LifeWay and Wheaton's Billy Graham Center Embark on 1-Year Mission to Equip Christians in Gospel Witness By Michael Gryboski , Christian Post Reporter

The Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College and LifeWay Research began a one-year partnership Wednesday to further perfect efforts to evangelize at home and abroad.

Part of this partnership will involve the appointment of Ed Stetzer, head of LifeWay Research, to the position of senior fellow at the Billy Graham Center.

Laurie Fortunak Nichols, spokeswoman for the Billy Graham Center, told The Christian Post that the two entities have "a similar mission to see Christ's Church better equipped to engage in Gospel witness."

"As we considered launching a research arm of the BGCE, Ed Stetzer and his team at LifeWay were a perfect fit to co-partner with Rick Richardson, director of our Evangelizing Churches Initiative, in that endeavor," said Nichols.

Nichols also told CP about how Stetzer's appointment will involve three key purposes, which include pursuing "an emerging research project," organizing and hosting "a conference next year for evangelism leaders and pastors where the initial findings of the research will be disseminated," and "traveling regularly to meet with our ministry directors to provide leadership and vision-casting as we move forward in a number of strategic areas of evangelism training, research, ministry, and resourcing."

In an entry on his blog posted last week, Stetzer said that he and his peers at LifeWay "are excited about this partnership," noting that Wheaton is commonly considered "the Harvard of evangelicalism."

"I've been very impressed with Wheaton as a whole, not just the Billy Graham Center. With the leadership of Phil Ryken (president) and Stan Jones (provost), Wheaton has a great future, so I am happy to throw my lot in with them," wrote Stetzer.

"As part of this partnership, we'll be doing some important new research and work in the area of evangelism, [particularly] how churches and Christians are getting on mission to show and share the love to Jesus."

The sense of excitement appears mutual, as Nichols of the Billy Graham Center told CP that she believes Stetzer "is a tremendous thought-leader regarding the church and cultural issues today."

"His appointment as senior fellow will help us to continue to thoughtfully pursue our mission of developing and mobilizing Jesus-followers for individual and communal witness," continued Nichols.

"In a time when our country is rapidly changing, both the BGCE and Lifeway Research feel an urgent need to provide grounded evidence of the reality of our culture today, as well as strategic resources to help leaders and lay Christians move forward in being authentic witnesses of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom."




'America's Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation'

By Peter Smith / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Evangelist Billy Graham, now 96, has outlived most of his critics and most of the people who shared the headlines with him. He’s also outlasted generations of admirers. Surveys tell us many younger adults don’t know or care who he is.

That’s hard to fathom for anyone old enough to remember much of the 20th century. Billy Graham appeared regularly on Time and Newsweek covers for much of his active ministry, spanning more than 60 years. He showed up regularly on TV with stadium crusades and fireside Christmas specials with the likes of Johnny and June Carter Cash. He often visited the White House — really too often for his own good. When he blessed causes, candidates, wars and peace movements, people listened.

Nowadays, religious historian Grant Wacker has to explain to his students — seminarians, no less — who Billy Graham is. Mr. Wacker, a professor at Duke Divinity School and specialist in evangelical and Pentecostal history, says the time is ripe to assess this vastly influential career.

“America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation” (Belknap Press, $27.95) isn’t a straightforward biography of Rev. Graham. William Martin’s 1991 “A Prophet with Honor” remains the standard for that.

Rather, Mr. Wacker analyzes Rev. Graham’s impact on statesmen, churchmen, citizens and converts — and all the lonely people who sent him desperate letters by the millions.

Mr. Wacker convincingly argues that Rev. Graham helped in “the shaping of a nation,” guiding how “Americans perceived the world around them … and then how they acted.”

As Rev. Graham built his Christian media empire, he “displayed an uncanny ability to adopt trends in the wider culture and then use them for his evangelistic and moral reform purposes,” Mr. Wacker wrote.

As a personality, Billy Graham hardly seems fodder for 400 pages of analysis, endnotes included. He’s the straightest of straight arrows — a teenage convert, career preacher, faithful husband and family patriarch.

Even admirers acknowledge he really had one sermon — in short, come to Jesus. Not everyone could see the attraction (see Truman, Harry). But multitudes adored Rev. Graham as the plumb line of faithfulness and character.

Mr. Wacker finds nuance between the polarities.

Widely recognized for personal humility, Rev. Graham was also a chronic name-dropper and self-promoter. Hardly extravagant, he hobnobbed with the rich, famous and powerful.

In the 1950s, Rev. Graham scared many to their knees with warnings of communist advance. But he evolved in surprising ways.

He took heat for attending a 1982 peace conference in Moscow. While he knew the sclerotic Soviet regime was putting on a propaganda show, he believed he could do some good. Mr. Wacker, like many, says he did.

It was in Moscow where Rev. Graham made one of his most bracing confessions. He said he’s undergone three conversions in life: to Christ, racial equality and nuclear peace.

As for race, the native North Carolinian’s record frustrates the prophetically minded. He didn’t join the Rev. Martin Luther King on the streets, but he did invite him on stage. Rev. Graham didn’t march in Selma, but he did lead integrated crusades in the South. He didn’t bring the change, but as a favorite son of the white South, he made it go down more smoothly.

Mr. Wacker deals squarely with Rev. Graham’s toadying to President Richard Nixon, and the poisonous words about Jews that the evangelist voiced on Nixon’s secret White House tapes. Notwithstanding Rev. Graham’s apologies, the words clash with his generous interfaith relations. They will blemish his obituaries.

The most remarkable find in this book, however, may be all those letters sent by admirers. The postman knew where to deliver envelopes addressed simply to “God’s Man, Minneapolis, USA.”

The surviving letters represent a catalog of 20th-century maladies: alcoholism, drugs, depression, suicide, nursing-home isolation, wayward children, wayward spouses. Rev. Graham heard from the incarcerated, the conscience-torn, the doubting, the despairing.


“Graham’s achievement for all Americans ... lay in the offer of a second chance,” Wacker wrote.

The main limit for this book is one Mr. Wacker acknowledges — its focus on Graham as “America’s pastor” rather than as world figure. Rev. Graham was a rototiller for what became a massive evangelical harvest in the Global South, where he preached to millions and trained thousands of indigenous evangelists. That legacy deserves as fine a book as this one.

NC legislators want Billy Graham statue in US Capitol

State legislators want to put a statue of evangelist Billy Graham in the U.S. Capitol building, replacing former Gov. Charles B. Aycock as one of two North Carolinians memorialized there.

Aycock, who served from 1901 to 1905, has come under fire recently for his white supremacist views. In February, East Carolina University stripped his name from a dormitory, and the N.C. Democratic Party took his name off an annual fundraising dinner in 2011.

In Washington, Aycock has represented North Carolina in the National Statuary Hall Collection since 1932. The state’s other contribution there is a statue of Zebulon Vance, who was a Confederate officer, governor and U.S. senator.

Republican-sponsored bills in the state House and Senate call for putting a Graham statue in Aycock’s place, describing him as someone who “continues to inspire the world with his good works.”

“There was a thought that Gov. Aycock may not be one of the best representatives of North Carolina,” said Rep. Charles Jeter, a Huntersville Republican who sponsored the House bill. “As times change, we need to make sure that the people that represent North Carolina do so with our best foot forward.”

Jeter says he filed House Bill 540 following a request from U.S. Sen. Richard Burr. Jeter says Graham’s legacy of ministry and charitable work reflects well on the state.

“To me, he was the best representative of North Carolina,” he said. “He is by far the least polarizing of all the people who are worthy of consideration.”

A companion bill was filed in the Senate by Sen. Dan Soucek, a Boone Republican who has worked for Samaritan’s Purse, a charity led by Graham’s son Franklin.

Not everyone, however, is eager to see Aycock removed from his Capitol pedestal. Rep. John Bell’s district includes the Aycock Birthplace Historic Site in Wayne County, and he said he’s been “disappointed” to see attacks on the governor’s legacy.

“He did a lot to enhance education,” said Bell, a Goldsboro Republican, pointing to the 1,100 public schools constructed during Aycock’s term. “I would like for him to be remembered for his legacy doing that.”

Bell said he hasn’t yet taken a position on the Graham proposal but stressed that he “loves what Billy Graham stands for.”

Jim Aycock, the great-grandson of Aycock’s brother, said critics have made false attacks on the governor. Some accounts have tied Charles Aycock to race riots and lynchings, which Jim Aycock said is wrong.

“If he were alive today, he would have lot of active libel cases,” Aycock said, adding that the proposed Statuary Hall change is “the latest salvo in a years-long series of attacks.”

Charles Aycock’s role as a white supremacist, however, isn’t in dispute: A 1912 biography said he “believed in the right of the white man to rule as profoundly as he believed in God.”

‘Start the ball rolling’

Each state has two statues in the Capitol building, and the federal government allows legislatures and governors to petition for a change.

North Carolina has never tried to switch statues, although other states have successfully made a swap in recent years.

California installed a statue of President Ronald Reagan in 2009, replacing Unitarian minister Thomas Starr King, who state legislators thought was too obscure. In 2011, Michigan replaced a 98-year-old statue of Detroit mayor Zachariah Chandler with a new one depicting President Gerald Ford.

New statues have to be built to certain specifications and be approved by the Joint Committee on the Library, a panel of 10 members of Congress. States can’t submit statues of living people, so Graham, 96, wouldn’t be displayed until after his death.

“We’re certainly not trying to hasten anything,” Jeter said. “We hope Rev. Graham lives a long time. But we can get the authorizing language, and more importantly get the fundraising started.”

If the bill passes and is signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, legislators would form a committee to hire a sculptor and oversee the commission of the statue. Jeter says the effort would be funded by private donations, likely made through the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte.

“We don’t intend to have the state pay for this,” he said. “We wanted to start the ball rolling, knowing that the process is years long. When the time comes, we’ll be prepared.”

Billy Graham, Happy 96th Birthday!

Today, Nov. 7, 2014, is the 96th birthday of the greatest evangelical preacher of the last 60 years, Rev. Billy Graham. There is perhaps no other Bible Christian pastor who has done more to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the world over the last half century – and he’s still preaching with his new film, Heaven: A New Message From Billy Graham. 

William Franklin ‘Billy’ Graham Jr. was born on Nov. 7, 1918 in Charlotte, N.C.  He earned a diploma in Biblical Studies from Trinity Bible College in 1940, and then earned a B.A. in Anthropology from Wheaton College in 1943.  He was ordained a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention.

In 1943,  he married Ruth Bell Graham, and they stayed married for 64 years until her death in 2007, at age 87. They had 5 children and, at last count, 19 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.

Billy Graham started preaching at rallies in the United States in the 1940s and his sermons were so powerful that eventually tens of thousands of people were attending the events. His sermons were also broadcast on radio and television. Over the decades, Graham reportedly conducted 400 preaching crusades in 185 countries on six continents.

It is estimated that Billy Graham’s preaching reached 2.2 billion people. Graham is regularly listed by Gallup as one of the most admired men – his name has been on that list 55 times.

Rev. Graham was instrumental in fighting against racial segregation. At a 1953 rally he threatened to leave a revival unless seating barriers, separating whites from blacks, were removed.  He told the crowd, “We have been proud and thought we were better than any other race, any other people. Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to stumble into Hell because of our pride.”

In 1957, Graham invited Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to join him in preaching at a 16-week-long revival in New York City, where a reported 2.3 million people total gathered to hear them.  Rev. Graham also gave spiritual counsel to America’s presidents, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama.

Billy Graham has written 31 books over the years – his first, Calling Youth to Christ in 1947, and his latest, The Reason for My Hope: Salvation, published in 2013.  He was the first Protestant to receive an honorary degree from Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic school, in 1967, and he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993. In 2000,  he was honored with the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award.

Billy Graham lives at his home in Montreat, N.C. While he is ailing because of his age, his son Franklin Graham, also a minister, says that his father has good days and bad days and is still reading the Bible every day and praying frequently.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” says the Apostle Paul (2 Timothy 4:7).

No doubt, Reverend Graham has done the same.

Happy Birthday, Billy Graham!