Faith

A millennial’s thoughts on the Billy Graham Crusade in Singapore, 1978

by Christina Wong // February 22, 2018, 11:28 am

Billy Graham in Singapore

More than 65,000 people turned up at the National Stadium for a meeting with Dr Billy Graham, an American evangelist and "crusader". Dr Graham, hailed as a present-day prophet, was the materialisation of an invitation which stretched back for 20 years. Thousands of people who responded to the call to come forward for salvation, thronged the area in front of the rostrum. (Photo from ST)

This article was first published last year and has been republished on the occasion of Dr Billy Graham’s death anniversary. In 1978, the American pastor preached during Singapore’s largest evangelistic campaign in living memory, which saw close to 20,000 Singaporeans responding to the message of the Gospel.


December 6, 1978.

One man. One simple message. Five nights. Thousands of lives transformed for eternity.

I remember the first time I saw the video of Dr Billy Graham’s crusade in the old National Stadium.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I saw the throngs of people who responded to his call to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour. I was deeply moved.

To be honest, as a first-generation Christian from a fairly young church filled with fairly young people, I’ve only begun to really hear about Dr Graham in the recent years.

But that Crusade, I’ve heard, was one of the main catalysts to the growth of the local church in the decades since. 

 

According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, this man preached Christianity to “more people than anyone else in history, reaching hundreds of millions of people either in person or via TV and satellite links”.

At his 5-day crusade in Singapore exactly 40 years ago this year, more than 50,000 people showed up every night, filling up the old National Stadium.

While the video moved me deeply, it also stirred up a strange sense of unsettlement within me.

And I know why: It’s a sight we haven’t since seen in modern-day Singapore.

UNBELIEVABLE SCENES

Back then, the crusade brought together not just 337,000 attendees, but also the larger Church in Singapore. Local churches put aside their denominations and differences to unite for the preaching of the Gospel and salvation of more souls.

My editor cites the incredible statistic that out of the 260 churches in Singapore then, something like 230 were involved in the Crusade in some way – almost 9 in 10 churches contributing as organisers, translators, inviters, ushers, clean-up crew, whatever it took.

All to have those in attendance to hear the Gospel.


“You may never understand it all intellectually, don’t wait till you understand it all – come as you are,” Dr Graham’s words rang across the stadium that night.

“Jesus said, if you are not willing to acknowledge Me publicly before men, I will not acknowledge you before My Father which is in Heaven.”

By the end of the Crusade, more than 19,600 people chose to acknowledge the King of kings and Lord of lords, surrendering their lives to Jesus Christ. Over the years since, the Christian population in Singapore grew from 8% to nearly 20% today.

It was a simple message, and people just obeyed and believed.

IN THIS DAY AND AGE? WHY NOT?

As a Gen-Y millennial, it’s hard for me to imagine or picture this happening. I grew up in a society and demographic plagued by self-awareness and self-concern. My peers and I have not seen any crusades of this scale or mass spiritual revivals in our time.

Unfortunately and ironically, doubt takes up a huge part in our day-to-day faith. Some part of me feels that such a simple message would not really convince any non-believing person today. Everyone’s so cynical. It’s so hard to even bring one friend to church.

But even as I consider these thoughts, I know that I’m the one who is wrong.


Our self-awareness and self-concern must never hinder the proclaiming of the Gospel.

We always talk about being the Antioch, but are we really taking steps of faith in our daily lives to live out the prophetic destiny of our nation? Do we even desire this destiny? Do we dare to believe?

Are we, in our individual spheres, being the salt and light that God has called us to be? Are we being effective ministers of God’s presence to the people around us?

NOW WHAT?

As I read the news reports last night on Dr Graham’s passing, I was once again left in admiration of this servant of God.

Dr Graham’s own words (adapted from a quote by one of his faith heroes, D L Moody) about death in his 2006 documentary God’s Ambassador, that had resurfaced in the wake of his passing, is extremely inspiring and poignant.

“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

His achievements were great and many, and he had a valuable legacy. Yet the tributes had all noted that above all these things, he lived a life of integrity, humility and passionate pursuit of God alone.

I found myself asking: Will there be anyone like Dr Graham ever again? It is difficult to pinpoint another man who is like him in character.

His unwavering faithfulness and commitment to the Gospel sowed a powerful seed of faith in our nation 40 years ago. This seed has since then grown and allowed many generations that followed after to benefit from and experience the joy of salvation.

The baton’s now in our hands. Will we choose to take up our cross today, for the salvation of souls tomorrow, for the glory of God in eternity?

Had Dr Graham decided that it would be too hard to share the Gospel, many of us would not be who we are today. Many of our churches would not even exist.

We might not all be stadium prophets or evangelists, but we all have a part to play as Christ-followers in God’s grand plan.

It’s not difficult, it only takes obedience.

The baton’s now in our hands. Will we choose to take up our cross today, for the salvation of souls tomorrow, for the glory of God in eternity?


This year, we’re anticipating for God to move in a powerful way in our nation again as churches in Singapore unite for the Gospel to be shared through the Celebration of Hope (COH). COH is a call to personal evangelism on a mass scale, which will culminate in a series of rallies at the National Stadium from 17-19 May, 2019. Are you hungry for revival?

We’re at the dawn of a new day: Bishop Rennis on COH as a door for revival

About the author

Christina Wong

Christina is a designer who used to memorise Pantone swatches. Her last cup of bubble tea was in November 2018.