Graham's crusades spread the gospel worldwide

Billy Graham's crusades were not just an American event. He believed God chose him to spread the gospel worldwide. He became a pastor to the world by preaching at almost 400 crusades, to millions of people in stadiums and through television broadcasts.(Image Credit: BGEA)

Billy Graham's crusades were not just an American event. He believed God chose him to spread the gospel worldwide. He became a pastor to the world by preaching at almost 400 crusades, to millions of people in stadiums and through television broadcasts.

Graham followed what he and other preachers call "The Great Commission" from Jesus Christ to go spread the gospel. He went farther than any other evangelist in the sheer numbers of people who heard him speak. The Graham organization estimates he spoke to 215 million people in 185 countries and territories.

Graham began his international ministry with the 1954 London Crusade, just four months after a crusade in Asheville. The 12-week mission drew 2 million people and turned the evangelist into a global preacher.

"I'm absolutely convinced that this could be the beginning of a great worldwide move of the spirit of God," Graham said.

The spirit moved Graham to hold crusades in nearly every nation that would let him in.

"The Bible teaches that all of us are sinners against God," Graham said through a translator during the Africa Crusade.

The evangelist launched crusades in eight African nations and spent three months preaching to a third of a million people.

Graham recorded travelogues and film of his meetings for American TV and theaters and sent dispatches for newspapers and radio. He viewed the media as an extension of his crusades and his mission ordained by God.

"I am an ambassador of the king of kings and the lord of lords. I come in that spirit and as his representative," Graham said, receiving a round of applause in Seoul, South Korea. "My wife and I are overwhelmed at this tremendous reception at the airport."

In the 1973 Seoul, South Korea Crusade, Graham addressed the largest crowd of people in history, more than a million crowded onto Yoido Plaza.

Ggraham spoke with authority about the people of the world because he had prayed and worshiped with them and witnessed changes decade after decade. But he never forgot his Carolina roots.

Despite his global fame, Graham forged strong friendships with pastors who served as interpreters around the world.

"I'm here to tell you to be faithful and true to the Gospel, no matter where you are," he said through a Chinese interpreter while in Hong Kong.

Graham's ministry often used the latest technology to spread the Gospel. For example, the 1990 Hong Kong Crusade became a landmark event when a mass satellite broadcast reached an estimated 100 million people. But regardless of the scale of the ministry, Graham said his focus was the Bible's response to everyone's needs, a response that became the focus of a universal ministry.

"There's one thing I keep in mind -- that the human heart is the same all over the world, has the same loneliness, the same emptiness, the same sense of guilt, and the Gospel is the same. It never changes," Graham said in Hong Kong.

In 1992, Graham faced one of the greatest challenges of his ministry -- to hold his revivals in Russia. His team had proposed crusades there since the 1950s, but the communist stranglehold on religion forbid them.

During the thaw of the Cold War's Soviet and U.S. relations in the late 1980s, the Russian Orthodox Church welcomed Graham, but he was not allowed to hold his meetings.

"There are many people who have said 'this is not the time to hold a mission in Moscow," Graham said through an interpreter.

But following the Soviet government's collapse, he fulfilled his goal, holding three days of meetings in Moscow's Olympic Stadium, where he broke attendance records night after night, defying speculation that few Russians would attend.

"They may claim to be atheists, but you talk to them a little while, you will find they are not totally what we think of as atheists," Graham said in Moscow in 1992. "They believe there is something beyond us out there."

Graham filled stadiums around the world with a simple message encouraging people to develop a relationship with God. He reminded them that message is greater than one brought by any preacher.

"I have one tremendous fear tonight. And the fear is this, that you may be looking for a man or a team from America to bring revival. No man may bring revival," Graham said.

In that first international sermon in London, Graham stated his belief in the power of humility and servitude to his redeemer.

"There is only one person that can bring revival, and that is the holy spirit. And we're here to honor and glorify only one person, and that is the man in the glory, Jesus Christ."

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