World War II was over by the middle of 1945. The “bomb” had been dropped on two Japanese cities with more than two hundred thousand deaths and Hitler had put a bullet through his brain in his underground bunker. Bombed European cities were pulling themselves out of the rubble trying to begin life anew. American military men were all over the world, most coming home soon. A war weary America was rejoicing and with the economy humming and our men coming home, there was an infectious atmosphere nationwide. Youth were almost kingly and could do anything. After all, we had just beaten the most powerful enemies in the world.
Jack Wyrtzen had great appeal to youth and had amazing success with his youth ministry in New York City in the early 1940s. His work inspired the more formal, structured youth ministry, Youth for Christ that I was a part of during my early ministry.
In the spring of 1945, Torrey Johnson, pastor of Chicago’s Midwest Bible Church began a weekly Saturday night youth rally that brought thousands of teens and returning service men to “Chicagoland for Christ.” Immediately, similar rallies were started across America with explosive growth. Thousands of youth met in most major cities for singing, skits, and sermons. Each city rally ran its own ministry but the international headquarters was in Chicago.
Torrey invited Chuck Templeton from Toronto’s Avenue Church and Billy Graham, pastor of Western Springs Baptist Church, a small suburban Chicago church to a rally at the Chicago Stadium. (Graham had preached at his first YFC rally in Indianapolis May 6, 1944.) More than 20,000 young people crammed the stadium with a 1,000 voice choir. Graham was to preach and just before he was introduced, he leaded over to Chuck and said, “Chuck, pray for me. I’m scared to death.”
Billy Graham was chosen to be one of three Youth for Christ International leaders and its only paid employee. Torrey Johnson was president and Chuck Templeton and Graham were vice presidents. They began a European tour of many cities with Billy and Chuck preaching on alternate nights. Life magazine sent a photographer and reporter on the tour.
Chuck Templeton wrote in An Anecdotal Memoir how he and Billy arrived in Paris a day early and wandered around the streets that were still crowded with Allied soldiers and prostitutes–everywhere. They were propositioned about fifty times as they walked down the Champs Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe to their hotel. Chuck told of one prostitute wearing a fur coat and nothing else except a garter belt and stockings. Billy said, “Chuck, we’ve got to get out of here.” They shoved the girls aside and literally ran down the street to their hotel.
At dinner that evening, they went to a “very French” place. While trying to make some sense out of the French menu, two young beautiful girls sat down at their table uninvited and ordered drinks. The girls only spoke French and the preachers only spoke English. When they paid the check, it was obvious to the two unsophisticated, uninitiated, and unaware preachers that the girls, taking each one of the preachers by the arm “tightly,” planned to leave with them.
That night Billy made an error in judgment that could have ruined him but it ended well and no doubt helped him firm up his personal convictions about his relationships with women.
Chuck’s girl pulled him toward apartments across the street and Graham’s pulled him in another direction. Billy looked at Chuck “despairingly” and Chuck yelled to Billy “Guess we’ll have to walk them home.” (No, they really did not have to do so.) As Chuck and his “date” entered the darkened apartment building, he realized he was in physical as well as moral danger so he ducked into a restroom then out of the building back to the hotel. But Billy was not there. Two hours later, he was still not there.
About midnight, Billy burst open the door, face red and wet with perspiration, hair disheveled, wide open collar, and eyes wide. He fell on the bed saying, “Chuck, you have no idea what’s happened to me. I thought I was going to walk the girl home and then leave her, but she hailed a cab. We drove and drove and drove. Somewhere outside the city in a dark little suburb, the cabby stopped. He didn’t speak any English, neither did she, and I couldn’t understand what he was saying about the fare. I took the money from my wallet and held it out, expecting him to do what the London cabbies do–take what was his and leave the rest. He took it all.
“The girl had me by the arm and she led me toward this place where she lived. It was a dump. We got inside and she closed the door. I was trying to think of something I could say or do to let her know I was leaving. She went over to the bed and without a word, unbuttoned her dress, tossed it aside, and fell back on the bed. And Chuck, she was stark naked!
“I turned, opened the door, and got out of there. In the street, I started to run. I don’t know how far I ran; it could have been a mile or two. When finally I stopped, I looked around. I had no idea where I was. I was going to hail a cab, and then realized I didn’t have any money. I asked some people the way to the downtown area but they just looked at me or rattled on in French. So I started to walk. I walked and walked and walked until I saw the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Then I knew where I was.”
My readers need to know that the incident was written many years after the event by a man who apostatized from the faith.
Whenever Chuck saw Billy after that incident, especially when he was with others, Chuck grinned at him and said, “Hello Bill. How’s the Midnight Runner?” In the early 1950s, Templeton had great success as a national television preacher on the CBS, Look Up and Live weekly show. From the beginning, he was recognized as a better preacher than Graham but Chuck turned his back on God reporting his defection in his book, Farewell to God. He died in unbelief with Alzheimer’s whimpering, “I miss Jesus.”
Both men made bad decisions. One proved he was never a genuine believer and went to Hell and Billy climbed into bed with unbelieving pastors to build a worldwide ministry on compromise, seeking to do right by doing wrong.
Billy Graham, the Midnight Runner! Well, God does command us to “Flee youthful lusts” and to his credit, Graham did that all his life.
Boys’ new ebook The Rise and Decline of Billy Graham: He Tried to do Right the Wrong Way! is available here.
Fact, Fraud or Faith?
by Don Boys, Ph.D.
Only an uninformed fanatic says that evolution or creation can be proved scientifically. Christians believe in creationism because we believe in the veracity of the Bible but we also have scientific evidence to support our position. In every debate I’ve had with evolutionary scientists, the arrogant, asinine accusation is made, “Well, evolution is scientific while creationism is religion.” Evolution is about as scientific as a voodoo rooster plucking ceremony in Haiti. Almost.