NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–When it comes to influential evangelicals, every list begins with Billy Graham.
For 60 years he has traveled the world proclaiming the Word as God’s instrument in winning perhaps millions of souls for Christ.
Now, in the twilight of Graham’s humble yet monumental career, LifeWay Christian Resources has unveiled a website dedicated to celebrating his life and ministry.
“We simply want to join people everywhere to say ‘thank you’ to Billy Graham for diligently proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ around the world,” said LifeWay President Thom S. Rainer, who formerly served as dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
LifeWay’s new website –- www.lifeway.com/billygraham -– is designed to honor “America’s pastor” as well as highlight the ever-changing face of a ministry that continues despite its founder’s official retirement.
“The technology revolution has shrunk the world to a global village,” Graham said in 1995. “It is time for the church to utilize this technology to make a worldwide statement that in the midst of chaos, emptiness and despair, there is hope in the person of Jesus Christ.”
The website offers a simple yet worldwide avenue for the stories of Graham and his years of ministry to continue affecting people for Christ, Rainer said.
At the website, visitors can browse through extensive resources, including a timeline of Graham’s life and ministry, numerous photos, key media coverage and even a map showing the location of Graham’s 400-plus crusades and his tours into such countries as Russia and North Korea.
Gary McClure, manager of marketing in LifeWay’s e-business group, said one special element of the site is its exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the commissioned statue of Graham currently in production.
“The site is a precursor to the unveiling of the Billy Graham statue in June,” McClure said. “The 17-foot-tall tribute will be introduced at the Southern Baptist Convention [annual meeting] in Greensboro, N.C., and then transported to its final presentation site in Nashville.”
The “Tribute Statue” portion of the site includes a question-and-answer feature with sculptor Terrell O’Brien as well as a photo gallery that allows visitors to literally watch the statue take shape.
“I have been in this profession for 22 years,” O’Brien relates in the Q&A. “But this is my most valued project because of what and whom it is about.”
That level of admiration and respect is echoed by several prominent evangelical leaders, including Rainer, former LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr., North American Mission Board research director and missiologist Ed Stetzer and Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission President Richard Land, who provided video testimonies for the site recounting Graham’s influence and impact on their lives.
“It’s a privilege to recognize the godly life Billy Graham demonstrates on a daily basis,” Draper said in his testimony. “He is an incredible example of how powerfully the love of Christ can shine through a person in both simple and profound ways.”
Additionally, LifeWay recognized that Graham’s impact reaches far beyond religious leaders and into the lives of a diverse group of everyday people. For that reason, the site also invites visitors to share their own testimonies regarding Graham.
“This is an interactive site where people can express their thoughts and thanks,” McClure said.
While the site offers plenty of content about Graham through the eyes of others, there are also multiple resources that allow Graham to speak for himself.
“One Message, Many Decades” is a three-minute video unique to the site that depicts Graham through the years as he proclaims his central message of faith in Jesus Christ.
The video captures some of his finest visual moments of teaching, while the “Quotable Graham” portion of the site records some of Graham’s most memorable statements. From surprisingly profound one-liners to longer yet simply stated proclamations, Graham’s words reflect the story of his life’s work.
During the International Congress of Itinerant Evangelists in 1983, Graham said in his address, “We, too, need to explore every legitimate method for reaching our world for Christ. New challenges call for new methods and new strategies.”
McClure said he believes LifeWay’s new site celebrating Graham is just one example of the type of “new methods and new strategies” Graham was speaking of more than 20 years ago.
A hallmark of Graham’s pioneering impact has been his willingness to embrace and leverage the technology of the day –- initially radio, followed by film, television and satellite extension of his worldwide crusades. “Throughout his ministry, Dr. Graham has always been progressive in utilizing every means possible to reach as many people as possible with the Gospel message. And God has honored his faithfulness,” said Larry Ross, director of media and public relations for Graham for the past 25 years.
“As his personal involvement in the work of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is tapering off due to age and health,” Ross added, “it is exciting to see how Dr. Graham’s writings and emerging technologies -– such as podcasting, Internet resources and media archives –- will continue to extend his unique ministry influence to future generations, further establishing his legacy as the greatest evangelist of the modern era.”