For more than sixty years, evangelist Billy Graham has preached the Good News of God's love to nearly 215 million people at hundreds of events and countless millions more via television and radio. Now, all of the individuals, churches, and ministries he impacted have been given a unique opportunity to say something in return.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) announced in early October that it was collecting stories and birthday wishes for the evangelist, who turns 90 on November 7, 2008. All who have been personally touched by an aspect of Billy Graham's ministry have been encouraged to visit www.billygraham90.com to share a greeting or a personal story about his ministry they feel would encourage him at this milestone. The official target date for submissions is November 1, but a spokesman for the BGEA indicated that greetings will be accepted through early November.
"My father is a humble man who would never expect to be honored and recognized like this on his birthday," said Franklin Graham, BGEA president and CEO and Graham's eldest son. "We urge all who made a commitment to Jesus Christ through my father's ministry to share your story or simple greeting, as nothing could uplift him more on this special day."
Following Graham's birthday in November, all of the greetings and wishes in honor of his faithful decades-long ministry will be combined into books and presented to him during a special tribute dinner with family and ministry friends later in the month.
In response to the announcement, Dr. Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of FBC Woodstock in Georgia, observed, "No one individual has had a greater impact upon me to encourage me to reach this world for Christ than Dr. Billy Graham. I have supported and have been encouraged and challenged by Dr. Graham's life and ministry since I was saved as a twenty-year-old young man. His fingerprints are all over me." He went on to express warmest regards to Graham as he celebrates his 90th birthday.
Dr. Morris H, Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee, expressed birthday greetings to Graham, noting, "Billy Graham is a prophet and anointed preacher of God's Word. He is a faithful steward of the Gospel, and God has rewarded him with the opportunity to share Christ with hundreds of millions around the world. I urge everyone to take a moment to send a message of affection and appreciation to him to celebrate his birthday, but also to honor his life of devoted service for our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray the Lord will bless him abundantly on this special occasion, a milestone in a journey traveled with humility and grace."
Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, indicated that LifeWay has joined the effort to enlist birthday greetings. According to Rainer, LifeWay Christian Stores provided information on the event throughout October, and visitors to www.lifeway.com/billygraham can find more information on how those impacted by Graham's ministry can express their appreciation through a birthday greeting.
"The profound impact of Dr. Graham's ministry around the world is unprecedented in our lifetime. From a personal perspective, his love of the Lord and his heart for the lost have given focus to my Christian life and ministry. LifeWay gratefully joins others around the world in celebrating the 90th birthday of 'America's pastor,'" Rainer said.
At the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro, North Carolina, Southern Baptists honored Graham with the unveiling of a bronze statue honoring his life and ministry. The sculpture features a seven-foot-tall depiction of Graham — arms outstretched, holding a large Bible — standing beside a seventeen-foot-tall cross. The statue later was erected on property adjacent to LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tennessee.
At that same Convention, Southern Baptists approved an extended tribute to Graham that highlighted his life and ministry, particularly as it has impacted Southern Baptists.