NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Local celebrities, Southern Baptist leaders, denominational employees and other guests gathered Dec. 13 to dedicate a statue in honor of a man who wants no honor — the Rev. Billy Graham.
The statue — a representation of the evangelist standing in the shadow of a 17-foot cross, arms outstretched, his hand cradling a Bible — is fitting of a man who stood in the shadows of the cross of Christ and pointed millions around the world to its redemptive power.
The statue, unveiled during last June’s SBC annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C., now is permanently located at LifeWay Christian Resources’ facilities at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Commerce Street in Nashville.
During the dedication ceremony, LifeWay President Emeritus James T. Draper Jr. recalled the initial discussion of building a monument to honor the life and ministry of Billy Graham.
“[Then-Southern Baptist Convention President] Bobby Welch was on a bus trip when he called me saying he had a dream of building a statue of Billy Graham as a reminder to all Southern Baptists that we are soul-winners for Jesus Christ,” Draper said. “Today, we are not only honoring a man, we are honoring Christ.”
Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell spoke of the impact Graham’s ministry has had on the city throughout the years.
Graham “made many visits to Nashville and each visit has had a lasting impact on this community,” Purcell said. “He brought in the millennium in Nashville at a stadium filled night after night with people needing that message.
“Now 10 million visitors through Nashville have the opportunity to see and understand what this messenger has meant to us.”
Frank Page, current president of the SBC, shared a personal testimony of the impact Graham has had on his life. Not raised in a Christian home, Page remembered as a child seeing Graham on television.
“Now we stand here recognizing the legacy of a saint of God. More than that, we are recognizing that Southern Baptists are Jesus people. We are here to honor a Jesus man.”
Speaking on behalf the family, Graham’s grandson, Will Graham, expressed appreciation for the statue but was quick to express glory to God first and foremost.
“My friends, I know we are honoring Billy Graham, but statues will come and go, cities will come and go, but the Word of God is forever. This is about Jesus Christ,” Graham said. “My grandfather is a man who did not compromise, who loved the Lord with all of his heart and was faithful to what God placed before him. He sets an example for us all, not to be great evangelists, but to preach the simple Gospel.”
Cliff Barrows, who has traveled and ministered with Graham for 60 years, shared at the dedication ceremony the five passions he saw displayed through the Graham statue: Graham’s passion for the Word of God, exhibited by the Bible grasped in the statue’s hand; his passion for preaching, displayed by the figure’s open mouth; Graham’s passion for the message, with three nails and John 3:16 etched on the base of the sculpture; his passion for the invitation, evidenced by the statue’s outstretched arms; and his passion for the cross.
Barrows left a charge for those who would pass the statue and see these passions. “May those passions captivate your hearts and souls, and as you dedicate your life to those, you will experience power in your life and ministry like you’ve never dreamed.”
Atlanta businessman Chris Fryer, one of two private financiers of the statue, expressed delight in seeing the “fruition of the vision.”
“The size of the statue and the message is compelling — this is a great man with a great message,” Fryer said. “It will speak to those who pass it telling them that there is ‘room at the cross for you.’”
The statue’s sculptor, Terrell O’Brien, spoke of the process he took to develop his vision for the figure.
“As I began to think of what this should look like, I wanted to go beyond the man. For me, it was about the heart of the Gospel.”
Closing the Dec. 13 dedication ceremony, Welch quoted a passage from Joshua 4, when the Israelites built a memorial as a testimony to future generations of what God had done for them.
“This stands here not only to celebrate the Lord’s work through Billy Graham,” he said, “but for all generations now and who come after us to know of our commitment to evangelism and discipleship as Southern Baptists.”
To read other Baptist Press reports about the Billy Graham statue and its sculptor, Terrell O’Brien, click on the following links: