Dr. Jack Graham is pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, one of America's largest congregations, with a membership of more than 20,000. Born in Conway, Ark., young Jack made a faith commitment to Christ at age 6, and was baptized at First Baptist Church in that small town. From there his life took a steady course into ministry, and continued during his formative years in Ft. Worth. In 1970, at age 20, he was already an ordained pastor of his first church, married, and halfway through Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, where he went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree with honors.
By 1976, Jack and his wife, Deb, had one son and Jack was associate pastor of Sagamore Hill Baptist Church in Ft. Worth. That year he also completed work for a master of divinity degree with honors from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Four more years (by this time the Grahams had two children) Jack received a doctor of ministry degree in "Church and Proclamation," which nicely captions his life in ministry.
Dr. Graham began his ministry as pastor of East Side Baptist in Cross Plains, Texas (1970-'71). Following his associate pastorate at Sagamore Hill Baptist ('72-'75), he went on to pastor First Baptist Church in Hobart, Okla. ('75-'78); First Baptist Church in Duncan, Okla., ('78-'81); and First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Fla. ('81-'89).
In 1989, Prestonwood Baptist Church - already a landmark Dallas congregation - called Dr. Graham as senior pastor. He brought his particular gift for exciting people about Christ and helping them mature as Christians to this already booming congregation. The 8,000 members responded enthusiastically to his straightforward message and powerful preaching style.
At Prestonwood, he quickly shared his vision for a larger outreach. As the church "family" continued to increase by some 2,000 members annually under Pastor Graham's direction, they investigated, deliberated, prayed, and finally built a new worship facility, school and ministry complex on 150 acres in what was then very far North Dallas.
On May 2, 1999, the Prestonwood family filled its new 7,500-seat auditorium for their first worship service in West Plano. Set amid new apartment communities, housing developments, and a bourgeoning suburban population, the facility has continued to expand with the growing congregation, with new construction for Phase II already underway.
The church does not offer a gated community, rather a bridge of hope, providing programs and facilities to attract people to Christ's message of love and forgiveness, and to equip them to take that message into their world. The church conducts five services each week, including three worship services every weekend and meetings on Monday and Wednesday evenings, attended by a cumulative average of 16,000 people.
"What I love about this church is that it's everywhere," said one member. "We're in Boston, in Thailand, in South Dallas. It's big, but it's big for a purpose."
In addition to Prestonwood, Pastor Jack Graham serves on the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) - an association of some 40,000 independent churches. In June 2002 he was elected president of the SBC and began a one-year term.
His published books include "You Can Make a Difference," "Diamonds in the Dark," "lessons from the Heart," and, most recent, "A Hope and a Future." Many pastors across the U.S. use his booklets - New Life in Christ and Is the Bible Just Another Book?
Dr. Graham lives in Frisco, Texas, with his wife and ministry partner, Deb. The Grahams have three children: Jason (married to Toby), Kelly, and Joshua.
By Pauline J.