In memory of his life and thanks to God for his ministry – we re-release the ACR’s report on the opening night of the Billy Graham Crusade in Sydney, written in April 1959.
In ideal weather conditions, Billy Graham’s Sydney Crusade opened at the Show Ground with record first day’s crowd of over 50000 Dr. Graham’s address was simple, direct, and Bible based, of about forty minutes’ duration, concluding with an invitation for decisions.
From mid-morning people assembled outside the Showground and when the gates opened a steady stream of men, women and children from a cross-section of the community took their place in the various grandstands and on the grass in front of the platform. Many of these people travelled by special buses organized by suburban and nearby churches. Others came on usual public transport and some in private cars.
Sydney Crusade executive chairman, the Rt. Revd. R. C. Kerle, B.A., opened the meeting by welcoming the large gathering and introducing the President of the Baptist Union, who offered the opening prayer. Song leader Cliff Barrows then invited the large congregation to join in singing the opening hymn, “The Lord is my Shepherd”.
The Revd. E. H. Vines, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of N.S.W., read the scriptures, after which the Revd. B. R. Wylie, former president of the Methodist Conference, lead in a prayer of supplication and thanksgiving. Crusade soloist, George Beverly Shea, world-renowned gospel singer, then sang the well-known “Holy City,” after which Bishop Kerle introduced the former Governor of N.S.W., Lieut. Sir John Northcott, who officially welcomed Dr. Graham to N.S.W. Sir John congratulated the Protestant churches of the community.
After meeting members of the team in Sydney churches, Sir John said that he was impressed with their sincerity and was sure that God would bless the Crusade they were planning.
In thanking those who had welcomed him, Dr. Graham explained that the team had come to Australia at the invitation of the various churches which were participating in the Crusade not as free-lance evangelists. He then explained the five main objects of such an evangelistic campaign.
- Get Sydney and N.S.W. talking about religion.
- Revitalise the churches and “Christianise the Christians.”
- To awake a new sense of social consciousness and responsibility of Christians to love their neighbours as themselves.
- To bring men to a vital knowledge of Jesus Christ as the answer to their every problem.
- To bring hope in age of despair and to show that there is a meaning to life and history.
Bev. Shea then sang the Crusade favourite, “How Great Thou Art,” with the Sydney Crusade executive treasurer, the Hon. Roger Thompson, the choir then sang “The Lord’s Prayer.”
Dr. Graham began his address by saying that he was going to preach as if it was the last sermon he’d preach.
He took as his text the familiar word of John 3:16 and preached under four headings. He spoke first of all of the mounting confusion. This is an age of confusion, anxiety and almost despair: and world despairs bring individual tension. Winston Churchill had said “Our problems are beyond us!”
He then turned to consider the frantic quest. Problems are increasing. In a world of turmoil, where is God? Why does a God of love allow starvation in India, war and bloodshed in Tibet, racial prejudice, hatred, cheating and killing?
Dr. Graham said the first step to a solution was his third point—a proper diagnosis. We have the same disease of our forefather: human nature is wrong side up.
The problem of the world is the problem of the human heart. The Bible says that there is something wrong. Dr. Graham said he was not going to turn to the philosophers, or psychiatrists, or diplomats, or intellectuals for the answer but to God’s ancient Book. The Bible says that you and I have a disease, and calls it by the ugly word sin. It says that all have sinned.
He then spoke of God creating man in His own image, with an eternal soul and the power of choice, wanting us to return His love. But all we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way, and our rebellion against God has resulted in death and there is nothing we can do.
His fourth point stressed the needed encounter. What men could not do, God has done. God so loved the world that Jesus Christ became man and died upon the Cross for a purpose— to pay the penalty for our sin.
There were three things we must do if we wanted eternal life. We must be willing to repent and renounce sin, willing to receive Jesus Christ by faith and willing to obey Him in Bible study, prayer, witness and fellowship.
Dr. Graham then extended the invitation and soon the Showground had rivers of moving people as hundreds poured out of the stands and across the ground to occupy the area in front of the platform. To these he gave the verse of scripture Rev. 3:20, and stressed the importance of their growing in the Lord. He led them in a prayer of committal and asked each of them to seek a counseller for assistance. Three thousand and twenty-six recorded a decision for Christ.
Truly, as Dr. Graham said, it was a day never to be forgotten, a day such as Sydney had never seen before.
From the Vault of the Australian Church Record. Originally published April 16 1959, under the title “Crusade Opening Sets New Records: Billy Graham Preaches in Sydney”.
 The number of attendees is obscured in the original. Figure of 50 000 obtained from The Journal of the Baptist Historical Society of New South Wales. http://www.baptisthistory.org.au/journals/tbr/tbr107_aug2009
Top image of the 1959 Billy Graham Crusade at the Sydney Showground reproduced from billygraham.org