Image © Depositphotos.com/ londondepositThe year is 1934. The place is Charlotte, NC. Sixteen-year-old Billy Graham was listening to Mordecai Ham preach and the world was about to change through the decision of one young man to follow Christ as his Lord and Savior. Have you ever wished you could travel to another time in history on something like the Magic School Bus to meet the people who lived back then? We can pretend. Let’s get on our imaginary school bus and travel back in time to visit people who really lived years ago. Buckle your seat belts! We’re on our way to 1934.
Who was Billy Graham?Billy Graham became a famous preacher who is most well-known for his crusades. At crusades, large gatherings of people, all over the world, Billy Graham fearlessly preached the gospel. Many of his crusades were televised and his ministry grew to include radio, television, books, and other written material. It is estimated that Billy Graham has preached to more individual people than any other person in history, not counting those impacted by his radio, TV, and written material. His live crusade audiences number 215 million people total in over 185 countries. Can you believe that God used a simple farm boy to do so much? It all started when Billy Graham heard a traveling evangelist preach the Gospel at a revival meeting in 1934. Billy was just 16, but he turned his life over to Jesus that day. The rest came from Billy Graham doing his best to do what God wanted him to do.
What is a revival? What is a crusade?
The 1949 Greater Los Angeles Revival, held in a tent nicknamed "The Canvas Cathedral," moved Billy Graham into the national spotlight. Image from billygraham.org.Revivals were also sometimes called “tent meetings.” Can you guess where they met? Traveling preachers would set up large tents and people would come hear them preach. These revivals usually lasted several days as more and more people came. My grandfather’s sister was saved at a tent revival in Kentucky, much like Billy Graham. She gave my grandfather, a very young man at the time, his first Bible. She told him it would teach him how to be a man. If I remember right, he joined her another day at the revival and there came to trust Jesus as his Lord and Savior. When he grew up, my grandfather became a traveling preacher, Bible salesman, and church planter in northern Oklahoma. Billy Graham grew up to preach too. He started in tent revivals. When the crowds got too big to fit in the tents, he moved to sports stadiums (like the Texas Stadium in Dallas). The stands were usually so full that the set up seating on the grass of the field for people. Those events were called crusades.
Who was Mordecai Ham?Mordecai Ham was a traveling preacher who held revivals, preaching the Gospel and the Word of God. He wasn’t perfect and offended some people, but he was very passionate about Jesus Christ. Through his preaching, 300,000 – 1,000,000 people came to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. That’s not nearly as many as Billy Graham, but it’s still pretty impressive, isn’t it? Ham wrote that three things keep people from wanting to follow Jesus:
- A strong desire for more—more stuff, more money, you name it. (Mordecai Ham called this “love of gain.”)
- A strong desire to not give up things that are contrary to God’s teaching, sin. This could be a bad habit or something else.
- A fear of what other people might say.
God said, “Let light shine out of darkness.” (Genesis 1:3) He made his light shine in our hearts. His light gives us the light to know God’s glory. His glory is shown in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (NIRV)Do you see some of those things in people you know? Be sure to keep praying for them and telling them about Jesus. Remember, you don’t have to be perfect. Just tell people about Jesus.
What about you?What would have happened if Billy Graham had not chosen to follow Christ? What if Billy Graham gave up when he faced something hard or scary? What if Mordecai Ham had not faithfully told people about Jesus the day Billy Graham showed up to listen? Do you think Mordecai Ham knew how many people would be reached because of his preaching? Why or why not? Is God asking you to do something? Maybe He said something in His Word, the Bible, that you know you should do. Maybe you keep thinking about something and really want to do it. You’ve checked it with God’s Word and it seems to follow what God says is good. Are you doing it? Big things can be scary, but usually God starts by asking us to do little things. Start by giving God control of your life. Then ask Him to show you how to best live for Him. Be faithful and do what He asks you to do, even if it doesn’t seem important. You never know what might happen as a result.
God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us new people so that we would spend our lives doing the good things he had already planned for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 (ERV)What do you find encouraging about the lives of Billy Graham and Mordecai Ham? Has he given you any ideas of how to live for Christ? Be sure to ask an adult to help you tell us about it in the comments below.
Why Study Biblical Backgrounds and Church History?
Image © Depositphotos.com/ luislouroHistory doesn’t have to be a dry, dusty subject of boring people who lived a long time ago. These were people who had to live one day at a time, just like we do, and make the best decisions they could, just like us. Some of them wore funny clothes, but some of the clothes your parents wore when they were kids look funny now too. That’s what happens with time. “Biblical backgrounds” is a fancy way to say, “What was life like during Bible times?” It fits right in with church history. Church history is an extra special type of history because these people did their best to live for Jesus. It looks a people and events connected with the Christian church from Pentecost (Acts 2) to today. Are you trying to live for Jesus too? Is it always easy? It wasn’t for them. When we learn about the hard decisions they made and how God used them, it can encourage us to live for Jesus, no matter what.
A huge cloud of witnesses is all around us. So let us throw off everything that stands in our way. Let us throw off any sin that holds on to us so tightly. And let us keep on running the race marked out for us. Let us keep looking to Jesus. He is the one who started this journey of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIRV)
Sources used for this postAs always, be sure to have an adult read these websites before you do.
- “Billy Graham” by the Biography.com website. Read more: http://www.biography.com/people/billy-graham-9317669#synopsis
- King family oral history (my mother’s family). See also The Oklahoma Baptist Chronicle, Vol. 47, no. 1 (Oklahoma City, OK: Oklahoma Baptist Historical Society, Spring 2004), pages 25, 39-40.
- “Mordecai Ham, Outspoken Evangelist” by Dan Graves. Read more: http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/mordecai-ham-outspoken-evangelist-11630588.html
- “Revival History: The 10 Greatest Revivals” by Elmer L. Towns & Douglas Porter.