A Tribute to Jerry Beavan
by Leslie Nixon of Australia’s Outback Patrol
Jerry Beavan was a man few people knew anything about. He was handed a roving commission from Billy Graham when they met at Northwestern College, and after the 1949 Los Angeles Campaign, to look around, keep his head low and search for overseas cities for Mr. Graham to serve. He headed to India and expanded from the 1947 missions that propelled Mr. Graham on to the international stage. Billy Graham was starting his take-off roll ... and the little-known Jerry Beavan was in the pilot's seat.
Beavan came from an evangelical background after WWII, earned his Phd qualifications by grueling academic hard work and training, and pastored a church. Then as Executive and Faculty teaching theology at prestigious institutions, he had a passion that the Gospel should be heard by millions. He thought Billy Graham could do it, if he kept squeaky clean, Bev Shea as his singer and Cliff Barrows the headline presenter. Prayer and massive meetings and local choirs was a secret to it.
He carefully navigated ways through impenetrable bureaucracies and institutions to get Mr. Graham heard by the people, but everyone thought Graham too inexperienced and passionate, and not the man for the hour, so barriers arose for Beavan to hurdle. Then, it all began to happen., and the name of Billy Graham became a by-word.
Fifty years after, Beavan had circled the world 50-times in his quests, taken Graham to a hundred nations, behind the Iron Curtain and into China for missions, retold the Gospel story to Presidents, Royalty and Potentates, and left an impact for Christ like no one since Britains Spurgeon. Graham became Christianity’s most commended advocate, and Beavan remained the invisible organiser behind the scenes.
With no fan-fare, Beavan headed to crusty conservative Britain after India, to talk to Churches and Lords, and faced even greater obstacles; but he warmed to challenges like that, and within a few years had Billy Graham heard in great arenas in the UK. Royalty welcomed the young impulsive Graham with his transparently simple Gospel. Everyone was hearing Graham’s Gospel in the 50’s, but the media treated himself as a huckster, and theologians criticised his Bible, but Beavan’s news reports attracted the masses to turn out in tens, then hundreds of thousands that rocked nations, but no one knew anything about the ubiquitous Jerry Beavan.
Here in Australia we didn’t realise that Beavan had been wandering in and out of local tent missions in 1957/8 checking the state of the church and planning for the future. He knew that Neimoller and Hamilton and Macaulay and Orr held great meetings after WWII, so he thought Australia was ripe for Billy Graham. He’d extracted an invitation from the Sydney Anglicans for Graham to come, and his heart was set on making it a national Crusade.
Everyone was hearing rumors that Graham might come in ‘57 after New York, but nothing came of it; it sounded too good to be true. Suddenly, the great man emerged in ’59 around the same time as black and white television, and everyone snapped into action. Prayer cells were burgeoning all over the country and the place was a twitter. It changed everyone’s diaries, and churches began to rouse.
That’s the way Beavan worked - in the background. By the time Mr. Graham landed in Sydney in March ’59, the city was ablaze with anticipation. Such a name hitting ritzy Sydney and sleepy Melbourne stirred us into frenzy. We could actually go to the stadiums and see him for ourselves, in the flesh.
Beavan became the trusted confidant of the world's greats, held in his heart personal intimacies, related one-to-one with the the man in the street, always in awe of what God could do, and perfected the delicious faculty of dependable friendliness with each. People felt as if they were his closest friend. He held the pass into all areas, but not for gain. He never sought greatness for himself. That was his essence, and this was his strength.
Beavan continued his quiet revolution into the late 60s taking Billy Graham to scores of countries, after which he retired from travel into private consulting, but not without setting a fire on the evangelistic stage, and thus, leaving a holy brand on the church and a divine impact on the world.
Jerry (Gerald) Beavan died at 94 at home in San Diego, California on March 11, 2014, after a prolonged illness, with his wife and daughter at his side. The man whom Billy Graham named as 'the architect of world evangelism' was dead. He was the classic quiet achiever who did much to advance the Kingdom of God, and has now become a permanent resident.
Unauthorized ... A personal observation.