GUEST POST – Billy Graham, the first sincere preacher many had heard

“A strangely fascinating power is exerted by those who are utterly sincere.  Such believers attract unbelievers, as with the case of David Hume, the eighteenth-century British deistic philosopher who rejected historic Christianity.  A friend once met him hurrying along a London street and asked him where he was going.  Hume replied that he was going to hear George Whitefield preach.  ‘But surely,’ his friend asked in astonishment, ‘you don’t believe what Whitefield preaches, do you?’  ‘No, I don’t,’ answered Hume, ‘but he does.’

I am convinced that in our day simple sincerity has not lost any of its power to appeal or to impress.  It was in 1954 that Billy Graham first hit the headlines in Britain, with his Greater London Crusade.  Approximately 12,000 people came to the Haringay Arena every night for three months.  Most nights I was there myself, and as I looked round that vast crowd, I could not help comparing it with our half-empty churches.  ‘Why do these people come to listen to Billy Graham,’ I asked myself, ‘when they don’t come to listen to us?’  Now I am sure that many answers could have been justly given to that question.  But the answer I kept giving myself was this: ‘There is an incontrovertible sincerity about that young American evangelist.  Even his fiercest critics all concede that he is sincere.  I really believe he is the first transparently sincere Christian preacher many of these people have ever heard.’  Today, twenty-five years later, I have found no reason to change my mind.”

John Stott, Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today (Grand Rapids, 1982), pages 269-270.

Thanks to Ray Ortlund for this guest post.

To read more on John Stott check out this recent post by Adrian: John Stott (27 April 1921 – 27 July 2011) Round up of memorial posts

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