billy tearing up
Billy Graham was moved to tears by the cyclone victims in Andhra Pradesh, India, in 1977.
1996 Charlotte Crusade
Billy Graham's 1996 Crusade in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, drew 75,000 people to Ericsson Stadium, now the Bank of America Stadium.
Umbrellas at podium in Texas
Wet weather never kept people from coming forward to commit their lives to Christ.
In Romanian streets
Billy Graham spoke at the Orthodox Cathedral in Timisoara, Romania, in 1985. A crowd estimated at 150,000 greeted him in the public square.
On telephone
While visiting the Westside Deli in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1972, Billy Graham called the owner's mother, who admired the preacher, to say "hello."
South Africa Crusade in 1973
The first fully integrated public meeting ever held in South Africa was the Billy Graham Crusade in Durban in 1973. Billy Graham told the crowd, “Christianity is not a white man’s religion. And don’t let anybody ever tell you that it’s white or black. Christ belongs to all people.” Mr. Graham also held a Crusade in Johannesburg that year, about 20 years after receiving initial invites to preach in South Africa. He wouldn’t accept an invitation unless the Crusades were racially integrated. Two decades before that, he personally removed ropes segregating the crowd at a Chattanooga, Tennessee, Crusade.
Tom Bledsoe directing choir
Tom Bledsoe directing the Crusade choir at Texas Stadium in 2002.
Billy Graham in Egypt
Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows recording The Hour of Decision radio program at the pyramids in Egypt in 1960.
In war-torn area
Billy Graham visited the bombed-out homes of Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1972. He once said, "War is only one facet of the larger problem of evil which has been with the human race since the beginning."
1989 London Crusade
A 1989 London Crusade at Wembley Stadium.
Billy Graham and students on lawn
Answering questions from a group of young people at Eurofest, Brussels, Belgium, in 1975. Billy Graham said, "Our youth are desperately searching for purpose and meaning in their lives." Here, he talks to some students in the late 1970s.
Billy and Franklin Graham
Billy Graham with his oldest son, Franklin, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and preaches around the world. This picture was taken in 2003 at a San Diego, California, Crusade.
New York Crusade crowd
The crowd worshiping at a 2005 Crusade in New York. The Crusade was the last Crusade of Billy Graham's ministry.
Billy at podium
Billy Graham in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1954. Mr. Graham has preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history—nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories. Yet, he always deflected any credit to God: "If anything has been accomplished through my life, it has been solely God's doing, not mine, and He—not I—must get the credit." Visit Billy Graham's memorial site to leave memories and condolences.

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13 Comments

  1. C.J. Crittenden says:

    A believer forever in the Lord.

  2. Agatha and George King says:

    We met at a Youth for Christ picnic in 1969 at Fort Rucker, AL. We performed in “Tell it Like it Is” and “Natural High!” What a tremendous impact on us and our families! Thank you for answering the call!

  3. Barbara Ann LaTondresse says:

    You fought the good fight and kept the faith even though you had afflictions like Parkinson’s. I have PK, too, and you were a wonderful example to me and to many of how to have hope, joy and peace in difficulty. Romans 15:13.

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