The Modern Revival
In the twentieth century the American church is facing secularism like never before. Darwinism has taken hold of the sciences and God has been asked to leave the public sphere in many arenas. During this time, though, there are two great Revivalists that lead many people to Christ.
The first is Billy Sunday. His career started as a professional baseball player but he found his true calling to be to the pulpit. In the late 1900’s, he came to know Jesus as his Savior at the Pacific Garden Mission. His conversion changed his life and he began to speak out about his faith right away. He joined the YMCA and had a vibrant ministry with them in Chicago.
When he began to hold meetings in his right, he used his status as a baseball player to draw folks in and then gave them the gospel message. The meetings were held in tents or temporary wooden structures like in the days of the Second Great Awakening. He was an enthusiastic preacher and used the language and slang of the everyday man to preach straight to the heart of the listeners. While he wasn’t educated as a preacher, his preaching reached many because of its sincere message.
Sunday’s message was much the same as many revival preachers – Repent of your sins and follow Jesus to God’s glory and your joy or be eternally separated from God in Hell. People responded to this message in the thousands, and tens of thousands. He would follow up with people who gave their lives to Christ by referring them to the churches in the area. The revivals during his career grew and grew and some believe that his influence on subjects such as Prohibition helped pass the 18th amendment. His influence was felt until his death in 1935.
Billy Graham was became a believer in Jesus in his teens. He went to college to become a preacher and found himself a pastor even before he graduated. In the early 1940’s he became involved in a radio ministry as well. He went on to lead in many ministries when in 1949 he led a series of revival meetings in Los Angeles which got national attention. That was the beginning of what Graham called his Crusades. These Crusades happened all over the nation and then all over the world as people responded to his message. Using the modern media tools of radio and television, Graham spoke to millions of people. Like Billy Sunday, the follow up was done by churches in the area.
Billy Graham also had a big influence on almost every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. He was a spiritual advisor to many of them, not only sharing the gospel, but influencing in arenas like the civil rights movement and the Iron Curtain. He even preached and ministered to Queen Elisabeth II. This kind of influence gave Billy Graham a kind of reach that no one else had ever had before or maybe even since him.
The revivals of this period of the twentieth century were greatly affected by the ministries of these two men. Their simple messages were based on scripture and grounded at the cross of Christ. Between the two of them, millions heard the call to follow Jesus and responded.