On March 1, 1954, Billy Graham began his Greater London Crusade at Harringay Arena, continuing until May. A year later the All-Scotland Crusade took place in Glasgow, followed by a further week in London at Wembley Stadium. Four years gives sufficient perspective for an interim judgment. This article mainly concerns England, but Great Britain is so closely integrated that some of the comment may be read also for Scotland.

Without doubt there are many thousands of vigorous Christians today who four years ago were not so. An indication of their number is provided by the startling rise in British membership of the Scripture Union system of daily Bible reading, which was openly advocated by the crusade as an important feature of the follow-up. In the two years of 1954 and 1955, membership leaped by no less than 120,000—the figures being approximately 60,000 each year. Undoubtedly among the thousands who recorded decisions during the Crusades were many who knew not what they did; that was to be expected. Others, being linked to unsympathetic churches, lapsed through spiritual starvation. But the evidence is conclusive that a substantial proportion of those who came forward have grown into maturing Christians; where they were grafted to faithful praying churches the number is high indeed.

The population of Great Britain is 50 million. In the light of that, any figures must lead to sober reflection rather than shallow rejoicing. On the other hand, many of the Billy Graham converts have since brought others to Christ. The effect is cumulative. And since 1954 an impressive array of young men and women of all social levels, and older ones too, have dedicated themselves to full time service of the Gospel; 22 out of the 32 men ordained in the diocese of London in September 1957 were evangelicals, and comparable encouragement could be drawn from other denominations and from lay service.

Fellowship Of Believers

The Crusades made an appreciable contribution to the cause of church unity in England. Ministers and laymen of varied loyalties worked together in the central and local arrangements for the main services and the relays. They came to know one another and proved that whatever brave resolutions may be made by great conferences of church leaders, unity is best brought forward by fellowship in evangelism and prayer, and in mutual devotion to a common cause not artificially created, but of the Holy Spirit. In their parishes and pastorates individual ministers have received a new awareness of their aim and how to fulfill it. Too many ministers are caught in a whirl of unrewarding activity, working themselves to a high state of fatigue without reaping an appreciable harvest. Most of those who took part in the Crusades have cut through this indecisiveness; some have even discovered for the first time their true vocation.

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Learning To Serve

Before 1954 a movement was gaining ground among lay people in business: the formation or expansion of Christian Unions. This received powerful impetus. New Christian Unions sprang up, others received access of strength, featuring what perhaps was the most significant contribution of the Crusades—the emphasis on the part that laymen must play in the evangelization of Britain. As a result of counselling classes, and of the experience of counselling, countless men and women have come to clearer understanding of their faith, while ministers have recognized as never before that their true power, under God, must lie in evoking and guiding the active service of their people, whom hitherto they regarded too often as a passive audience. Wherever a church has become progressively fuller—and there are many such—it is because their congregations have learned to serve.

Christianity Gains Momentum

The Crusades made religion a talking point. The student who remarked “It is as easy to talk about Billy Graham as the Cup Final,” was voicing an experience felt all over the country. Graham was news, and the subject of innumerable conversations which Christians could turn to profit. Religion is still news, though to a lesser extent.

A new vigor swept through the ranks of Christians. They are still a minority, but no longer on the defensive. It was a heartening experience to find the drudgery of maintaining a foothold transformed into the thrill of startling advance. The initiative has passed to the evangelicals. Twenty years ago their day seemed done; they were regarded as curious relics of an age long gone. Now they are on the move.

And, as never since the late nineteenth century, the Bible is again widely accepted as the Word of God. Modernism left a legacy; 20 years ago it took the form of a turmoil of active unbelief; today it is the apathy of ignorance. Theologians had begun the movement back to the Bible, but to the man in the street their voice was hesitant and uncertain. The Crusades returned the Bible to its proper place as the authoritative Word of God. Men are again prepared to accept and prove it as such, and to live by it, without agitating themselves on the exact chemistry of its structure.

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For all this, there has not yet been national revival. In modern times a sensational opening of religious floodgates may not be likely; revival comes by the quiet but unmistakable advance, church by church, family by family, the impetus gaining momentum year by year. On a national scale, this has not happened.

Evangelicals are still a small minority, though the balance is steadily swinging in their favor. The full force of the Crusades and all that followed may not be seen for some years, when the increasing number of young people now entering Christian service have had time to make their mark. Yet revival might be with us now.

Abuse Of Evangelicals

One of the chief delaying factors has been the attitude of certain leaders of the Church of England, men of great prestige. In 1954 the Archbishop of Canterbury warmly commended Mr. Graham. Eighteen months later, however, Dr. Ramsey, then Bishop of Durham and now Archbishop of York, and Dr. Barry, Bishop of Southwell, took a strong stand against what they were pleased to call “fundamentalism.” This word, in England always a term of abuse, has been used freely against evangelicals, and at the time of Mr. Graham’s Mission in Cambridge University was the subject of a prominent correspondence in The Times. The denigrators had the haziest notion of the true position of conservative evangelicals, round whose necks were hung beliefs and attitudes which evangelicals repudiate.

The damage was done. In England, the established Church has an influence which scarcely can be conceived by those who live in a country where all the major denominations possess equality. For a lasting revival the Church of England must take the lead. And the “fundamentalists” bogey has frightened it. Many clergy and leading laymen who were beginning to see the Crusades and their consequences as God’s answer to the modern need have been deflected by the weight of contrary pronouncement.

The result is a continued hesitancy. On the one hand is a nation hungering for spiritual food, yet scornful of a religion which spends so much energy in argument and disagreement. On the other hand, an overworked clergy, a crippling shortage of workers, and too few recruits. The Church of England officially stated recently that “at least 600 new ordinations a year are needed just to meet the wastage; but many more are really needed to grasp present opportunities.”

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Seek Graham’S Return

Can revival still come? A return visit of Billy Graham is essential. In the providence of God, Graham has the nation’s ear and, above all, can get Christians working together and give them a rallying point to which to bring those as yet outside. No one can now believe that a crusade draws away from the churches. It is, in the best sense, the most church-centered mass-evangelism in history.

The strategic point would probably be the Manchester-Liverpool area, heavily populated, easily accessible from other great cities of the Midlands, and approximately half way between London and Glasgow and thus at the Pole of Inaccessibility, so to speak, of the other two Crusades.

If Graham came back in 1960, he would undoubtedly be used by the Holy Spirit to bring the British nation a further increase of spiritual vigor. And if the archbishops and other leaders of the churches, whatever their personal outlook, would give him the right hand of fellowship and put their weight behind him in no ungrudging or carping manner, there would surely be, in God’s goodness, a mighty surge of faith.

The Rev. J. C. Pollock is Editor of The Churchman, quarterly journal of Anglican theology. He holds the M.A. degree from Trinity College, Cambridge, and is author of several books including The Cambridge Seven and The Road to Glory.

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