Billy Graham In Glasgow 1955 (2)

In truth, some, like Wimber, do not hold out much hope for the crusade style of evangelism: “By its very nature and assumptions, programmatic evangelism tends to have as its goal decisions for Christ, not disciples.” According to Wimber, this type of evangelism is fatally flawed because “many people who make these decisions do not encounter God’s power, and thus frequently do not move on to a mature faith.”

Is crusade evangelism little more than a museum piece? It is hard not to get the impression from many churches that the task of evangelism has been set aside for the few and the few set aside for the task of evangelism. Perhaps, then, as Holmes said, this kind of evangelism “allows the church to escape its responsibility to pass on the message.” Perhaps, also, according to Olyott, all too often “we have thought of evangelism as a thing which exists with its own identity and character, which is somehow connected to the life of the church” rather than being an integral part of church.

TWENTY-TWENTY VISION WITH HINDSIGHT

One impact of the crusades was to show that they did not reach anywhere near as many unchurched people as had been thought. Of the enquirers who came forward at the Crusades, 62% described themselves as ‘regular church attenders’. Tom Allan comments on the lack of the unchurched coming forward by proclaiming that “there is no possibility of effective evangelism until something is done to destroy the barriers of indifference which separate the Church from the people whom it is here to serve.”  

Since Allan wrote those words, the barriers of indifference have grown larger than the church itself, and the church has declined accordingly. There is no evidence whatsoever (despite the availability of various analyses of results) to show that any of the ‘crusades’ of the 20th century served significantly to reverse this decline. And this suggests that the problem of the declining church has more profound origins than in any paucity of evangelistic missions.

Yet the crusades did touch many people. I have personally spoken to a number of people who attended the Kelvin Hall Crusades in 1955, and most remember it fondly. But perhaps one of the biggest impacts is seen not in those who responded at the crusades, but in how churches and Christians have responded since. For example, Holmes writes, “After spending nearly eight years in ‘normal’ evangelism, I have come to question the real long-term value of short (crusade evangelism) campaigns.” Allan has written that “New Testament methods of evangelism which do not lead into a New Testament commitment to teach, guide and shepherd the new Christian will never result in very much.”

The Glasgow crusades seemed to have caused (or assisted) a degree of polarisation about the methods involved, but so much of the focus appears to be on Billy Graham and the crusades, and so little on the churches that were also involved. Perhaps the greatest impact Billy Graham’s crusades have had is to make the church believe that evangelism is the responsibility of the para-church organisations who are ‘specialists’ in this field. I am sure that Graham himself, serving his Lord in the way that he believes is God-led, would be heartbroken if he thought that he had caused this belief.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

John Allan, ‘The Local Church and Evangelism’, The Harvester, Vol LIX No 1, January 1979, pages 16-20

Editor: Tom Allan, Crusade In Scotland, (London, Pickering & Inglis, 1955)

Baptist Union of Scotland, Heart, Mind and Mission, (Glasgow, Baptist Union of Scotland, 2001)

Christopher Catherwood, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, (Eastbourne, Kingsway, 1995)

Charles T Cook, London Hears Billy Graham, (Edinburgh, Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1954)

Peter Cotterell, ‘But What Is Evangelism?’, The Expository Times, Vol 102 No 9, June 1991, pages 259-262

Editor: Eddie Gibbs, Ten Growing Churches, (London, MARC, 1984)

Colin Holmes, ‘Evangelism Explosion’, The Harvester, Vol LVII No 5, May 1978, pages 148 and 149

John Matthews, ‘Facing Fragmenting Cultures’, The Baptist Minister’s Journal, April 2001, pages 6-8

Iain H Murray, D Martyn Lloyd-Jones – The Fight Of Faith, (Edinburgh, Banner Of Truth Trust, 1990)

Stuart Olyott, ‘What is Evangelism?’, The Banner of Truth, No 70-71, July-August 1969, pages 1-4

Ronald C Paul, Billy Graham – Prophet of Hope, (New York, Ballantyne Books, 1978)

John Pollock, Billy Graham, (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1966)

John Wimber, Power Evangelism, (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1985)

‘Square Pegs Round Holes’, Today, March 1984, pages 23-27

‘Taking Scotland To Fever Pitch’, The Glasgow Herald, Vol 220 No 36, page 27