LifeWay Christian Resources is moving a larger-than-life statue of Southern Baptist evangelist Billy Graham from its downtown Nashville location to a LifeWay retreat center in the North Carolina mountains, a few miles from Graham’s home. The move is prompted by last year’s sale of LifeWay’s 15-acre Nashville campus.
The iconic bronze sculpture will be dismantled Wednesday, June 8, and placed in storage until a new site is ready this fall at the entrance to LifeWay’s 1,300-acre Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center, near Asheville, N.C.
“Ridgecrest is a perfect location for the Graham statue,” said Thom S. Rainer, LifeWay President and CEO. “It is only a few miles from the home where Mr. Graham has lived most of his life, and it will welcome nearly 70,000 men and women, boys and girls who come to Ridgecrest every year for spiritual training and retreat.”
The sculpture features a 7-foot-tall depiction of the world famous evangelist standing beside a 17-foot cross. Graham’s arms are stretched wide, and an open Bible rests in his left hand. At the foot of the cross are three nails and a stone inscribed with the words of John 3:16.
Sculpted by bivocational pastor Terrell O’Brien, the statue was donated to LifeWay in 2006 by two Southern Baptist businessmen from Atlanta, Chris Fryer and Matt Samuelson. It was unveiled at the 2006 SBC annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C., and placed on the northeast corner of LifeWay’s property that December.
At a dedication ceremony, O’Brien said his vision for the statue was to pay tribute to Graham and his life’s ministry, but “my heart’s desire is to also honor the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
During the dedication, Cliff Barrows, longtime music director for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said the sculpture captures Graham’s passions for the Word of God, gospel preaching, the invitation and the cross.
The 97-year-old Graham has preached the gospel to an estimated 215 million people in live audiences in more than 185 countries and territories. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film and webcasts.
Graham has written 33 books and has been listed as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World” for more than 50 years. Now in frail health, Graham resides in the home he shared with his wife Ruth, who died in 2007, and their five children in the mountains of western North Carolina.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marty King is director of communications for LifeWay Christian Resources.)