From The Maclean’s Archives.
HOUSEWIVES PRAY in a North York bungalow for the success of the crusade. These “cottage meetings” tie in with a mid-morning Graham radio program.
TWO YEARS ago Billy Graham shook his heavy Bible at forty-two thousand people jammed into Briggs Stadium, where the Detroit Tigers usually draw around ten thousand, and shouted into his dual microphones: “Why are people attending these meetings in such vast numbers? They are not coming to hear me. They are trying to find spiritual peace in these days of fear and insecurity ...”
There was another reason the handsome evangelist didn’t mention: the astonishing pulling power of the Billy Graham Machine, a publicity-planning public relations juggernaut that had lurched into motion in the Detroit area twenty months earlier. Capitalizing on Graham’s great personal appeal and organizing with an attention to detail hitherto unknown in religious affairs, it finally coaxed 363,030 repentant sinners and curious onlookers into Graham’s magnetic presence. Six thousand nine hundred and eighty of them made “decisions for Christ.” Since then, its equipment and methods continually sharpened and refined, the machine has rolled to tremendous successes in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Holland.
Now it is Toronto’s, and Canada’s, turn to marvel at the Billy Graham Machine.
From September 18 to October 16 Graham is scheduled to conduct the biggest revival Canada has ever seen in the biggest arenas Toronto has available. From Metropolitan Toronto with its population of one and a quarter million, plus an assist from towns and villages within a hundredmile radius, the machine confidently expects an attendance of three hundred thousand and a salvation tally of ten thousand. This confidence and the expectation that the Toronto results will far surpass Detroit’s—the campaign there lasted five weeks against Toronto’s four—is supported by the attendance of 3,139,365 at the crusades in Britain last spring.
The Graham organization is unique in church history. Compounded in almost equal parts of the lessons of Dale Carnegie, the precepts of the Harvard Business School and a showmanship that recalls Phineas T. Barnum, it is unaffiliated with any church. Yet its crusades are eagerly sought and backed to the hilt by the large majority of the traditional Protestant denominations. It now operates under the personal endorsement of Queen Elizabeth and President Eisenhower which safely lifts it beyond cynical criticism of “selling salvation at a profit.”
The headquarters of the machine is the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Inc., of Minneapolis. There a staff that reaches one hundred and twenty at peak periods backstops for the free-wheeling Graham Team as it ranges across the world running one-night stands, week-end revivals and full-dress crusades that make the campaigns of Billy Sunday seem like quaint horse-and-buggy memories. Insisting on a broad invitation from local Protestants, and demanding from them both a large corps of volunteer workers and a severe schedule of labor, the Graham machine dictates every move in a crusade such as Toronto is expecting. Nominal authority and all financial responsibility—excepting for Graham himself, whose salary of $15,000 is paid out of contributions sent directly to Minneapolis—is in the hands of the local committee of church leaders and laymen, but as the members of the Graham team come to town, at various stages of the buildup, they quietly assume command.
“It is a delight to see the Billy Graham Machine at work,” says Dr. E. Crossley Hunter, of Trinity United Church, who is co-chairman of the Toronto crusade committee. “There are no ragged ends, no loopholes.” Graham himself has said that if Christ or the Apostle Paul had had the twentieth-century selling methods developed by U. S. business, they would have used them just as he does.
Over the last few weeks as the machine gathered full speed nearly everybody in Canada who could be reached by the printed or spoken word, or via the movie screen and television tube, felt the preliminary pressures that herald the approach of Billy Graham. But the real strength of his organization lies in its depth. Not weeks, not months, but three years of patient, meticulous, prayerful -and sometimes frustrating—preparation lie behind the Toronto crusade this fall.
This, then, is the story of how Billy Graham planned his campaign to capture Toronto.
Early in 1952, more than twelve months before Graham was exhorting the crowd in Detroit’s Briggs Stadium to make “a decision for Christ” (eight hundred and fifty-six did that afternoon), the first move was made to get Graham to shake up the complacent souls of Toronto the Good.
Tempted by reports of Graham’s big revivals in cities like San Francisco, Washington and Seattle, and reassured by the Graham technique of channeling all his converts into the established churches, a group of fifty Toronto Protestant clergymen met informally in Dr. Hunter’s Trinity Church. They were mostly representing United and Baptist congregations with a strong section of fundamentalists. They appointed the Rev. Allan Ferry, of Old Davenport United, to contact Graham at his headquarters and invite him to stage a revival in Toronto.
After a long wait a reply came expressing polite interest in the proposal, emphasizing the heavy schedule facing the Rev. Dr. Graham . . . This dampening reaction cooled the enthusiasm of the Toronto group noticeably and soon only seventeen churches—most of them of a fundamentalist, highly evangelistic character—were still showing active interest.
The Billy Graham Machine thus taught Toronto its first lesson.
It does not accept an invitation for a major campaign unless it is issued by an overwhelming majority of the Protestant churches in a city; coolheaded appraisal must indicate that the invitation is not merely the lastditch hope of a bunch of pastors that the Graham magic will round up their errant flocks; ,the local committee must be aware of the high price of a Graham crusade and be patently capable of raising the cash; it must also be aware of the tremendous amount of work it will be called upon to execute efficiently and obediently; it must be able to list the names of prominent men of numerous denominations, both ministers and laymen, on its organizing committee. And these almost prohibitive conditions are only the preliminaries that must be met.
THE STAR. Dr. William Franklin Graham Jr., now thirty-seven, as he thundered his salvation message at Toronto week-end revival in 1954.
None of this was specifically stated in the official reply from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Inc. Graham’s services are never offered to anybody on any conditions: rather does he pick and choose among the acceptable invitations that keep him booked up at least eighteen months ahead. But the terms were made known unofficially, through Graham’s personal connections in Toronto.
It is hard for a layman to understand why “connections” and this kind of negotiation should be necessary among men all solemnly dedicated to serving the one God. But the Graham organization has long since learned to steer a nimble path through the maze of denominations' and sects and groups that sometimes make the world of religion just as bewildering as, say, the stock market. For instance, Toronto today boasts a total of 575 churches, representing no fewer than 181 denominations.
Graham, himself a Southern Baptist, is an Old Testament man, a foursquare believer in the literal heaven and hell, and so are all the members of his team. “Heaven,” Graham has preached, from Revelations, “is sixteen hundred miles long, sixteen hundred miles wide and sixteen hundred miles high . . . Along the streets of gold Jesus drives up and down in a jeweled chariot when not conferring in a great council hall with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.” So it’s not surprising that, although the Graham machine insists on its interdenominational character, its closest connections world-wide are among those who believe that the Theory of Evolution is a major work of Satan.
These fundamentalist churches and groups, in Canada as in all Western countries, are outweighed in numbers, wealth and temporal influence by the main body of the traditional Protestant denominations which are mostly led by liberal theologians-that is, ministers who do not necessarily take every word of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, literally.
This, then, poses an interesting paradox: the churches and groups who believe most wholeheartedly in Graham’s theology must be willing to sit in the back seat, at least officially, because of the Graham policy of demanding the support of the old-line churches. An added bitter pill is that the fundamentalist churches, those proponents of muscular Christianity, are well aware that their own enthusiasm will allot them the greater part of the hard work involved in organizing the revival.
That this pill can be swallowed with a smile, that the dictated balance of power can be achieved, that pastors whose pulpits range from hand-carved walnut to the barely disguised soapbox can park their doctrinaire problems at least for the duration of the crusade, is itself one of the great triumphs of the Graham machine. It is interpreted by the fundamentalists as indicating a world-wide swing back toward implicit belief in the Bible as the word of God.
In Toronto, the triumph is being repeated.
Among those at that 1952 meeting in Trinity United was a roly-poly twentynine-year-old man named Augustine Ambrose. He was not a minister; he was the former song leader at the Rev. Charles B. (Chuck) Templeton’s evangelistic Avenue Road Church, later executive director of Toronto Youth for Christ. Half Italian, half English, G us Ambrose was to be the key that would turn the deadlock.
There were two elements already linking Graham with Toronto that prepared the way for Ambrose. One was Graham’s individual position as first vice-president of Youth For Christ International; the other was his association with Chuck Templeton.
The Youth For Christ movement, started in Chicago in the early Forties to combat juvenile delinquency, hired Graham as its first touring evangelist. At that time he was pastor to a small Baptist congregation in a basement in Western Springs, 111. The touring Graham spoke at several Toronto YFC rallies without giving more than a hint of potential greatness as a Salvationist. On one trip he was impressed by the piano playing of Tedd Smith who led the choir at the Toronto meetings and, when his own organization grew, Graham added Smith as a permanent member of his team.
The meeting of Graham and Templeton had turned out to be important to both. Templeton, a former newspaper cartoonist, had taken over the Avenue Road Church—left vacant after church union in 1925—and had filled it by his remarkably effective preaching and equally remarkable accompaniment of electric guitars and rhythm quartets. Graham accepted his invitation to preach there. But when Graham struck out as an independent evangelist in 1947 and within two years became an international figure, Templeton, on the contrary, turned toward the bosom of the established church. He left his one-man show, studied theology at Princeton, was ordained by the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. and is now director of evangelism for its three million adherents.
Several men who know them both credit Templeton with influencing Graham toward two major decisions. The first was to be rigidly careful in financial matters so that he could clearly disprove any charges of "selling salvation.” At one time Graham had permitted "love offerings” reminiscent of Aimee Semple McPherson, the Ontario girl who had rocked the Twenties with both her Foursquare Gospel crusades and her equally colorful private life. The second was to work strictly in unity with the established denominations so that the already splintered Church would not be splintered afresh.
THE CROWD. Torontonians stood in hundreds to hear Graham last year. Emboldened organizers decided to plunge on a full-scale crusade.
A Springboard to London
Yet another link kept Canada in Graham’s mind. The most-publicized member of the Graham team, outside of Billy himself, is George Beverly Shea, an Ottawa-born baritone. He is billed as "Bev Shea, America’s favorite gospel singer.”
The quick-witted and fast-talking Ambrose, the associate of Templeton and Smith, the local director of Graham’s cherished Youth for Christ, was in a prime position to pull these strings. He knew also that, after the approaching Detroit crusade, Graham was determined to tackle London. In this, Graham was going against the wishes of his closest advisers who thought he would be risking his popularity on this continent by tackling the phlegmatic English on their home ground. Ambrose wrote Graham that Toronto was, after all, practically English and that a short campaign in the Ontario capital would make the best possible springboard into London.
Graham, still guarded, said he might manage a week end in Toronto before going overseas. At least he encouraged Ambrose sufficiently to send him racing to the Bloor Street study of Dr. Crossley Hunter. Himself the son of an evangelist, Hunter had acquired the perfect coloring for a figurehead: a highly respected United minister, he was still a fiery and progressive preacher. One Sunday he turned the pulpit of his Trinity Church over to a rabbi. Hunter, long impressed by the sincerity and public appeal of the Baptist Graham, agreed to head a committee that would formally invite him to Canada.
Thus began the second round.
Hunter and Ambrose, the dignified doctor of divinity and the T-shirted disciple, hurriedly resurrected the frustrated committee of 1952 and rolled up a roster of new names: Dr. Emlyn Davies, as vice-chairman; the Rev. Douglas C. Percy, of Toronto Bible College which itself lists eight denominations on its staff; Matthew A. Leith, of the administrative staff of the T. Eaton Company, to handle the money; the Rev. W. R. Sproule, for the reserved Anglicans; Dr. O. J. Smith, for the independents. The half promise from Graham was enough to generate a high steam.
In Minneapolis the Billy Graham Machine pondered the facts. Another "connection” had turned in a favorable report on Gus Ambrose’s chances of getting wide church support. Graham himself was resolute in his determinaion to conquer London, even deciding tnat two thirds of the staggering cost $350,003) would be raised in North America The major fall campaign in Detroit could be counted upon to stir up interest in southern Ontario. Toronto should provide some kind of preliminary "British” test of Billy’s gaycravatted made-in-U. S. A. gospeling, and should be prepared to give generously toward the London fund. Okay then: January 23, 24 and 25, 1954.
When Billy came to town to keep his date, with a new Bible in hand—he’s worn outt more than a dozen so far—the machine, even in low gear, gave Toronto a good sample of what it could expect for a major crusade.
The final meeting of the week-end economy-sized revival—it cost $10,000 —was booked at Maple Leaf Gardens on Sunday afternoon. That morning the Toronto committee invited all the pastors m the area to a breakfast meeting in the Royal York Hotel. As everywhere—though it’s pretty rare today— there hud been some criticism of the flamboyant methods of the Graham machine, its frank appeal to the emotions, its unregenerate fundamentalism. "Sure,” says Billy, "I often try to scare people. When the house is on fire you don’t try sweet reason to move people out. You scare the daylights out of them—anything to get them moving.”
He feels that the whole world is on fire and that God has sent him to help put out the flames.
In defense of his methods, Graham j likes to quote the British Baptist j leader, Dr. W. E. Sangster: "The man who screams at a football or baseball game but is distressed when he hears a sinner weeping at the Cross and murmurs something about the dangers of emotionalism hardly merits intelligent respect.”
After the four hundred ministers had paid $1.25 each for their breakfast at 8 a.m., Graham talked to them, outlined his theology, specifically discussed and defended his methods. Crossley Hunter believes that at least ninety percent of the clergymen, maybe more, left the hotel thanking God for Billy Graham. His patent sincerity and purpose—-"I want to send the people back to the churches”—outweighed the stories of his turkey-red polka-dot pyjamas, his police-car escorts, his headlinegrabbing tactics, his tigerish pacing on the platform (wearing a pedometer he once covered two miles during a sermon).
In mid-town Toronto outside Maple Leaf Gardens, even before the pastors’ breakfast eggs were cracked, people were beginning to line up for the meeting, due to start at 2.30 p.m. All attendance records for Stanley Cup playoffs were wiped out before lunch as the crush of the teeming crowds forced police to block off a square of streets.
THE COMMITTEE. These men lead Toronto volunteers. From left: Gus Ambrose (phoning), Douglas Percy, Matthew Leith, E. Crossley Hunter.
Seventeen thousand is the total capacity of the Gardens; some fortyfive thousand people tried to shove in. Seventy delegations arrived from out of town, in many cases to find their places taken by big-city types skilled in getting "rush” seats.
If anything was needed to persuade the Toronto churchmen of the desirability of a full-scale Graham crusade, the six-foot-two "tool of God” supplied it. When he sent the hat around on behalf of his upcoming London crusade, it came back with twenty-five thousand dollars in it. This worked out to something around $1.50 per head; the average of church-giving in Toronto is twenty cents a head. Then, when the "decisions for Christ” over the three days were totted up to three hundred and seventy-three, including two hundred and thirty-four professing acceptance of Christ for the first time, there were no doubts left.
Crossley Hunter asked all the pastors in the audience to meet in the press rooms of the Gardens. There was such a crowd that when the Rev. Stewart L. Boehmer of Calvary Church moved that Graham be immediately invited back for a major crusade the ministers could hardly raise their right hands to vote "aye.” Humbly, and with a smile that his movie look-alike Van Heflin couldn’t better, Billy accepted.
And so began the third round.
On that day, Jan. 25, 1954, Billy Graham really began to take over Toronto. This time it was for keeps.
The first date suggested by the further-enlarged Toronto committee, now incorporated as the Greater Evangelistic Crusade of Toronto Inc., was June 1955. Sorry, said the machine, we’ll be in Europe then. To give Graham a short rest at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, with his wife and four children, the Toronto date was pushed back to mid-September.
So the Toronto committee and the Graham machine had twenty - one months to set up the phenomenon that Toronto should be now experiencing. This story, of course, is being written before the event, but "the system” is immutable and, short of a serious accident to its star, will very likely achieve its goal.
In its continuous war with the forces of Satan the Billy Graham Machine leaves nothing to chance.
The budget for the Toronto crusade was set at $97,500—nearly four thousand dollars a day for the twenty-nineday revival. And it was generally expected to rise to $100,000. This can be compared with the total cost of $220,000 for the Detroit crusade (which included $130,000 for the construction of an auditorium, later demolished) and $140,000 for the Scotland campaign this spring.
The spending of such large sums on a religious revival draws automatic criticism, principally from non-churchgoers who feel uneasily that "someone is making a good thing out of it.” In London, Hannen Swaffer, famous columnist of the London Daily Express, demanded to know why Graham was "leaving a land of political graft notorious all over the world to 'save’ a city where corruption is almost unknown.” The Daily Mirror asked bluntly if Graham’s income was supplied by U. S. businessmen who backed him for semipolitical reasons. The Times rebuked its colleagues: Graham, it said, was "not only a sincere but a very modest man.”
Dr. Crossley Hunter, speaking for the Toronto committee, says: "To those who say 'it’s all a racket’ I point out that Canada’s current defense program is costing the taxpayer half a million dollars a day. If the Kingdom of God—or the moral fabric of the country—is fundamental to our prosperity, why should there be shock at the size of our budget? In any case, every penny we receive and spend will be published after an independent audit. Dr. Graham insists on that.”
Where the Money Comes From
To raise the first installment of working capital the twenty-five members of the Toronto finance committee followed the Graham plan for financing and pledged themselves to raise a thousand dollars each. They did it swiftly by appealing to personal friends—the Graham machine believes that professing Christians should pay for their own crusades and forbids general canvassing. One member raised $2,500. The treasurer, Matthew Leith, got a promise from a department-store executive for $100. When he dropped around to collect the man made it $200, without explanation.
GRAHAM TEAMSTER Charlie Riggs was early on the Toronto scene to direct the flood of paper work. He's a tormer oil-fields worker.
Under the Graham plan it is assumed that collections at the crusade meetings will absorb at least sixty percent of costs. This meant that the volunteers had to raise approximately forty thousand of the $97,500 budget before the first meeting. Another Graham rule insists that as soon as the budget for a particular crusade is met collections cease. The only exceptions to this are the Sunday-afternoon collections which always go direct to Minneapolis, and the rare special appeals— such as the one in Toronto last year that netted $25,000 to help finance the London crusade. First charge on the headquarters’ funds is the $28,000-aweek cost of the Hour of Decision, Graham’s radio show which is used to link the whole continent to the individual crusades. It is carried by both the Mutual and ABC networks and by seventy-seven Canadian commercial stations each Sunday afternoon. It will originate in Toronto during the Canadian crusade.
Although Graham himself is not a charge on local funds, the traveling members of his headquarters team are. Cliff Barrows, his song leader, is the highest paid at $175 a week; the others, numbering up to sixteen, range down to $100. The expenses come high. Detroit’s balance sheet shows "team expenses” at $26,065.23. This includes such items as office rental for team members, some of whom arrive three months before a crusade starts and leave a month after.
But money is the last thing that the Graham machine frets about: it has a resource seldom counted in run-of-themine business problems—prayer. "The Lord will provide” is a stock answer to many dilemmas. During the Detroit crusade it suddenly became necessary to erect a fifteen-thousand-seat auditorium when a novel aluminum hall promised by a Texas multimillionaire could not be built in time. After a hurried meeting of a group of the main contributors to the local fund there was serious doubt about whether an extra $130,000 could be guaranteed. Throughout Detroit, in hundreds of churches and thousands of homes, prayers were continuous for the success of the crusade.
Among those who heard the prayers was Nick Timko, the shy self-educated president of the DeLuxe Die Works, already a big contributor. Raised as a Roman Catholic, he had been converted to Protestantism ten years earlier and had piled up an estate worth four million dollars. "I felt that this hitch was the hand of Satan trying to prevent a work of God,” he said later. The burly Timko made a series of phone calls to the contractor for the auditorium, to the steelmaker, to the main trades suppliers, and told them that he personally would guarantee the bills. He was never asked to sign a note and the work went ahead on a night-and-day basis. In twenty-nine days, from first nail to last, the auditorium was erected. The Detroit collections totaled only $128,000 but the deficit was made good by wealthy donors.
The first thing the Graham machine does fret about is the co-operation of the established churches. In May last year, seventeen months before the Toronto crusade was due to begin, special prayer meetings began each Saturday afternoon at the interdenominational Toronto Bible College. Asking for divine aid and guidance for the local revival, the chain of prayer has remained unbroken, even on Christmas Day. Average attendance was fifty.
The Blueprint for Revival
By last January full preliminary instructions had been received from Minneapolis and the multitude of printed cards, forms and pamphlets were ready under local imprint. The outgoing mail soon reached a thousand pieces a week. The first big gun was fired on January 12 when a mimeographed letter and a small yellow card went out to all ministers in the Greater Toronto area. First it recalled "God’s blueprint for revival” as in II Chronicles 7:14,
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Then the pastors were asked to check any number of the four items on the yellow card. Number 3: "You can count on my church ... to select people for committees” was the kicker.
Any ministers who checked No. 3 must have felt in the ensuing weeks that the roof had fallen on them. Their churches were now labeled "participating” by the Graham machine; all others who returned cards were designated merely "co-operating.” The final tally showed 240 participating churches and 292 co-operating churches.
The participators each received a sixpage single-spaced letter of "Instructions for Pastors” explaining the ten separate committees they must staff. These committees demand: Cottage prayer meetings, ten women; Men’s industrial prayer meetings, two men; Counseling and follow-up, ten men and women; Choir, one man and one woman; Ushers, two men; Auditorium, one man; Publicity, one man; Children, two women; Young people, one young man, one young woman; Nursery, two women. Thus each church, irrespective of size, was asked for thirty-four workers; the total voluntary working force was 8,160. The names were wanted by May 1.
By that date, the local headquarters was established in a converted shop at 410 Yonge Street, rented from the T. Eaton Life Assurance Co. Its parent company, the T. Eaton Co., put in three thousand dollars’ worth of furniture and fittings on loan. The rent was scaled down from seven hundred and fifty to five hundred dollars a month. Douglas Percy, a former African missionary and novelist, who now shared the chairmanship with Crossley Hunter, and Gus Ambrose moved in with two $45-a-week secretaries. The place blossomed with tables of Graham literature—such as We Need The Old-Time Religion—press-clipping books, tape recorders loaded with Graham sermons. At the rear were more desks and a small suite of offices for the awaited members of the Graham team. In the basement, long shelves of storage for the tons of printed forms, letter stickers, car banners, dodgers, song and prayer sheets, counselors’ applications; room there also for extra staff when the revival is over and the work of channeling the "converts” into the churches is begun.
When Willis Haymaker, the bald portly advance agent of the Billy Graham Machine, reached Toronto that month to take over as crusade director the local committee proudly ticked off its achievements. Among them was a promise of fifty billboards in the Greater Toronto area from General Motors, plus the loan of Buicks for the use of the Graham team; promises from the three Toronto dailies to splash the event; auditoriums hired—the Coliseum at the reduced price of $625 a night; Maple Leaf Gardens at an irreducible $1750; negotiations for closedcircuit TV underway with both the CBC and U. S. interests.
Haymaker immediately showed the local committee something new. He threw a breakfast press conference, a device favored by the Graham machine because it doesn’t cut into the working day. He told sleepy-eyed reporters, "Toronto’s potential for religion is unlimited . . . the eyes of the Christian world are on Toronto . . . there will be prayer support from all over the world.” Four months before the event, he said the attendance would be three hundred thousand. It made page one of the afternoon papers, competing with Eden’s win in the British elections.
From Chicago came Walter F. Bennett, whose advertising agency handles a portion of the Graham publicity. The Toronto committee had allotted $7,500 for advertising. Bennett and Haymaker went over estimates for a morning radio service from most of Toronto’s broadcasting stations. They fixed on CHUM which quoted a cutrate three hundred dollars for fifteen minutes four days a week for eight weeks. Some stations asked five times as much.
Haymaker then fell ill and was flown south to his home in Lenoir, N.C.—he was out of action until late July. Charlie Riggs, of Nashville, Tenn., who is the specialist on the follow-up routine, was called up by Minneapolis and thrown in as a replacement. Riggs, a big beetle-browed former oil rigger, has committed one thousand verses of scripture to memory. He has these verses printed on cards and each day checks a handful of them to refresh his memory. Riggs was followed soon afterward by Mrs. Betty Lowry, a young widow who is Graham’s assistant director of public relations. It was her job to get the local newspapers and radio commentators on Graham’s side.
The growing force tackled the evergrowing heap of paper work and the maze of organizational detail. Thirty-two more billboards were hired to carry the simple message that time has proved most effective, "Hear Billy Graham.” Gone are the days when the machine—a much earlier model— used to run ads that read like circus posters. "Billy is like a Cadillac,” says Jerry Beaven, Graham’s chief public relations aide. "We don’t have to explain.”
Agreement was wrung from the CBC to carry the Hour of Decision on the Trans-Canada network for free. The CBC was also asked for free time on its breakfast-hour devotional service which is usually conducted by a different minister each week. It said, "Fine, provided Dr. Graham conducts it personally.” The planners were confident the CBC would accept another member of the team if, as was likely, Graham couldn’t handle it himself. Invitations for Graham to appear on TV’s Tabloid and Personality Parade were filed, as were dozens of requests for Graham speeches from service clubs and other groups. The Canadian and Empire Clubs were early favorites but a final decision on how Graham would spend his free time had to await the arrival of the machine’s top brass. Usually two invitations a week are scheduled but, at the last minute, it often grows to five or six. Nothing is accepted that extends past 3 p.m., for Graham must then rest for his grueling evening on the revival platform.
The workers at the Yonge Street office also had to suffer their share of crackpots. One day an elderly Greek marched in and demanded to see Billy Graham, who, as it happened, was in Geneva at the time attending the Big Four foreign ministers’ meeting as an unofficial observer. The caller maintained that he had up-to-the-minute news of the doings of Satan, gleaned by peering through a certain knothole that led down to hell. But he would deal only with Billy. Charlie Riggs explained patiently that the Bible contained all the inside information Billy could use. When the man turned quarrelsome, Riggs frog-marched him out.
At lunchtime on another day a small crowd collected outside when a ragged man carrying a Bible opened a crusade of his own. Listeners couldn’t catch all his words, but he was obviously making a hysterical plea to the public not to be taken in by the blandishments of Billy Graham. Probably many passersby thought that he was making a pitch for Graham. A representative of the T. Eaton Life Assurance Company, which occupies the second floor, came downstairs to find out. Asked about the unwanted publicity, an affable Graham worker said, "It’s not against the law to preach in the streets.”
As the weeks passed, the rpm of the machine rose to a sustained crescendo. In ones and twos the specialists of the Graham team arrived in town and took over their departments. The two large committees considered most vital—the cottage prayer meetings and the counseling and follow-up—were drawn together, weeded out, instructed and sent about their business.
All the women whose names had been supplied by their ministers for the cottage prayer meetings (ten from each participating church) had been pulled in for a series of indoctrination sessions at Carlton Street United Church. For each postal zone of the city, a director was appointed; she in turn had a captain and as many lieutenants as there were fifty-home units in the district.
Mrs. Burt Bradbury, of 363 Joieey Boulevard, wife of a shipper at Northern Electric, is director of zone 12. Apart from keeping an eye on her zone of more than five hundred homes, she either arranged or attended a cottage prayer meeting every weekday (except Monday) from 10 a.m. till 10.45, starting on August 23 and still, in fact, continuing.
The routine was always the same. The lieutenants contacted the women in every home in their district, invited them to bring their Bibles to a certain house, entreated them to come dressed "as you are.” The Graham machine frowns on "dressing up” at these meetings, doesn’t allow small talk or coffee sessions, and provides special attendance cards which must be filled in and mailed to headquarters.
Twenty-Five Thousand Prayers
On Mrs. Bradbury’s street the religious denominations included Unitarian, Roman Catholic, Jewish, United, Baptist and Ukrainian, but she had little difficulty in getting ten of them— the approved number—in the living room of her neat bungalow at 10 a.m.
The meetings opened as Grady Wilson, Graham’s associate evangelist, came on the air from CHUM with a fifteen - minute devotional and news program. The listeners, with premarked texts, followed and participated. Five minutes was then allowed for private prayers and the rest of the time spent praying earnestly, sometimes on the knees, for the success of the Toronto crusade. Usually the meeting was in a different house each morning. So, four mornings a week for eight weeks, the machine has approximately twenty-five thousand Toronto women down on their knees praying that Billy’s flailing arms and stentorious call will bring the penitents in their thousands.
The other big committee—counseling and follow-up—likewise worked for months learning the Graham system to be ready to carry on from there. At the moment when Graham makes his exhortation to his listeners to come forward and "make a decision for Christ” and the crowd begins to stir, the counselors, wearing plastic badges and sitting either at the front or in the aisle seats, are ready to guide anyone to Billy. The counselors are themselves under the eye of advisers, mostly Toronto ministers, who can move their forces around quickly by means of a set of hand signals. Thus, when a newly converted middle-aged businessman—known at this stage as an "inquirer”—starts out alone toward Graham’s platform he invariably finds himself being escorted by a well-dressed soft-spoken man of about his own age.
The counselor is schooled at six instruction sessions in how to handle a wide variety of situations: if an inquirer gets cold feet and mutters that he’s too much of a sinner to ask for salvation, the counselor promptly quotes I Timothy 1:15; if the inquirer decides "there’s too much to give up”—Matthew 6:33. The counselor’s manual insists "Review Your Key Verses Daily! ! ! ! !” If the counselor sees a convert being hampered by friends or relatives he has a practiced method for prying him loose. He asks the friends to accompany the convert or to wait for him. He is also on guard against undercover agents from other religious organizations trying to make off with the prize. "Sheep stealing,” it’s called in church circles.
In the Inquiry Room adjacent to the platform the counselor fills out a card for his convert, then, by patient questioning, finds out which of the five "decisions” provided by the card he wishes to make. The counselor is expressly ordered, "Be careful that you do not give the inquirer’s testimony for him, but rather question him in such a way that he gives it.”
The five decisions offered are: Acceptance of Christ as Saviour and Lord; Reaffirmation of Faith; Assurance of Salvation; Restoration; and Undecided. Numbers two, three and four seem confusingly alike but are designed to suit inquirers who already are, or have been in the past, regular churchgoers.
Immediately a decision is made the follow-up phase of the system is in action. If the convert has specified a church preference, a card is sent to the pastor involved; if not, a committee of local clergymen allot the card to a convenient pastor. The convert should be visited or phoned within forty-eight, hours. He receives a form letter from Billy Graham to keep the link forged.
The follow-up will continue for months, directed from the Yonge Street headquarters after the captains and the kings have departed. This work is vital to the Graham organization as it clinches the revival as a church-centred movement. Even a year from now, the implacable machine will still be demanding reports from the individual ministers on the standing and progress of their Graham-won converts. Last June, twelve months after the 1954 Greater London crusade, twenty thousand of the 34,661 "converts” were reported still attending church regularly. Three quarters of them were new churchgoers.
During the summer, as Canada began to feel the pull of the Billy Graham magnet, cities spread right across the country wanted to hop on Billy’s band wagon. Ottawa was particularly insistent: letters asking for a Graham meeting in the capital were received from a cabinet minister, a Supreme Court judge, from several Ottawa clergymen. Surely Graham wouldn’t pass up the chance for a crusade that might win the leaders of Canada to his cause?
The appeals would, of course, be read by the expert technicians of the Billy Graham Machine. But the best that the bone-tired, if jubilant, Toronto crusaders could suggest was that Ottawa’s chances would be pretty good, along about 1958. ★
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