Christians You Should Know: Billy Sunday August 16, 2023

Billy Sunday 1080x1080

O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing. – Psalm 34:9-10

A Snapshot of the Life of William A. (Billy) Sunday:

Born: Nov. 19, 1862 – near Ames, Iowa
Died: Nov. 6, 1935 – Chicago, Illinois

Evangelist who held large city-wide crusades in the 1910s, preaching 1895-1935. Sunday was reared in an orphanage in Glenwood and Davenport with his brother, Ed, 1874-76. He moved to Nevada, IA graduating from high school in 1876. In 1883, Sunday was discovered by “Pop” Anson of the Chicago White Socks. He played major league baseball for Chicago (1883-88), Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia (1888-91), with a reputation for base stealing. He was converted at age 23 in 1886, at the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago. He married Helen Thompson on September 5, 1888, and they had four children. His ministry began as a YMCA staffer and progressed to being an associate of J. W. Chapman, 1893-95. Sunday held his first crusade in Garner, IA in 1896. He was ordained by Chicago Presbyterians in 1903. His 1917 Boston crusade was his second largest with 63,484 converts. His 1917 New York crusade had 98,267 converts and was the highlight of his life. He was instrumental in bringing in prohibition. His sermon, “Get on the Water Wagon” was a classic. Home for the Sunday family was Winona Lake, IN since 1910 where Homer Rodeheaver, his song leader, also lived He semi-retired in 1930. His 300 crusades reached 80 million people with some one million conversions. In 1933, he suffered the first of three heart attacks. His funeral was at Moody Church with Harry Ironside presiding and preaching. For years a large Billy Sunday Tabernacle seating thousands was the main attraction at Winona Lake Bible Conference. His favorite Bible verses were Psalms 34:9-10. He is buried in Forest Park, IL. Of three authentic reference works we have date of birth listed as November 18, 1862; November 19, 1862; and November 19, 1863. – (Excerpts taken from the Reese Chronological Encyclopedia of Christian Biographies. Used by permission.)

A Spiritual Application for Our Lives:

Billy Sunday was a fearless soldier of the truth. He lived to declare it. He spoke to proclaim it. He fought to defend it. The Word of God was the message of Sunday. For him, no other message was worth mentioning. He scoffed at the ministers who preached “Everybody and everything rather than the Bible.” Billy Sunday was saved from a life of heartache and ruin, but also attained great worldly success. Therefore, he understood the transforming power of the gospel. Sunday understood the enslaving power of sin and the entrapments of worldly success.

Billy Sunday was a hard preacher. He never backed away from the tough issues of his day. One of the greatest evils he combated was the liquor industry. He wrote, preached, and campaigned against it. For Sunday understood the destruction it had brought to society and families. Sunday preached on the reality of Hell. He warned of the dangers of neglecting God’s Word in life. He blistered those who preached powerless sermons. Sunday implored people to recognize and resist the work of Satan in their lives. He organized massive crusades to get the Gospel to the masses. Billy Sunday was a remarkable man.

Let us not forget the cost at which this came. Sunday was a great professional baseball player; however, when God called him to minister, he intentionally turned down his most lucrative offer to take a job with the YMCA (at the time this was a gospel outreach ministry for young men). From here, God would lead Sunday to incredible victories for Christ.

Let us consider a few lesson from this man’s amazing life:

  • Do not seek the praise of man at the expense of obedience to God.
  • Declare the truth of God, even if some do not like it; “The man who preaches the truth is your friend.
  • Build your work on prayer. Engaging believers in the work of prayer was critical to Sunday’s campaigns. For instance, during the month leading up to his Pittsburg campaign, there were more than 4,000 prayer meetings with over 60,000 believers praying for God’s hand of blessing!
  • Apply the eternal truth to everyday life. God’s Word has all we need to live godly lives today. Seek to subject your life to God’s Word, not the other way around.
  • Be who God created you to be. There will never be another Billy Sunday, but thankfully, Billy Sunday never tried to be someone else. God has gifted all of us to accomplish His will through us. Let us rest in His will and engage in His work.

You may not be the next Billy Sunday, but you may reach him!

A Suggestion for Further Reading…

Billy Sunday: The Man and His Message  – William T. Ellis (1959)

Billy Sunday: Evangelist of the Sawdust Trail (Heroes of the Faith)Rachael M. Phillips (2001)

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  1. Delbert Hawley on August 17, 2023 at 12:19 PM

    Not only does our world need more Billy Sunday’s, but our pulpits need more Billy Sunday’s. god help me to preach the Truth without fear or favor.

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