Thursday, June 16, 2005

New York, a Billy Graham Experiment

"For better or worse, the church has typically followed the lead of secular society when it comes to our attitudes about race. Today racial reconciliation has become an evangelical buzzword. Organizations like Promise Keepers proclaim its importance. Christian books, magazines, and musical artists denounce racism and celebrate ethnic diversity in the church. When Billy approached me to join him in New York, it was more or less understood that white Christians worshiped with white Christians and black Christians worshiped with black Christians. Our evangelical churches seemed to believe that heaven, too, would be 'separate but equal.' We recited the Apostle's Creed and prayed 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,' but then proceeded to bow at the altar of Jim Crow. ... "In New York, Billy [Graham] once and for all made it clear that his ministry would not be a slave to the culture's segregationist ways. He was serious about integrating the crowds at his Madison Square Garden crusade, which had registered a disappointing number of blacks during its first several evenings. Soon after my arrival in New York, he looked to me for counsel on boosting minority turnout. 'Howard, what can we do to get more blacks to the meetings?' he asked. "I looked at Billy and gave him the hard truth: 'If they're not coming to you, you have to go to where they are,' I said. 'Billy, you need to go to Harlem.' "This is a cardinal rule of evangelism and missions: You have to go where the people are. ..."

From "The New York Experiment," by Howard O. Jones with Edward Gilbreath, as excerpted in Christianity Today.

Originally written about the 1957 crusade, but just as timely in 2005.


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