Billy Graham Leaves a Remarkable Evangelistic Legacy

He is reported to have preached to 215 million people in person in his lifetime.

Group Photo

Billy Graham pioneered methods, mobilized Christians, and endorsed leaders. The end result was a more unified evangelicalism, a clear focus on evangelism and missions, and a greater sense of societal concern.

by Marty Duren

Those who know Billy Graham only from his latter-years may be unaware of what brought the tall, thin North Carolinian to national, then global, prominence: his preaching. Videos of a younger Graham shows a man laser focused on truth; passionate, determined, convincing. The Word of God, carried by a Blue Ridge Mountain accent, reverberated in tents and stadiums around the world for more than a half-century. People in 185 countries filled venues night-after-night to hear God’s Word preached.

“Everywhere I go I find that people … are asking one basic question, “Billy Graham said. “‘Is there any hope for the future?’ My answer is the same, ‘Yes, through Jesus Christ.’”

Billy Graham is reported to have preached to 215 million people in person in his lifetime. It is a feat unlikely to be surpassed.

Billy Graham reminded us that gospel proclamation mattered — in the crusade, sure, but everywhere. He prioritized evangelism and called us all to do the same.

Ed Stetzer

But, it is not Graham’s messages alone that are remembered; so are his methods.

“It’s hard — no, impossible — to overstate the influence of Billy Graham in global evangelism,” said Ed Stetzer, director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College. “He pioneered methods, mobilized Christians, and endorsed leaders. The end result was a more unified evangelicalism, a clear focus on evangelism and missions, and a greater sense of societal concern.”

During his ministry, Graham preached in Korea during wartime (under military supervision), under threat in Japan, to 2 million people during the 12-week London crusade (1954), behind the Iron Curtain, and risked his life during an Africa/Middle East preaching tour to 100 cities and villages in 1960. His largest single audience was during a 1973 crusade in Seoul, South Korea, when more than 1 million people gathered to hear him preach. Graham’s longest series of meetings occurred in 1957, when the New York crusade ran nightly for 16 weeks.

Before the fall of the Soviet Union, in May 1982, Graham preached in Moscow. Around a quarter of the 155,000 in attendance responded to the invitation.

“A man like Dr. Graham only shows up about once every hundred years,” noted Brad Waggoner, executive vice-president of LifeWay Christian Resources. “Those of us who were fortunate enough to hear and be around him are blessed indeed.”

“Billy Graham reminded us that gospel proclamation mattered — in the crusade, sure, but everywhere,” said Stetzer. “He prioritized evangelism and called us all to do the same.”