Q: What did Billy Graham do when he was criticized for having the choir sing Just As I Am after sharing the Gospel at his Crusades?
A: He stopped the music—temporarily.
In 1966, Billy Graham faced criticism as he arrived in London for a Crusade. Media reports indicated the hymn Just As I Am, when played after Mr. Graham invited the audience to accept Jesus Christ as Savior, was playing on people’s emotions.
It appeared some were attributing the previous success of Mr. Graham’s outreaches in London to an emotional response rather than the working of the Holy Spirit.
This deeply troubled Mr. Graham, who prayed about it and asked his music leader, Cliff Barrows, to be prepared to skip the hymn after the Gospel invitation. Mr. Barrows later recalled:
“That first night at Earl’s Court, Billy preached his heart out. There was a real sense of the presence of God.
“When he finished he said, ‘We are not going to have any music tonight. There’ll be no singing. But if the Spirit of God is speaking to your heart, then right where you are, just stand in your place, and make your way out to the aisle.'”
At that point, Mr. Graham stepped back from the pulpit, bowed his head and prayed.
For about 15 seconds, nobody moved. Then, as Mr. Barrows described:
“All of a sudden a seat squeaked, and then another, and another. Then hundreds of people began to stand. They walked to the aisle, shuffled down the long wooden floor that had been put down to cover the turf, and stood at the front.”
For 30 nights, not one note of Just As I Am was sung or played, even though it had already been the signature hymn of Billy Graham Crusades for many years.
“When the reporters began to write about the invitation at Earl’s Court, they said that all they heard was a shuffling of feet on the floor,” Mr. Barrows recalled. “‘Bring back Just as I Am! The silence is killing us!’ they wrote.”
More than a million people heard the Gospel at the Greater London Crusade in the summer of 1966, and more than 40,000 indicated making a decision for Christ.