Part 4 in my Billy Graham blog series:
Due to Graham’s popularity, a large portion of his crusades’ attendants were church members. According to their records, sixty percent of their converts were church members. While Graham’s heart was for the unchurched, he never discouraged Christians for attending. Graham was not ashamed of his Baptist affiliation, but he consciously and wisely refrained from ever getting entangled in Baptist political squabbles. While Graham never minded the attention and support from area churches, he was still very intentional in his strategy to reach certain types of people.
In the 1950s, Graham began to preach on many university campuses on which God used him to usher in moments of spiritual awakenings among student bodies. Graham not only spoke in colleges within the United States, but he even engaged college communities when he visited Australia and other countries. Not only did he love the question and answer environment, he loved dialoguing with intellectual young people who had honest, deep questions but also possessed great potential to expand the Kingdom of God.
While Graham preached to anyone who would listen, oftentimes, much of a crusade’s success would be stimulated through well-known community leaders explicitly supporting Graham. In Australia, “the very highest of society was powerfully influenced by the preaching of Billy Graham.” Not only did Graham benefit from his powerful supporters, but Graham’s ministry was legitimized in the public through conversions in which he was involved. Graham’s recognition in the United States increased when his crusades witnessed many notable celebrities, businessmen, and gangsters becoming Christians.
Billy Graham never intentionally set out to change the political scene for the latter half of the twentieth century, but he was intentional in making the most of the opportunities with world leaders that God provided. Graham counseled presidents and served as ambassadors of the United States to world leaders. While Graham was often encouraged to run for public office, he always declined. Even though he refrained from taking office, he was very involved in politics and in the lives of prominent politicians.
Speaking concerning his desire for the American government, Graham stated, “The times require the Puritan spirit of self-control, industry, honesty, conscientiousness, and patriotism.” Due to his influence, he never shied away from an opportunity to tell a governmental leader suggestions on political or spiritual issues. His guidance was regularly sought due to his ministerial success. Oftentimes, once a crusade left a specific area, the political leaders would express gratitude for Graham’s involvement in their city and the change that was brought about due to his work.
In the previous section, it was mentioned the impact of Graham’s organization ability. He often used those abilities to strategically challenge and train other ministers. One such example is his strategic use of local seminary students to work at his crusades. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association would often utilize seminarians to come to crusades and serve as counselors during those events. The impact on these students experiencing the number of converts during these crusades is almost impossible to gauge. “This program could do more through seminary students to influence the future of the church attitudes toward evangelism than almost any other emphasis of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.”