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from the Billy Graham Library

Crusade City Spotlight: London

August 3, 2012


1954

Billy Graham’s first evangelistic meeting in London was perhaps his biggest and most important. While the 1949 meetings in Los Angeles vaulted Billy Graham into the national spotlight, the 1954 meetings in London, at the time billed as the world’s largest city, thrust him onto the international stage. The team secured the 12,000-seat Harringay Arena for three months, when most believed three weeks should be the maximum planned length. Crowds thronged to the Crusade, from March 1 through the closing meeting on May 22 at the 100,000-seat Wembley Stadium. Through the reservations being taken, the team quickly realized Wembley wouldn’t contain the crowds on closing night. They decided to hold an additional two-hour meeting at White City Stadium, where 65,000 came to hear the Gospel, the largest single crowd yet. Afterwards, Billy Graham and the team piled onto a bus to Wembley, where gates at the stadium had been opened to allow an additional 22,000 people to rush in and sit on the playing field itself.

When it was all said and done, more than 2,000,000 people attended the Crusade meetings, and nearly 40,000 made a commitment to Christ. As Billy Graham described later, “We knew that even among those who made no decision during the meetings, seeds had been planted that would bear fruit in God’s timing.”

1955

Billy Graham returned to London and Wembley Stadium a year later for a week-long Crusade. It rained every single night except the last, which happened to be the coldest night of the year! The weather didn’t hamper the crowds, though, as more than 450,000 turned out, and nearly 24,000 made a commitment to Christ.

1966

In 1966, the team traveled back to London for meetings, which were held this time at the Earl’s Court Arena. The closing meeting again was at Wembley.

Leading up to the Crusade, some media reports recalled the 1954 Crusade and attributed the invitation response, not to the preaching, but to the emotion generated by the song “Just As I Am.” The song has always been the signature “invitation” song at Billy Graham Crusades. Cliff Barrows recalls:

He [Billy Graham] said to me, “I have a suggestion. Let’s prepare the choir to sing or not sing. You have the choir ready, and if I want the song, I’ll say we’re going to sing ‘Just As I Am.’ But if I don’t want it, I won’t call for it.  So don’t begin the song until I call for it.”

That first night at Earl’s Court, Billy preached his heart out. There was a real sense of the presence of God. When he finished he said, “We are not going to have any music tonight. There’ll be no singing. But if the Spirit of God is speaking to your heart, then right where you are, just stand in your place, and make your way out to the aisle. Come down to the center through the side aisles and stand here in front of the platform.” He stood back and said, “Now, you come.”

For about fifteen seconds nobody moved. And that’s a long time. Then all of a sudden a seat squeaked, and then another, and another. Then hundreds of people began to stand. They walked to the aisle, shuffled down the long wooden floor that had been put down to cover the turf, and stood at the front.

We went thirty nights without a single note of the hymn, “Just as I Am,” which has been the signature tune of our Crusades through the years. We had never done that before. When the reporters began to write about the invitation at Earl’s Court, they said that all they heard was a shuffling of feet on the floor. “Bring back ‘Just as I Am!’ The silence is killing us!” they wrote.

More than a million people attended the Crusade, with more than 40,000 making a decision for Jesus Christ – all without any music!

1989

Billy Graham’s final London Crusade came in 1989. Though the event originated in London, the impact was felt throughout the U.K. and around the world. In addition to the 375,000+ in London, Billy Graham preached to more than 800,000 people gathered at 247 “live-link” centers throughout the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland and to 16,000 sites in 13 nations of Africa. Altogether, estimates suggest more than 25,000,000 people heard the Gospel during the London Crusade and simultaneous Mission World broadcasts in the summer of 1989.

In 2005, Billy Graham, 86 years old at the time, was invited back to London. He declined due to his age and physical health, as well as the declining health of his wife Ruth. “After much prayerful consideration, I determined I should not be that far from home,” he said in a press release. “This was a difficult decision because London has played such a significant part in the life of my ministry.”

Leave a Comment

  1. Coral Grier

    Thank you for your ministry. I was one of the children at a live link in County Donegal, Republic of Ireland in summer of 1989. I was only eight years old, and I thank God He has kept me close all these years. I am now 36 and Jesus is the most important relationship in my life. I have lived my life with Jesus this far, and all my days are in His hands.
    God Bless, Coral Grier

  2. Sigrid Osman

    I was privileged to have been a volunteer for the Billy Graham Crusades to Birmingham and London in 1984 and 1989. It was the beginning of a turning point in my own life of faith which had become disconnected and dry. I went on to become a Reader..a lay ministry in the Church of England. For me this dear beloved man was indeed one of the great Christian teachers of all time. A true prophet as of old.
    God Bless you and be with you dear Graham family.May He guide and prosper all that you do in His name now and always.

    Peace be with you all.

    Sigrid.

  3. Millicent (Millie) Summerhayes

    I attended 1954 and 1955 crusades, London as a choir member! Gave my heart to the Lord
    Thank Billy for your life long ministry. Long to meet you again when it’s my turn to go my heavenly home. I now live on Australia. ♥️

  4. David Miller

    Thank you for the time, prayer and effort you have all offered to the United Kingdom, especially when the press – and, sadly, national church leaders – have too often been less gracious and welcoming than they should have been.

  5. Gabrielle

    I was blessed by Rev Billy. He picked me out from the crowd (Wembley 1989) when I was only 10 years old. I have gone on to spread the word in Palestine and indeed some Jewish enclaves for a peaceful resolution.

  6. David Richards

    My late wife and I were in the Mission 89 choir that sung every night at the Earls Court venue and the extra service at the old Wembley stadium.
    I have 2 memories, one was when Cliff Richard attended, I had met him 20 years previously when he came to St Pauls, West Ealing I was in the church choir.
    Secondly at Wembley. There was a torrential downpour and a mass of water had collected on Billy’s canopy, he moved away from it, just as it collapsed from the weight of the water

  7. Sharon Cousins

    I attended Billy Graham’s last crusade at Wembly Stadium in London in 1989. A bunch of Christian neighbours and I met regularly and prayed, leading up to the event. We then went around all the local streets, handing out invitations to hear Billy Graham. We went to each home in the area by door-knocking or leaving invites in letterboxes. We hired a bus and all went up together to London from Surrey for the Billy Graham crusade where there was 80,000 people. I found out that one neighbour who had accepted our invite, went along and was saved at Wembly. PTL