This biography of Billy Graham by John Pollock was published in 1966 so it is in no way a complete view of the man whose work is still being carried on today by his son, Franklin, and other godly team members, but it does give the background of Billy’s developmental years and what is arguably the most dramatic and influential period of his evangelistic efforts to bring masses of people to know Christ as their personal Saviour. Along with his huge successes across the United States, Great Britain, within Canada, Europe, and South America, came skepticism of the authenticity of the conversions and that is perhaps one of the reasons Mr. Graham authorized this biography as it documents how scrupulous the Billy Graham Crusades were about numbers of conversions, follow-ups, and their finances — everything strictly above board.
Pollock delves into the background of Billy’s grandparents, leaving the reader wondering how Billy ever grew up to be a man of God. However, Billy was of Scottish descent and grew up near Charlotte, North Carolina on a three hundred acre dairy farm in a large family with loving, moral parents. His father had a reputation for straight dealing and integrity in business and Billy inherited his curiosity and honesty. His teenager years were undisciplined and happy-go-lucky until a fiery Southern evangelist named Mordecai Fowler Ham came through in September, 1934 with his large ‘tabernacle’ for an eleven-week campaign that shook “church-going” Charlotte out of its complacency. For Billy, it was an overwhelming conviction that leading a moral life was not enough; it gave him “a great sense of burden that I was a sinner before God and had a great fear of hell and judgment”. It was the beginning of a new direction for the life of Billy Graham.
Pollock traces Billy’s formal education and the agony he experienced overcoming shyness about preaching and of how Billy came to believe fervently that God could use him to draw people to belief and commitment. From humble beginnings, Billy Graham became a household name, his ministry expanding to radio programs, daily devotional publications, monthly publications, Youth for Christ campus outreaches, in addition to the Crusades. He promoted integration in the South by refusing to segregate the seating of whites and blacks in his campaigns there. He put together a team of godly men and women who prayerfully sought God’s guidance in every aspect of every arm of the ministry and his own energy seemed boundless. Seldom was he ever sick and his sincerity won over many well-known sceptics. Even when funds were short and weather conspired, campaigns exceeded their wildest expectations and they gave all the glory to God.
Growing up in the late 50s, early 60s, I well remember watching the campaigns on our small black and white television in the living room and rather taking it for granted. After reading this biography, it has left me amazed at the way faith moves people and events and has caused me to go and watch some of the campaigns anew on YouTube and to hear this remarkable preacher who said during the closing days of his British campaign in 1954:
‘I am sure . . . that all of you that have been to Harringay have become aware that the atmosphere has been charged with the power of Holy Spirit . . . I felt like a spectator standing on the side watching God at work, and I wanted to get out of it as much as I could and let Him take over.’
This book will leave you amazed at the power of God in a way we don’t often see today. It left me feeling like a Billy Graham is what is needed today to overcome the hatred and distrust between religions and cultures. It left me wanting to know more, do more, and be more. This book is not widely available but there are a few copies on Amazon and you may find some in your local used book store. * * * * *
To read the first paragraph from this book and a teaser, go to this link.