Billy Sunday will always be recognised as of one of Christendom’s most colourful characters. Born in 1862, Sunday was a professional baseball player and part-time fireman, when he was converted through the ministry of the Garden Mission in Chicago in 1886.
In 1891 he began two years of service with the Chicago YMCA and in 1894-5 assisted J. Wilbur Chapman in the planning and promotion of large evangelistic crusades. From 1896 he launched out on his own as an itinerant evangelist until his death in 1935, during which time it is claimed that he won a million converts to Christ.
His success was due to a number of factors including advanced planning, superb organization, massive publicity, musical excellence, specialist ministries to businessmen, women, students and other sectional interests. Thousands of church members were recruited to assist a group of at least twenty specialists employed in the mechanics of city-wide crusade evangelism.
Sunday’s sensational and flamboyant preaching style appealed to the masses who responded to his sometimes outrageous sermons on moral issues, especially the evils of alcohol.
Sunday can be described as a revivalist – a powerful and successful evangelist who used all the ‘means’ he could to see people converted – and who occasionally saw signs of true revival.