The Southern Baptist Convention will unveil a bronze statue honoring the life and ministry of evangelist Billy Graham at the 2006 annual meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, in keeping with SBC President Bobby Welch's announcement during the closing session of last year's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.
The announcement at the SBC's 2005 annual meeting was accompanied by a tribute to Graham, which included messengers approving by acclamation a statement, posted on the adjoining page, drafted by the SBC Executive Committee honoring Graham, and a video chronicling the evangelist's ministry.
The sculpture, which depicts Graham under a cross offering an evangelistic invitation with uplifted hands, has been produced by Wyoming artist and pastor Terrell O'Brien. A bronze model sculpted by O'Brien was revealed to messengers during last year's tribute. The larger-than-life statue of a young Billy Graham will be unveiled during a special tribute to the evangelist on Wednesday night of the Greensboro meeting.
The statue, which features the nine-foot-tall image of Graham in front of a seventeen-foot-tall cross, eventually will be moved to a location near LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tennessee.
Funds for the sculpture have been provided by Matt Samuelson and Chris Fryer, owners of CCL Associates, an Atlanta-based church construction consulting firm, Welch said.
"There is no better-known name in the entire world, when it comes to being a person of faith, than Billy Graham," Welch said at the 2005 meeting. "In addition to that, there has never been a man on the planet who has preached face to face to as many multiplied hundreds of millions of people [as] this man.
"Beyond that, there has never been a man like that…who has preached such a clear Gospel of Jesus Christ to be Savior and Lord of your life. And in addition to all of that, he is one of us. He's a Southern Baptist. That's a pretty good son to have."
Graham's grandson, William Franklin Graham IV, acknowledged the tribute on behalf of his grandfather at the Nashville gathering in 2005 and noted that the evangelist could not be in attendance due to a crusade in New York City scheduled to begin in late June.
"Thank you on the behalf of my grandfather, my father, and all of the Graham family," William Franklin Graham said. "I wish my grandfather could be here. He sends his regards. He loves being a Southern Baptist."
The younger Graham, pastor of Wakefield Baptist Church in Wake Forrest, North Carolina, urged Southern Baptists to use the statue as a reminder to be faithful to their own callings rather than longing to be like Billy Graham.
"I want to remind people that when they see this statue, I don't want them to think, 'Man, I wish I could be like Billy Graham.' My grandfather and I would say, 'You're shooting too low.' … He'd say to aim higher. He'd say, 'Just be faithful to the call you have,'" Graham said.
"Be faithful to that one call that God has given you. God's going to use you just like He used my grandfather. And it may not be to hundreds of thousands or millions of people, but it's a job designed just for you."
Graham, a graduate of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, is scheduled to be on hand this year at the unveiling of the statue, along with Cliff Barrows, Billy Graham's renowned associate. Barrows is a member of Carmel Baptist Church in Matthews, North Carolina.
O'Brien said sculpting the statue, titled "There is Room at the Cross for You," is one of the "greatest privileges that I've had in some twenty-four years of that profession."
"When I came to do this, I knew that Dr. Billy Graham has been one of the most visible and greatest preachers of our time and has always preached the Gospel plainly and strongly," O'Brien said. "So when I came to this, I wanted the Gospel to be seen in it. … You'll see the cross and Dr. Graham, who has preached the cross faithfully. And that's why so many people have come to Christ under his preaching."
Adapted from Baptist Press articles.
Honoring the Life and Ministry
William Franklin Graham, Jr.
Early in his ministry, Billy Graham recognized that his purpose in life was "to help people find a personal relationship with God … through knowing Christ." As a result of passionately pursuing and fulfilling that purpose, he has become a trans-generational, global icon. Over the last sixty years, his rallies, crusades, radio and television broadcasts, books, movies, magazines, and tracts have been used by God to present the gospel to hundreds of millions of people around the world. No one in history has preached the gospel to as many people, and no one has been used of God to lead so many to faith in Christ within his own lifetime, as Billy Graham.
As a Bible college student in Florida, Graham felt God was leading him to change his denominational affiliation. In 1939, he was ordained to the gospel ministry at Peniel Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist church near Palatka, Florida. Since, he has maintained a vital link with the Southern Baptist Convention, keeping his membership in Southern Baptist churches over the course of his ministry, and leaving an undeniable and indelible impression upon the Convention and its churches. His contributions to, and effect upon, the Southern Baptist Convention are virtually inestimable. The remarkable ministry and Christ-like example of Billy Graham have had a profound impact upon numerous facets of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Billy Graham has been used by God to influence the lives of countless Southern Baptist pastors. His ministry and example have encouraged and inspired evangelistic fervor among generations of these pastors. Only God knows how many of the men who stand behind the pulpits of Southern Baptist churches each week have come to know the Lord through a Billy Graham crusade, broadcast, movie, or publication. Only He knows how many Southern Baptist pastors have been trained by Billy Graham's evangelism schools and materials. Several generations of pastors have been stirred by his fiery and impassioned preaching style and have been personally challenged and motivated by his single-minded devotion to preaching the gospel. Only eternity will reveal the number of pastors who have been reminded and moved to make evangelism a priority in the focus of their churches as a result of Graham's ministry.
The Lord also has used Billy Graham to make an immeasurable impact upon Southern Baptist churches. The fruit of his evangelistic labor can be found each week in the pews and at work in Southern Baptist churches around the nation. For decades, Southern Baptist churches have used the theatrical release of his feature films as tools for reaching the lost. Southern Baptist churches across the nation have better reached their respective communities as a result of participating in citywide crusades. Untold numbers of church members have been equipped to present the gospel through the evangelism training offered in conjunction with those crusades. Graham's innovative use of television, radio, and printed media has served as an example and inspiration for Southern Baptist churches that have sought to utilize the same for effective evangelism and ministry.
Graham's evangelistic ministry has also inspired the ministries of hundreds of Southern Baptist evangelists for more than fifty-five years. His development, planning, and successful execution of more than 400 evangelistic crusades around the world have served as a premier model for Southern Baptist evangelists of the effective implementation of crusade evangelism. Furthermore, for more than five decades, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has served as an outstanding example of effectiveness, efficiency, innovation, and financial integrity for these evangelists' own organizations. His commitment to invest heavily in the development of evangelists for this and future generations is exemplified in the establishment of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Wherefore, on the occasion of the launch of the "Everyone Can!" Kingdom Challenge, with a goal of witnessing to, winning, and baptizing one million people in the coming year; and
Being mindful that the Holy Scriptures teach us to give "honor to whom honor is due;" and
In light of the extraordinary accomplishments our Lord has wrought through the life and ministry of Billy Graham; and
Because of his extensive contributions to, and profound impact upon, the Southern Baptist Convention, its churches, and its preachers,
It is, therefore, most appropriate that the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention, on its 160th anniversary, meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, June 21-22, 2005, pay joyful and grateful tribute to the life and ministry of William Franklin Graham, Jr.
Further, the Southern Baptist Convention offers highest praise and deepest gratitude to God for being pleased to bless the life and ministry of Billy Graham, and through him to enhance the ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention and to further the Kingdom of God across this nation and around the world, to the honor and glory of God.
Finally, the Southern Baptist Convention prays with deepest affection and great anticipation that God will continue to richly bless the life, family, and ministry of Billy and Ruth Graham for many years to come.
Adopted June 20, 2005
Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention
Morris H. Chapman, President and Chief Executive Officer
Adopted June 22, 2005
Southern Baptist Convention
Bobby H. Welch, President