The Billy Graham Center—Training for World Evangelism
February 1, 2007 - When Rob Welch felt that God was calling him into evangelistic ministry a few years ago, the young man left behind a career in sales and enrolled in the graduate school at Billy and Ruth Graham’s alma mater, Wheaton College.
by Jim Dailey
While he worked on a master’s degree in missions, he gained hands-on, cross-cultural evangelism experience when he volunteered with—and was mentored by—the staff of the Billy Graham Center on the Wheaton campus. That experience has paved the way for him to proclaim the Gospel to thousands of people.
In the 32 years since the Billy Graham Center (BGC) was founded to stimulate global evangelism, its staff has led or participated in some 300 evangelism training conferences with thousands in attendance. The Center also serves as a place of scholarship to prepare leaders and students such as Welch for evangelistic service in the Church through degree training and development training conferences, and works closely with organizations like the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to proclaim Christ in public settings.
A permanent staff of 30 works alongside some 20 student assistants and hundreds of volunteers. The BGC’s 11 departments each deal with a different aspect of evangelism, such as ethnic, Muslim, prison and Internet. A liaison committee from BGEA advises the Center on ministries, which include the Institute of Strategic Evangelism; the Museum of Evangelism; and the BGC Archives, a state-of-the-art facility that houses BGEA records and materials from evangelists D.L. Moody, Charles Finney, Jonathan Edwards and others.
The BGC is also a place where the Gospel is proclaimed on a daily basis. In the past year, nearly 700 people made decisions for Christ while visiting the Museum of Evangelism. Its interactive exhibits cover the history of evangelism in North America (especially the ministry of Billy Graham) and conclude with a powerful walk-through presentation of the Gospel. Some 35,000 visitors a year are presented with the Gospel, whether they are inspired to serve Christ or encouraged in their desire to share the Gospel.
Rob Welch’s experience with the Center strengthened his desire to proclaim the Gospel. He volunteered with the Institute of Prison Ministries, a pastor’s conference in Uganda and a national evangelist training conference at the BGC. During these events, he was taught through mentoring and modeling how to publicly and personally share Christ and disciple others. Soon Welch was invited to be an intern evangelist-in-residence at the BGC. In this role, he has led scores of Wheaton College students in witnessing opportunities at colleges, in downtown Chicago and at Franklin Graham Festivals. He now pours his life into other emerging leaders through his own evangelistic ministry—just as many have done for him—and is preparing for his third evangelistic mission to India. Through Welch, as with hundreds of other students and evangelism leaders, the ministry of the Billy Graham Center is resulting in thousands of people coming to faith in Christ.