In this new feature on the blog, we’ll take a city where multiple Billy Graham Crusades were held, and we’ll tell you a little more about those events. We may as well start with Billy Graham’s hometown and the home of The Billy Graham Library – Charlotte, N.C. While Billy Graham held several meetings and events in Charlotte through the years, there were four official Crusades: 1947, 1958, 1972 and 1996.
More than 40,000 people attended the meetings in November of 1947, one of Billy Graham’s first “Crusades.” After opening night, in the Nov. 10, 1947 edition of The Charlotte News, staff writer Tom Fesperman reported:
“The crowd of Charlotteans who flocked to the First Baptist Church on N. Tryon St. last night was so large that all the people couldn’t get inside the building, but those who did manage to find seats had the opportunity of looking upon a slender, handsome young evangelist who started his career by preaching to fish.”
Billy Graham was 29 years old at the time.
More than a decade into his ministry by this time, the meetings in the fall of 1958 drew more than 400,000 people over the course of the Crusade. The meetings were held in the Coliseum on Independence Boulevard (present-day Bojangles Coliseum), with overflow crowds watching on closed circuit television in Ovens Auditorium next door.
On opening night, Billy preached an inspiring message entitled “Christ’s Answer to the World.” (You can see the full transcript of the sermon as printed in The Charlotte Observer here).
“I am not here night after night to put on a show. We are not here to put on an entertainment. We are here to tell you what the Bible has to say. What does the Bible have to say about your problems? What does the Bible have to say about the problems we’re facing in the world in which we live today?”
More than 70,000 attended these meetings in April of 1972, which took place 25 years and more than 150 Crusades after Billy Graham’s first one in Charlotte in 1947.
This is from the July 1972 issue of Decision magazine:
The 1972 effort was a five-day “mini-Crusade” that added splashes of contemporary color but proclaimed the same glad tidings of salvation. A distinctly “home folks” atmosphere pervaded the meeting. The evangelist’s wife and three of their children, his mother his brother and sisters, and numerous relatives were present night by night.
From beginning to end the coliseum was packed to capacity, and adjacent Ovens Auditorium was also filled by an overflow crowd that watched the service on a giant television screen. In addition, the Crusade was telecast live to ten stations throughout North and South Carolina. Several of the videotaped services were to be released later over nationwide television in the United States and Canada, as well as across Australia, Africa and Latin America.
The Carolinas Billy Graham Crusade, held in what is now Bank of America Stadium, drew more than 330,000 during the four days in September of 1996. More than 25,000 volunteers from 900 churches representing 54 denominations across both North and South Carolina helped to stage the event. At age 77, Billy Graham’s preaching was described by local crusade organizers as stronger than it had been in years. Media coverage of the meetings was extensive, with the Charlotte Observer alone generating more than 250 pages of coverage.
In a letter Billy Graham sent to area pastors in advance of the Crusade, he said:
“The area has changed so much from when I grew up here as a boy. Back then it seemed that there was a church on every corner. We had sin then, but it seems today that so many more homes and lives are being torn apart by sin and the devil. As preachers of the Gospel, you and I ache over this, and we long to see a might turning to God in our Carolina communities. Thousands need to accept Christ.”
And, thousands did.