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Cliff Barrows graces Hall of Faith dedication

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Graced by a rare public appearance by legendary music evangelist Cliff Barrows, the North American Mission Board and the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists (COSBE) dedicated the “Evangelists Hall of Faith” on Jan. 14.

With brass plaques, the Hall of Faith — permanently located at NAMB’s offices in Alpharetta, Ga. — will perpetually honor the 30 living and deceased evangelists tapped at COSBE’s inaugural induction in Indianapolis in June 2008 as well as future inductees.

Over the last five years, Barrows — who turns 87 in April — has lost much of his eyesight due to macular degeneration and now depends on his wife Ann to read for him. “Not being able to read is one of the greatest trials and burdens of my life,” he says. He also walks with a cane.

But once Barrows speaks and sings, his silvery voice — so familiar to those who watched him lead mass choirs at Billy Graham Crusades around the world — instantly conjures up memories of his 65-year partnership with Billy Graham, George Beverly Shea and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. In fact, “Classic Billy Graham Crusades” continue to be shown on Christian TV networks.

“I bring greetings from Bill and Bev,” Barrows said, noting that “it is a great privilege for me to represent them as co-laborers together with Christ in recognizing this calling and the attention that has been given by our celebration today.”

“Let me say thank you for the tremendous encouragement we always received from Southern Baptists,” Barrows continued. “As I listened to the roll call of the honored evangelists, my mind went back to crusade after crusade when we worked with these evangelists — some as preachers, others as musicians.”

Following his remarks and a standing ovation, Barrows generated more applause and teary eyes as he stepped up to lead the audience of COSBE members, their families and NAMB staff in a refrain of “How Great Thou Art.”

Barrows now lives in Marvin, N.C., with Ann, his second wife. Between them, they have 26 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Billie, his first wife of 50 years, died of cancer 15 years ago.

In introducing Barrows, evangelist Junior Hill, a widely known COSBE evangelist from Hartselle, Ala., reminded the audience that “it’s often said when Billy Graham is introduced, he has spoken to more people than any other person in history. Well, if that’s true — and most agree it is — that also means that Cliff Barrows has sung and led the music before more people than anybody in history.”

In welcoming the audience, NAMB’s interim president, Richard Harris, called it a “great day of celebration for Southern Baptists — a historic and memorable day, marking a milestone in the life of Southern Baptist evangelists.”

“Some of the greatest, godliest men and women on this earth — with the greatest passion for souls — are the evangelists recognized in the Hall of Faith,” Harris said. “The Bible says the evangelist is a gift to the church. I’ll never understand why we Southern Baptists don’t treasure these great saints more.”

COSBE’s current president, Ron Herrod of Sevierville, Tenn., called the evangelists named to the Hall of Faith “incredible men of God, and for many generations to come, people will come here and see these plaques, read about these men and the incredible influence they had on evangelism in Southern Baptist life.”

Herrod described the Hall of Faith, located just off NAMB’s lobby in a conference room, as “awesome. Bob Smith and the NAMB people did a great job. We’re looking forward to adding things to it to make it even better in the months ahead.” The room also includes a variety of photos and memorabilia from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Every other year, two more evangelists will be inducted into the Hall of Faith during COSBE’s summer conference, held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.

Ballots with 18 nominees recently were mailed and must be returned by a Feb. 5 deadline. The next Hall of Faith inductees will be announced at a dinner in June in Orlando, Fla., site of this year’s SBC annual meeting.

Brian Fossett, a former COSBE president who first visualized a Hall of Faith for COSBE evangelists two years ago, called the room “incredible.”

“Hopefully, it will stand as a reminder to anyone who comes in that not only is the office of the evangelist alive and well, but that these great evangelists have sacrificed their lives and time with their families for the Gospel of Jesus Christ — that men, women, boys and girls might be saved and changed. I’m overwhelmed,” Fossett said.

Inducted in the inaugural Hall of Faith class in 2008 were Hyman Appelman, Walter K. Ayers, Cliff Barrows, Manley Beasley, Wayne Bristow, Sam Cathey, Clyde Chiles, E.J. Daniels, Ron Dunn, Freddie Gage, Mike Gilchrist, Billy Graham, Vance Havner, Jesse Hendley, Rudy Hernandez, Junior Hill, Eddie Martin, Angel Martinez, Homer Martinez, George Beverly Shea, Bailey Smith, J. Harold Smith, Jerry Spencer, Bill Stafford, Bette Stainecker, Jay Strack, Leon Westerhouse, Gene Williams, T.W. Wilson and Don Womack.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.

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