Billy Graham came to Christ in 1934 under a tin-roofed tabernacle built for a revival led by the fiery evangelist Mordecai Ham.
When he started out--before radio and later television became a standard part of a successful evangelist's ministry--Graham followed the same pattern, drawing tens of thousands of people to temporary shelters erected for revivals in cities such as Albuquerque, N.M., and Portland, Ore.
At age 76, he is no longer the dominant, physically imposing figure who could command a stadium's attention with his presence. But technology is stepping in to give the century's most famous evangelist the opportunity to preach to the world from the site of a single crusade.
It's called Global Mission, and it will originate March 16-18 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, site of the Greater Puerto Rico Billy Graham Crusade.
Satellite uplinks will transmit Graham's services to revival sites in 175 countries, reaching up to 8 million people nightly in what representatives of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association call the greatest Gospel outreach in history.
And this is just the beginning of a new phase of worldwide evangelism, said Graham, the pioneer of modern radio and television ministries.
"We're not going to reach the whole world, of course, in Global Mission, but we're going to be the early forerunners of how it can be done technologically," he said.
From the major population centers of Europe to Kobe, Japan, and six sites in Togo, Global Mission plans to broadcast Graham's sermons to some 2,200 venues throughout the world, where 500,000 local "counselors" will distribute mission literature and meet with people who respond to the evangelist's call to commit their lives to Christ.
In San Juan, 12 production trucks will transmit nonstop to 29 time zones. The audio transmission will be translated into more than 40 languages.
The one major country that has not permitted Global Mission telecasts is China, but Graham said negotiations are continuing there. The United States is not part of Global Mission, but there will be later television broadcasts of the crusade in this country.
Some evangelicals see the event as especially significant in light of biblical prognostications, and believe it heralds the Second Coming of Christ.
In the 24th chapter of the Book of Matthew, Jesus says, "And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come."
Graham is wary of making any prediction, referring to biblical passages in which Jesus warns against speculating "on the time or the season."
He does say the technology probably exists to go to all the world with the Christian Gospel, although some governments' objections present a serious hurdle.
Just as thousands of evangelists followed his example in the fields of radio and television, Graham expects the technology developed for Global Mission to usher in a new age of worldwide evangelism.
"It's going to open the doors for others to do in the future," Graham said. "It's not television. It's as though I am coming to a place personally."