Evangelism in America

June 5, 1957

Report Outline
Recurring Revivals in American History
Revival Preaching to Fit the Times
Business Aspects of Later Day Revivalism
Fruits of Two Centuries of Evangelism

Recurring Revivals in American History

Periodic Emergence of Great Evangelists

Followers of the Rev. William Franklin Graham, better known as Billy Graham, view his current crusade in New York City as the supreme test of his powers as an evangelist. Like many of his predecessors whose vigorous summons to be saved have stirred the American people in the past, Graham regards the metropolis as the citadel of sin and the most difficult stronghold to conquer for Christ, In his own words, he “wept, prayed and agonized” before accepting the city's challenge. But the Christian Century, critical of Graham's methods, editorialized on the eve of the crusade that “It simply cannot fail …because canny, experienced engineers of human decision have laid the tracks, contracted for the passengers, and will now direct the traffic.”

The present crusade recalls another spiritual assault on the metropolis 40 years ago by Graham's best-known predecessor. As with Graham, Billy Sunday's New York revival climaxed a phenomenal career of soul-saving in smaller communities. Newspapers predicted that the 1917 campaign would be “Billy's Rubicon,” and described New York as “the graveyard of evangelists.” The Sunday revival, like the present Graham revival, was preceded by months of prayer, fund-raising, and planning down to the most minute detail. In each case delegations from churches and civic organizations in New York and elsewhere were recruited to occupy large blocks of seats, thus guaranteeing sizeable audiences in advance.

It remains to be seen whether Billy Graham can duplicate or excel the records chalked up in New York by Billy Sunday. Sunday preached to 1½million persons during his 10-week crusade, of whom 98,000 responded to his call to hit the sawdust trail. A more fundamental question, which bothers the Protestant clergy today as it did in Sunday's time, is whether conversion in the grip of revivalist emotion has any lasting effects on the morals and spiritual life of the convert.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Oct. 28, 2022  Church and State
May 29, 2020  Christians in the Mideast
Sep. 28, 2018  Christianity in America
Jun. 23, 2017  Future of the Christian Right
Jun. 07, 2013  Future of the Catholic Church
Jan. 2011  Crisis in the Catholic Church
Sep. 21, 2007  Rise of Megachurches
Sep. 14, 2001  Evangelical Christians
Feb. 26, 1999  Future of the Papacy
Dec. 11, 1998  Searching for Jesus
Jul. 22, 1988  The Revival of Religion in America
Dec. 02, 1983  Christmas Customs and Origins
Jun. 10, 1983  Martin Luther After 500 Years
Aug. 08, 1975  Year of Religion
Jul. 26, 1972  Fundamentalist Revival
Jan. 04, 1967  Religion in Upheaval
Aug. 03, 1966  Religious Rivalries in South Viet Nam
Nov. 11, 1964  Church Tax Exemption
Aug. 05, 1964  Catholic Schools
Oct. 14, 1963  Churches and Social Action
Jun. 19, 1963  Vatican Policy in a Revolutionary World
Jan. 05, 1962  Rome and Christian Unity
Mar. 26, 1958  Church-Related Education
Dec. 18, 1957  Church Consolidation
Jun. 05, 1957  Evangelism in America
Jun. 23, 1955  Religious Boom
Aug. 13, 1952  Church Unity in America
Feb. 12, 1947  Relations with the Vatican
Dec. 21, 1923  The New Schism in the Church and the Immaculate Conception
Religious Movements