“Welcome to the Hour of Decision Online. I’m Cliff Barrows.”
Every week since the beginning of May, the familiar voice of Billy Graham’s longtime music leader and emcee has greeted listeners to a new, web-exclusive program that’s garnering clicks from 50 countries on six continents.
Hour of Decision Online offers a Gospel-centered message of hope from Billy Graham, peppered with Cliff Barrows’ personal stories from 65 years of ministry with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Like the time in 1983 when rock band AC/DC performed at the Tacoma Dome a few days before a Billy Graham Crusade was to be held there, and an overzealous fan fired a rocket through the wooden roof.
“There was a hole in the roof,” Cliff Barrows recalled in a recent edition of Hour of Decision Online. “And that’s how we went into the building. A lot of people came to see what kind of damage was done.”
In his typically understated, good-humored way, he continued, “Well, it added to the interest, to say the least.”
In another recent webcast, Mr. Barrows shared memories from the 1982 Crusade in Boston. More than 130,000 people heard the Gospel over the course of a week, despite some less-than-ideal weather conditions.
“It was so wet and cold,” Barrows said. “In fact, there was one thing we’d never had before. We couldn’t take the covers off either the piano or the organ for an entire service. So we went without any organ or instrument accompaniment, and that was a challenge for us because we had to sing a cappella.
“They didn’t like that from me, I’m sure,” he added with a chuckle.
Those are the kinds of stories only Cliff Barrows can tell, and he shares them as though he’s just chatting with an old friend.
“Cliff’s gift of telling a story and his recall of detail brings a richness to each Hour of Decision Online,” said Jim Kirkland, director of radio for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“He was not only a partner-in-ministry with Mr. Graham, they’re close friends to this day,” Kirkland said. “He knew well George Beverly Shea and many of the Crusade guests—from Johnny Cash to Ethel Waters to President George Bush. Cliff had access no one else had.”
There’s no shortage of personalities in the growing medium of the webcast. Not many of them, however, are old enough to remember the Great Depression.
At age 91, Cliff Barrows is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to the digital world. He and his wife, Ann, use an iPad during their daily devotion time. They joined Twitter before it was cool. And they understand the power of the Internet to help reach people with the Gospel.
After gracing the radio airwaves for more than six decades, Mr. Barrows was excited to join Hour of Decision Online co-host Bob Souer for the new, digital endeavor.
The web format eliminates the strict time constraints of live radio and allows for more stories, more music and more time to share the Gospel—three things that bring delight to the hosts and their listeners.
“When you listen to Cliff tell a story, you hear pure joy,” Kirkland said. “Not so much for his memories of the Crusades, but for how God worked through the Crusades to impact people eternally.”
Listen to the latest Hour of Decision Online. A new program is available every Sunday, and each program remains posted for five weeks.
Hour of Decision Online is also available on BGEA’s mobile app. Just download the app and select “Radio” at the bottom.