William Franklin Graham Evangelises the Nations

William Franklin Graham was born on November 7 in 1918, in North Carolina.

Born four days before the end of World War I, Billy was reared on a dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina. During his childhood he helped on the family farm and spent many hours reading a wide variety of books in the hayloft.

In the fall of 1934 Graham yielded to the claims of Christ through a series of revival meetings under Mordecai Ham, a traveling evangelist. In March, 1938, “on the eighteenth green of a golf course”, he promised the Lord he would devote himself to preaching the gospel.

The next year he was ordained by a church in the Southern Baptist Convention. His theological training came from Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College in Florida) and Wheaton College in Illinois. He married fellow student and daughter of a missionary, Ruth McCue Bell, who had grown up on the mission-field of China.

Graham pastored the First Baptist Church in Western Springs, Illinois, then became an evangelist for Youth for Christ, which was founded to reach youth and servicemen during the second world war. In this capacity he preached across the US and also in Europe in the post war years, coming to attention as a young evangelist.

He became a nationally known figure with his 1949 Los Angeles CrU.S.A.de. That Crusade was initially scheduled for three weeks but ran for over eight, in a huge tent erected in downtown LA.

In 1950 The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was born, and since that time he has “preached the gospel to more people than any evangelist in the history of the church, reaching nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through radio, television, video, film, and webcasts throughout the world.

Many of his crusades were extended, including London which lasted 12 weeks, and a New York City crusade in Madison Square Garden in 1957 which ran nightly for 16 weeks.

It is estimated that two million individuals have responded to the invitation given at the close of his sermons.

Whilst he has his critics, some saying he is too ecumenical and others that he is too Arminian, many have found the Saviour as a result of his clear-cut gospel presentation.

Billy Graham’s ministry has been augmented by his weekly “Hour of Decision” radio program which has run for more than 50 years, “Decision” Magazine with more than half a million subscribers, and World Wide Pictures which has become one of the foremost producers of evangelistic films in the world.

Many of the 25 books written by Graham have been best-sellers. He has been sought out by presidents and leaders and given many honours. Since 1948 he is the most frequently included person in the Gallop organisation’s Ten Most Admired Men in the World.

CF personal note: My parents found Christ when Billy Graham preached in Sydney in the late 1950’s. I remember attending a tiny wooden Methodist church in West Wyalong where we heard Graham by landline from the Sydney Cricket Ground. I also remember asking a man, “Where are my mummy and daddy?” He replied, “They’ve gone to the front to talk to someone about Jesus.” My parents were transformed, their marriage saved and they went on to plant churches.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Henrietta Cornella Mears Tells it Like it Is

This is the day that Henrietta Cornella Mears was born in Fargo, North Dakota, USA, in 1890. “Praise God,” said her father, “it’s a girl! I couldn’t face rearing another son.”

Her biographers, E. Baldwin and D. Benson, in Henrietta Mears, and How She Did It, tell the remarkable story of this lass – “ready to become a Christian and join the church” at the age of five! (page 33), of miraculous healing when she accidentally jabbed a hat pin into the pupil of her eye (page 35), of her incredible personal work – leading thousands of men and women to the Saviour (page 39).

Her education at the University of Minnesota was threatened when the doctor warned her of blindness “unless you discontinue reading and studying”. But she persevered – reading by daylight – and graduated with excellent grades.

As a Sunday-School teacher in W.B. Riley’s First Baptist Church, Minneapolis, she saw her class grow “from 5 to 500” (Dictionary of Christianity in America, page 722).

In 1928 Pastor Stewart MacLennan invited her to take over as director of Christian Education at First Presbyterian Church, Hollywood, with its 6000 members. The entire Sunday-School grew from 450 to 4000 in less than three years! It was also the launching pad for graded Sunday School lessons and Forest Home Christian Conference Center, which she founded as a retreat centre for all believers.

Her book, What the Bible Teaches, is an excellent survey of Holy Scripture. “God’s Word must be our only infallible guide,” she wrote. “To reject His Word is to be rejected” (page 55).

In 1933 she co-founded Gospel Light Publications, a source of reliable Christian literature. She was prompted to this step by the reluctance of the Presbyterian church to make her materials available to the wider church. In typical forthright manner she took the matter in hand and created a solution, even though some did not like it.

On the evening of 19 March, 1963, Miss Mears retired to her room and not only fell asleep … but fell “asleep in Jesus” (she was 73 years of age) … “and 2000 people – hundreds of whom she had personally led to Christ – filed silently into the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood to honour her memory” (Women to Remember, by N. Olson, page 121).

Writes Billy Graham concerning this remarkable lady: “She had a remarkable influence on my life. In fact, I doubt if any other woman outside of my wife and mother has had such a marked influence … She is certainly one of the greatest Christians I have ever known!”

Henrietta was a woman of intense conviction and she instilled, or should we say ‘injected’ that conviction into her students. Some of those she taught said, “She ruined my life!” because of her insistence on total commitment to Biblical truth.

Henrietta taught that you are never to be a pushover when serving God, but rather be strong, unafraid and unyielding when doing things according to his will.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Louis Thompson Talbot Leaves Booze for the Pulpit

This is the day that Louis Thompson Talbot was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1889.

His father, an assistant manager for Tooth’s Brewery, had married Bessie on the very day she had arrived from England. In the early 1900s Louis’ older brother, Jim, was converted at a gospel meeting in Redfern, New South Wales. The preacher was Loyal L. Wirt, who had served as a missionary in Alaska, and was the father of Sherwood E. Wirt, who later became editor of Billy Graham’s Decision magazine.

Jim felt the call to Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, and the clash with his liquor-selling father was awful.

With the help of his mother’s prayers, Louis, now in his manhood and still unsaved, became restless, dissatisfied, disillusioned with the liquor business. He dreamed of America and a new life. His brother Jim was to be a preacher: “Why couldn’t there be two preachers in the family?” So “Louie” followed his brother Jim to Moody Bible Institute, ready for a fresh adventure.

Louis had some form of a conversion experience when Wilbur Chapman preached in Sydney Town Hall in 1909. The following year he travelled to the USA. He was far along in his studies at Moody when, under the preaching of John Harper of London, he was genuinely converted.

In the years that followed, Louis Talbot became a well-known name in the evangelical world. He went from pastorate to pastorate in the United States and Canada until he received a call to the great Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles, the very church the mighty R.A. Torrey had founded. Dr. Talbot was also president of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA). He had met and married Audrey Hogue while pastoring a Congregational church in Paris, Texas.

The story of Dr. Louis Talbot’s activities in Los Angeles is impressive. He came to a church of 1,200 discouraged members and left it with 3,500 and the future bright. He came to a debt of over a million dollars and left the church free from debt and with thousands of dollars raised on new promotional enterprises. He extended the missionary program to where literally hundreds of American missionaries and native workers circle the globe, supported by this great church. There were 300 students in the Bible Institute when he arrived but there were more than a thousand when he finished. His ministry over the air was phenomenal.

Billy Graham wrote in the Foreword to Talbot’s biography, “Dr Louis Talbot was one of the spiritual giants of this generation. As pastor, Bible teacher, author and educator he influenced not only me but thousands of theological students and pastors. His faithfulness to the infallibility of the Scriptures and the gospel has been an inspiration to me for many years” (For This I Was Born, by C. Talbot).

A Talbot quote which sums up his evangelical conviction says, “Whether or not one believes in its reality, the resurrection of Christ is of vital consequence to every person on earth. It is the “touchstone of destiny” for all mankind.”

After many years as president of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, Louis Talbot died on 22 January, 1976.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Stuart Hamblen Writes Songs for the World

This is the day that Stuart Hamblen was converted at 4 o’clock in the morning. It was 1949.

Under conviction of sin, 40 year-old Hamblen, the son of a Texas minister, telephoned Billy Graham, waking him up: “Pray for me,” he begged the evangelist.

Billy Graham was preaching in his “Christ for Greater Los Angeles” crusade, which had been scheduled to last for three weeks. It was about to close, and Hamblen’s wife, Suzy, had talked him into attending.

But the conversion of Hamblen and two other well-known identities in the Los Angeles area led to an extension of the crusade for another five weeks (Billy Graham, by John Pollock, page 80). Three thousand chairs were added to accommodate the crowds; 6000 people had already been attending the “canvas cathedral” each night.

Hamblen was born October 20th, 1908, in Kellyville, Texas, the son of a travelling Methodist preacher. Hamblen’s radio and movie career began in 1926 on radio KAYO in Abilene, Texas, where he became radio broadcasting’s first singing cowboy. In 1929, he won a talent contest in Dallas, Texas and with the $100 cash prize in hand headed for Camden, New Jersey, to the Victor Talking Machine Company to seek his fortune. Recording four songs for the forerunner of RCA Victor, Stuart then set out for Hollywood, California, where he auditioned at KFI and went on the air as “Cowboy Joe”. He also became a member of the original “Beverly Hillbillies”, radio’s first spectacularly popular western singing group.

In 1931, and for 21 years thereafter, Stuart stayed on top of the popularity charts on the West Coast with his radio programs. During that time, his motion picture credits included: “In Old Monterey” with Gene Autry; “The Arizona Kid” and “King of the Cowboys” with Roy Rogers; “The Plainsman and the Lady” and “The Savage Hord” with Wild Bill Elliott; “Carson City Cyclone” and “The Sombrero Kid” with Don ‘Red’ Barry; “King of the Forest Rangers” with Larry Thompson; and “Flame of the Barbary Coast” with John Wayne.

Stuart Hamblen achieved fame as a rodeo champion, a country/western singer and songwriter, a dance-band leader, a gambler, and a heavy drinker. His 1934 Decca recording, ‘Out on the Texas Plains’, was one of the year’s top selling discs.

But when he was converted, he told his radio audience: “I’ve quit smoking and drinking”. And he was going to sell all his racehorses, except one, “which would never race again”.

Shortly afterwards “he bumped into his friend, movie star John Wayne. ‘What’s this I hear about you, Stuart?’ Wayne asked. ‘Well, John,’ came the answer, ‘I guess it’s no secret what God can do!’ ‘Sounds like a song’, the tall movie star replied, and that remark started the musical notes ringing in Stuart’s mind …” (New Life in Country Music, page 64). As a result Stuart Hamblen wrote …
It is no secret what God can do;
What He’s done for others He can do for you…

Recorded by George Beverly Shea in 1951, this song soon became a firm favourite for thousands of Christians and has been translated into over 50 languages around the world. It was the first song to ‘cross-over’, becoming #1 in Gospel/Country/and Pop categories and starting the trend for ballad style gospel songs

He also penned ‘This Ole House’ which was awarded 1954 Song of the Year, and was number one song hit in seven countries at the same time. His 230 song titles also include ‘Open up your Heart and let the Sun (Son) Shine in’, ‘This Book’ and ‘Known only to Him’.

By 1952 he was a candidate for the office of President of the United States – on a Prohibition ticket! He came in fourth in an election won by Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Married to his wife, Suzy, for over 55 years, Stuart lived with her on their horse ranch in Canyon Country (Los Angeles), California, where he produced his weekly nationally syndicated “Cowboy Church of the Air” program. They also bred Peruvian Paso Horses. Stuart Hamblen died on March 8, 1989.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Vance Houston Havner 75 Years a Preacher

This is the day that …Vance Houston Havner died, in 1986.

He was born in a small community nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina (USA), October 17, 1901.

He made his “peace with God” in the woods after hearing his father preach an old-fashioned gospel message. Vance was 10 years-old at the time.

By the age of 12 he was licensed to preach by a local Baptist church – and ordained at the age of 15. Newspaper records of the “boy preacher” speaking to a 1,800 strong congregation – when he was only 12 – are incredible to read.

He found himself drifting into the ‘new’ popular liberal theology. “It did not become malignant in my case,” he later wrote, “but I did have enough of the virus in my system to preach popular sermons that converted nobody.” Then he read Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism and returned to the evangelical faith.

He married Sara Allred in 1940 – and preached on the day she died 33 years later (Just a Preacher, page 19).

His biography, Journey from Jugtown, by D. White, and his own autobiography, Three Score and Ten, tell the whole remarkable story.

After a series of Baptist pastorates, Vance Havner devoted himself to an itinerant ministry across America. He was also a regular speaker at Moody Bible Institute Founder’s Week.

His solid prophet-like preaching was combined with a homespun folksy style that earned him the nickname “The Will Rogers of the Pulpit”.

He wrote 38 books – and every one a gem!

Of this unique man of God Billy Graham writes: “I do not know of any man in my generation who has stirred revival fires in the hearts of so many people throughout the nation as Vance Havner. Great crowds of people have packed churches and auditoriums to hear him preach. Whenever I see a book by Vance Havner I immediately purchase it …”

Dr. Havner once said, “I’ve never known a time when I didn’t want to preach. The desire was always there.” In 1973, he was named “Preacher of the Year,” by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Protestant leaders called him, “The Dean of America’s Revival Preachers.” During a hospital stay in the late 1970’s, Vance was told by Billy Graham, “You can’t go home just yet. We preachers need more sermon material!”

On 12 August, 1986, this pulpit giant went home to be with the Lord for whom he had preached for 75 years.

Some Vance Havner quotes :

“We are the salt of the earth, mind you, not the sugar. Our ministry is to truly cleanse and not just to change the taste.”

“Too many churches start at eleven o’clock sharp, and end at twelve o’clock dull.”

“Plenty of church members are shaky about what they believe, while not many are shaken by what they believe.”

“Some preachers ought to put more fire into their sermons, or more sermons into the fire.”

“The church is a hospital for sinners and not a museum for saints.”

“The preacher is to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”

Christian should attend to, “the outliving of the inliving Christ.”

“To some, Christianity is an argument. To many, it is a performance. To a few, it is an experience.”

“George Palmer said before he died: ‘I’m homesick for Heaven.’ It’s the hope of dying that has kept me alive this long.”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.