Biography of Billy Graham, describes his experiences at Lake Swan Camp, including Dr. Graham’s first sermon preached in 1937.
"Reverend John Minder, a red-haired giant of a man from Switzerland, was dean of men. He was an inspiration to Graham. Minder saw Billy as a spindly farm boy with lots of nail-biting energy, a mediocre academic record, and a zeal to serve Christ that exceeded his knowledge and skill. Over the Easter weekend of 1937, Dr. Minder invited Billy to go with him to his summer conference ground at Lake Swan in northern Florida. On a blustery, cold Saturday, they met Cecil Underwood, a lay preacher who was pastoring the nearby Peniel Baptist Church. Mr. Underwood invited Dr. Minder to preach the following evening at a small Baptist church in Bostwick. “No,” he answered frankly, “Billy is going to preach.” Billy was stunned at the response of his professor. At the time he had four borrowed sermons that he had adapted and practiced but never preached to an audience. In the trailer parks or the Fellowship Club meetings in Charlotte, Graham simply ad-libbed. He knew it would be different preaching a real sermon at a Baptist church. What will I do? he thought to himself. “Sir,” Billy protested, “I’ve never preached a formal sermon in front of a church audience.” The two men laughed. “We’ll pray for you,” Mr. Underwood said, “and God will help you.” Reluctantly Graham agreed. There was little else to do when the dean of his school offered his services. Billy was so frightened he spent almost the entire night studying and praying instead of sleeping. The next day he practiced the sermons out loud, and by evening he felt that at least one of the four should be at least twenty or thirty minutes in length. A potbellied iron stove near the front of the tiny Bostwick Baptist Church took the chill off the room on the cold, windy night. The song leader, who was chewing tobacco, every so often walked to the door to spit. About forty ranchers and cowboys and their wives were crowded into the room. Finally the moment arrived for Graham to step up to the pulpit. His knees were shaking, and perspiration glistened on his hands as he launched into his first sermon. In his mind, the first sermon finished almost as soon as it started, so he carried right on into the second sermon, then the third, and then the fourth. Finally he sat down. Only eight minutes had passed! When Billy returned to campus, he felt he had grown spiritually from the experience. At the same time, he felt a nagging tug on his heart. Was God calling him to preach the Gospel?"