PLANO, Texas (BP)–Prestonwood Baptist Church’s June 15-16 worship services launched a commitment to pray for senior pastor Jack Graham’s new role as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Following an enthusiastic call to worship proclaiming Christ as our “firm foundation,” Prestonwood’s executive pastor, Mike Buster, recapped Graham’s election to the SBC presidency, presenting video clips from the June 11-12 SBC annual meeting in St. Louis. The clips included the June 11 nomination of Graham by Johnny Hunt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church of Woodstock, and the affirmation of the nomination by the SBC’s outgoing president, James Merritt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church of Snellville. The Prestonwood congregation applauded along with the videotaped SBC audience as Morris H. Chapman, SBC Executive Committee president, introduced the Graham family to convention attendees.
After the video presentation, Prestonwood members welcomed the Graham family home and showed their support through a standing ovation as Deb Graham, his wife of 32 years, received a large bouquet of yellow roses. On behalf of the congregation, Buster addressed the Graham family. “Pastor — and I might add Mr. President and First Lady — we recognize that you’ve been given the responsibility of not only leading our church, but also in providing leadership to some 16 million Southern Baptists that worship in 42,000 churches, and over 10,000 missionaries in some 127 nations … and 12 different agencies including six Southern Baptist seminaries. We are so very proud and grateful as a church family … and we want to embrace these responsibilities with you … and we want to do that on bended knee.”
As Graham and his family moved to a prayer altar on the platform, Prestonwood deacons came forward to kneel as well. Several church leaders surrounded the Graham family to lay hands on them and bathe them in prayer.
Deacon chairman Gary Hammond prayed for Graham’s continuing pastoral role at Prestonwood. Bob Graham, pastor of Field Street Baptist Church in Cleburne, Texas, and Jack Graham’s older brother, prayed for the new SBC president in his roles as husband and father.
Zig Ziglar, a Dallas-based motivational speaker, voiced a prayer in light of controversy at the outset of Graham’s presidency stemming from comments about Islam during the SBC Pastors’ Conference by Florida pastor Jerry Vines.
“Lord, for the unbelievers, it will sound strange that we’re so grateful for the controversy that’s already erupted around [Graham’s] leadership,” Ziglar prayed. “We’re grateful for that because I’m convinced that this controversy will cause many people to explore what the Bible really says and what the Koran really says. And we just believe, Lord, that when your truth is exposed, there’ll be no question about which route the readers of those two volumes will take.”
And as the pianist played “Take My Life and Let It Be” in the background, David McKinnley, Prestonwood’s teaching pastor, voiced a prayer for Graham’s SBC leadership. Following the prayer, McKinnley explained the significance of the new prayer altar, stating that it had been obtained especially for this time of prayer and commitment, to be placed prominently in the church atrium as an ongoing reminder for members to pray for Graham. “But,” McKinnley said, “even a piece of furniture … a visual testimony, is not enough. It’s something that we personally want to do for you and for your family.”
McKinnley encouraged church members to use the Pastor Prayer Guide they received prior to the service. The cover of the prayer guide reminds members “it is our privilege and responsibility to stand with him during this time in prayer — to stand beside him and to hold his hands up in prayer just as Aaron and Hur did for the prophet, Moses, during his time of leadership.” The guide contains 31 days of specific, scriptural prayers to bring focus to the church members’ prayers for their pastor. Members stood and held their prayer guides in the air to demonstrate their commitment to pray for Graham throughout his term of office.
Graham then took the platform to express gratitude for the congregation’s support. “When asked, ‘Why would I accept this kind of assignment and responsibility?’ I simply want to make a difference with my life. And I pray that our church will make a difference not only here, but around the world.”
He added, “Of course there will be many challenges; there will be some controversies. I promise never to embarrass you. It is my desire that Southern Baptists will be known more for what we are for, rather than what we are against. And we are for the Lord Jesus Christ and exalting him … to the nations.”
Graham said the prayer guide and prayer altar surprised him at the Saturday evening worship service. Pleased by the congregation’s emphasis, he said, “The prayer that you offer for me and my family is so vital to this time.”
To continue the celebration, the six-time Dove award-winning family The Martins presented a mini-concert that included their a cappella interpretation of “The Lord’s Prayer” and concluded with a favorite of Graham’s, “In Christ Alone.”
Graham then brought a brief Father’s Day message from the text of Genesis 12:2: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” His message on “how to bless your children” not only spoke to fathers for Father’s Day, but also addressed one of his priorities as the new SBC president — saving the family.
Kay Adkins is a writer for the Southern Baptist Texan, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.