CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BP)–In advance of the unveiling of a statue honoring evangelist Billy Graham at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C., SBC President Bobby Welch May 30 presented a bronze model of the sculpture to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association at its headquarters in Charlotte.
Sculpted by Terrell O’Brien — a bi-vocational pastor, whose church and studio are in Wyoming — the bronze model depicts Graham standing before a cross, with outstretched arms, one of which holds an open Bible.
Welch noted that the model was being given to the BGEA headquarters on Memorial Day.
“What could be a better time to show appreciation for one of the great warriors for Christ?” Welch asked, glancing at the model. “And that’s Dr. Billy Graham.”
Welch read from John 3.14: “‘And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.’ Of course, you can see the cross in that.”
Continuing with John 3.16, Welch said the verses represent exactly what Billy Graham and his evangelistic association have done and are committed to continue.
“This is really about a man who lifted up the Lord Jesus, glorified God, preached the Gospel all around the world in a way that has never been done before,” Welch said.
Southern Baptists, Welch said, wanted the smaller model of the statue to reside at Graham’s headquarters as a reminder of their “thanksgiving to the Lord” for Graham’s ministry. After the Greensboro unveiling, the statue will reside permanently in downtown Nashville, Tenn., he said.
O’Brien described his involvement in the statue project as a “dream come true for a pastor.”
“It was my strong desire that this piece pay tribute to Billy Graham in his life’s work of preaching the Gospel,” O’Brien said. “As I began to think what it should look like, eventually the cross came into view.” O’Brien said God “gave me the desire of my heart in my desire to honor not only Billy Graham, but the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The cross stands 18 feet tall, and Graham’s likeness is 9.5 feet tall.
Welch officially presented the model statue to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association through Billy Graham’s grandson, William (Will) Franklin Graham IV.
“Will is one of our fine, young Southern Baptist pastors and evangelists, fitting right into the clear mold of his grandfather and his father (Franklin),” Welch said.
“It is my blessings, on behalf of 16,300,000 Southern Baptists in 43,000 churches, with 5,000 missionaries with their families overseas,” said Welch, “to present this now to your family and to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association as a constant reminder of how the Lord Jesus had touched one man’s life.”
Said William Graham, “We thank you for this kind gift, this gesture you have shown not only to my grandfather but to the organization. We very much appreciate it.”
Citing a recent conversation with his grandfather, William said Graham was concerned that he not be lifted up personally.
“I said, ‘Daddy Bill, the cross is what stands out,’” William Graham said. “‘It’s the hope that you found years ago when you found hope in the cross of Christ.’
“That’s the only true hope of the world that comes through the forgiveness of sins. Since my grandfather found that wonderful truth years ago, he’s faithfully proclaimed that same Gospel message — that there is hope for a hopeless world, but it’s found in only one place; it’s found at the cross,” William Graham said.
“The greatest question that man will ever have to answer in life is, ‘Who is Jesus Christ?’” he said. “And I think this cross will help draw people to Christ.”
The younger Graham then called his “Uncle Cliff” — Cliff Barrows, long-time song leader for Billy Graham’s crusades — to the podium.
“What a privilege has been mine for 60 years to have stood beside Mr. Graham to watch him and pray for him as he’s extended his arms, and held the Word of God up around the world,” Barrows said.
“I thank You,” Barrows then prayed, “for a convention that seeks to honor You and wants to honor the faithful proclamation of the Word of God. May everyone who beholds this statue in Nashville be reminded that it is the Word of God, and it is the power of the preaching of the Gospel that will be used to draw men to the foot of the cross.”
“May this statue be an incentive and an encouragement to the younger generation that comes behind to faithfully follow Christ and to proclaim His truth,” Barrows said.