LOUISVILLE, KY — Billy Graham has preached the Gospel for years, and is well known for his crusades. There is one starting in Louisville Thursday night, and with Graham, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Though Graham still ends every appearance with the altar call at the climactic moment, in many ways, he has always adapted the delivery of his message so that it is relevant to the contemporary world.
"One of the biggest changes is the huge platform we use," says long-time Graham associate Cliff Barrows, and he is right. It looks more suited to a rock concert than a ministry. But a Graham Crusade today in many ways is more Rock 'n' Roll than Rock of Ages.
"This is one of the things that's incredible about Billy Graham - he's so sensitive about culture," says biographer Lewis Drummond.
"You have to make way, you have to respect these young people," says George Beverly Shea, who sings at the crusades. "Their hearts are right."
The work involved has changed, too.
"The volunteers, there are tens of thousands in Louisville who are part of the volunteer staff who put this thing together. That's just amazing," says publicist Neil Kuvin.
And while Graham has stayed on the cutting edge of communications, one thing about his crusade has stayed the same: when he has his altar call he always plays the hymn "Just As I Am." People come down from the stands by the hundreds if not the thousands.
"I expect I may be one of the oldest evangelists in history who is still holding meetings like this," says Graham, who has turned over the reins of his ministry to his son Franklin, who will talk to WRAL's Bill Leslie on Thursday night's 6:00 news.