Billy Graham, InterVarsity & New York City

Evangelist Billy Graham’s New York City campaign had many people looking back over his remarkable career, including the New York Times newspaper. Graham’s first crusade in New York was in 1957. InterVarsity staff were charged with the responsibility of following-up the 1,700 college students who committed to follow Christ during those meetings.

Later that year Graham spoke at InterVarsity’s Urbana Student Mission Convention. (He first spoke at InterVarsity’s 1948 missionary conference.) Graham returned to the Urbana convention at least seven more times, in 1961, 1964, 1976, 1979, 1981, 1984, and 1987. Each time he challenged the delegates to make a commitment to follow Jesus Christ for the rest of their lives. The renowned evangelist asked New York residents to make a similar commitment.

More than 1,000 New York area churches were praying and working for months to prepare for Graham’s return, June 24-26. A New York Times story on the growth of the church, estimated the population of evangelical Christians in New York City at around one million. And it’s a very diverse Christian community that includes many immigrants who have come to New York City from Africa, Asia and Latin America. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association reported “more than 130 languages are spoken within walking distance of Flushing Meadows Corona Park,” where Billy Graham spoke.

InterVarsity is also committed to ministry in New York City. We have staff connected to local congregations and working with chapters on a number of college and university campuses. We’re excited by the diversity of the city. And we’re challenged by the cultural influence of the city.

Because as Eric Metaxas, a New York writer, producer and cultural critic said, “Today we drink in what Hollywood and New York pump out as if from a firehose. We gulp it down….The media reality is so much with us that it competes with actual reality. It’s as if everyone in America effectively lives in Hollywood or Manhattan. We drink their water and breathe their air.”

InterVarsity’s commitment to share the Gospel on the campuses where the leaders of tomorrow are trained, includes the campuses of New York City. Some of those leaders of tomorrow made a commitment to Jesus Christ during these meetings with Billy Graham at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Photo by Steve Starr/©2003 BGEA, used by permission, all rights reserved.