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."