Billy Sunday Changes Everything

Billy Sunday was a successful professional baseball player when God saved him at the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago in 1886. The altar call invited him to come forward to confess his sins, seek Christ’s forgiveness and live in obedience to Christ’s teachings. His born-again salvation experience was definite and complete. He soon started preaching at the YMCA and other places, where he would ask penitents to come to the after-meetings for prayer and individual counsel.

Within a short time, Sunday was hired by the popular evangelist J. Wilber Chapman to serve as an advance man and sometimes preacher. Chapman, like his mentor, D.L. Moody, had very high standards. He taught Sunday the ropes, always emphasizing the effective use of the after-meeting and inquiry room. But when Sunday started his own organization in 1896, he dropped the inquiry room entirely and changed the “Decision Card” (used to get penitent information for follow-up) to a “Convert’s Pledge Card.” He started calling everyone who came forward a convert and used his own celebrity status to lure them to the front.

“How many of you will settle the great question without the delay of another minute, by coming forward to take me by the hand, and by doing so confess and accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? Will you come?”1

Setting up the false premise that a physical act was the same as saving faith, Sunday encouraged the lie of a 100 percent conversion rate to be reported in the press: “CONVERTS RUSHED TO GRASP HANDS OF BILLY SUNDAY ... publicly acknowledging their belief in Jesus Christ as their savior, and expressing their repentance for sin, 425 men, women and children of all ages and types, surged down the sawdust trail to the platform at the tabernacle last night to grasp the hand of Billy Sunday and to be enrolled as professing Christians.”2


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