High Point church hosted a young Billy Graham
The Rev. Billy Graham on Thursday celebrates his 95th birthday, a man of fragile health clearly in the winter of his days.
Sixty-two years ago, though, when Graham made a rare High Point appearance — perhaps his only one — he was the hottest young evangelist in the country, a North Carolinian on his way to preaching the Gospel to more people in live audiences (nearly 215 million) than anyone else in history.
During the midst of Graham’s six-week Greensboro crusade in the fall of 1951, he came to High Point on the morning of Oct. 19 and spoke at what was then Lexington Avenue Baptist Church, at the invitation of the church’s pastor, the Rev. Woodrow Robbins.
“Woodrow contacted Billy Graham to see if he would come speak to a pastors’ conference at the church,” recalls Jim Hutchins of Wallburg, who was a member of Lexington Avenue Baptist at the time and is still a member of the church, now called Life On Lexington. “We’ve had some prominent men in that pulpit in the past, so it was no big thing that Woodrow got Graham over there. That was just a way of life for Woodrow.”
Graham spoke in the church’s former sanctuary, which has since been demolished.
The occasion was the 58th annual meeting of the Piedmont Baptist Association, and more than 400 delegates attended, according to an article in that afternoon’s High Point Enterprise.
“It was an overflow crowd — not everybody who showed up could get in the church,” says Hutchins, who later entered the music ministry and served on staff at Lexington Avenue Baptist. “I was still a youngster at the time, so I didn’t go, but I do remember hearing about it.”
High Point radio station WHPE aired a live broadcast of Graham’s 30-minute address, in which he exhorted the pastors.
“The preacher who uses the book of God — the preacher who faces his congregation and says ‘Thus saith the Lord’ — is the man who will hold his listeners,” the Enterprise quoted Graham as saying. “Quote the word of God. Preach the word of God.”
Despite the national attention Graham had been garnering and the large crowds his crusades had been drawing — including thousands nightly in Greensboro — the evangelist downplayed his role in America’s spiritual revival of the day.
“I am deeply grateful for your help,” Graham said. “I want you all to know that we claim no credit whatsoever for anything done through us. We do credit the churches of this area for bringing the message of Jesus Christ to your people.”
The fiery evangelist decried the world’s religious complacency and urged the local pastors to keep spreading God’s word.
“The Bible says that the day of the Lord is near the valley of decision,” he said. “Therefore, the time has come, the harvest is ripe. We, as preachers, must minister to those who have not joined the legions of Christ.”
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Billy Graham stories
The High Point Enterprise is seeking anecdotes of local individuals who have met Billy Graham or were strongly influenced by his ministry.
To share your story, contact feature writer Jimmy Tomlin at email@example.com.