Percy Crawford: Youth Evangelist


Percy Crawford (1902-60), dynamic youth evangelist and pioneering broadcaster, was born in Canada but attended high school in Oregon. While preparing to attend UCLA he came to know the Lord at the Church of the Open Door, where itinerant evangelist W.P. Nicholson mentored him.

Then he attended the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (now Biola University) and committed to full-time evangelism. He made a number of evangelistic tours and one summer recorded 800 professions of faith.

Later he obtained a B.A. from Wheaton (Ill.) College. He also attended Westminster Theological Seminary and the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating from seminary, Crawford was ordained by the Presbyterian Church and briefly pastored Rhawnhurst Presbyterian Church in northeast Philadelphia. Siding with J. Gresham Machen and the fundamentalists in the growing divide within the denomination, he quietly resigned the pulpit when forced to choose between faithfulness to the Scripture and submission to church authority.

Crawford married Ruth Duvall, who became his lifelong partner in evangelism. She "organized a vocal quartet, brass quartet, men's and women's ensembles, and later a full orchestra." Most of their five children are still active in ministry today.

Crawford was among the earliest and most enthusiastic embracers of mass media for the cause of the Gospel. While still in seminary in 1931, he started a radio program, Young People's Church of the Air, and within 10 years was heard on 400 stations. In 1949, he started another program, Youth on the March, one of the first Christian television programs broadcast on ABC.

He founded Pinebrook Bible Conference, and many Youth for Christ camps and retreat centers. In 1938, Crawford established The King's College in Belmar, N.J., a Christian liberal arts school. King's moved to Delaware in 1941, and to suburban New York City in 1955. Crawford served as president until his death. Though forced to declare bankruptcy in 1994, the college was soon re-established in New York City, and is now located in Manhattan's financial district.

More than 13,000 college alumni have had an impact for Christ around the world. Dr. Robert Cook, its second president, said of Dr. Crawford, "To him Christian education was complete only when the liberal arts graduate also knew his Bible, was able to relate its truths to daily living, and was busy serving God wherever he went."

Crawford died on October 31, 1960 of a heart attack suffered while driving to a Youth for Christ evangelistic meeting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Billy Graham was the main speaker at his funeral.

"Well done, thou good and faithful servant" (Matt. 25:21).

Bernard R. DeRemer chronicled the lives of dozens of heroes of the faith in more than a decade of writing for Pulpit Helps Magazine. He continues to serve in this capacity as a volunteer contributor to Disciple. He lives in West Liberty, Ohio.

References: This article is based on information from The King's College, New York City, Wikipedia "Percy Crawford".

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