This Week's Story

Billy Sunday, National League baseball player and evangelist, spoke to over 100 million people without loudspeakers, TV, or radio.

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

Billy Sunday:
the best show in town!

The Rolling Stones made money history in 2014. The average ticket price to their concert was $624.00. Wow! And ouch!

Billy Sunday was drawing crowds with no tickets in the early 1900’s.  He was an evangelist, not a go-to-church preacher. His crowds were too big for churches.  They fit into big outdoor tents. He preached the basic gospel about Jesus in a way that caught the attention of United States presidents, bricklayers, bakers, homemakers, teenagers, anyone you probably could think of.

Sunday had been a National League baseball player for about seven years. He’d been a great base stealer, an unexciting hitter, and a good outfielder. Watching him on stage was like sitting in the stands at a baseball game. He might sprint across a stage or pretend to slide into home plate. Even though his moves were extravagant, his desire was not to work on people’s emotions or to steal their money, but for people to accept what Jesus had done for them.

No preacher on a big stage talked slang like Sunday. Formal language never rolled across his lips in the tent. He said, “When the English language gets in my way, I walk over it.”

During World War I coverage of his crusades was often greater than columns about the war. Frequently his sermons were printed in newspapers.

His preaching was so graphic that he sometimes horrified people, but audiences did not disappear. Some of his sayings were: “One reason sin flourishes is that it is treated like a cream puff instead of a rattlesnake.” “Hypocrites in the Church? Yes, and in the lodge and at the home. Don’t hunt through the Church for a hypocrite.  Go home and look in the mirror.  Hypocrites? Yes. See that you make the number one less.” “The trouble with many men is that they have got just enough religion to make them miserable. If there is no joy in religion you have got a leak in your religion.”

Billy grew up with losses. His dad died a month after Billy’s birth. His mom was left with three kids. She remarried, had two more children, and then her husband deserted her. Her poverty caused her to put Billy and his brother into an orphanage. Two years later Billy ran away and found a job as a stable boy. His boss, Colonel Scott sent him to school. Billy left high school shortly before graduating.

Soon he was playing for a local baseball team. Then he was signed to play with the Chicago White Stockings and rolled up thirteen strike outs. He caught attention with his speed in running bases and some extraordinary catches.

One afternoon he stopped to hear a gospel preaching team from the Pacific Garden Mission. The songs, hymns his mom used to sing, caught him.  He began attending the mission and became a Christian. A few years went by and he turned down a baseball contract for $3,500.00 a year to work instead for the Chicago YMCA for $83.00 per month. He gave up baseball playing and began visiting sick people, praying and counseling people, and inviting people to places where the gospel was preached. By age 34 he went solo as an evangelist with his wife. In his lifetime Billy Sunday addressed over 100 million people without loudspeakers, TV, or radio.

This is Barbara Steiner with a surprising and influential American who preached the gospel. Please check out thisweeksstory.com.

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