At one shopping mall in Tennessee, you can catch a movie, grab a burger, shop ’til you drop and—for the next few months—find out how the Bible intersects with your life.
Bradley Square Mall in Cleveland, Tennessee, is now home to a traveling exhibit from Washington, D.C.’s Museum of the Bible. The exhibit, “Billy Graham: Pilgrim Preacher,” can be found among the mall’s restaurants and retailers, right by Belk department store.
“I believe Mr. Graham would be so very pleased,” said Dr. David Bruce, Billy Graham’s longtime personal assistant and friend. “The shopping center is a natural location for such an exhibit—a place where people gather. The introduction of spiritual thought in the midst of retail and public space is a grand idea in a superb location.”
Mr. Graham, who passed from this earth and went to be with God in February 2018, spent a good deal of his life in public spaces, from sports arenas to city streets and parks.
For 60 years, he traveled all around the world, preaching to more people in live audiences than any other human being before him. The sole purpose of his dizzying schedule was to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible. And his primary tool throughout the decades was the Bible.
“[The Bible] became a sword in my hand to break open the hearts of men, to direct them to the Lord Jesus Christ,” Mr. Graham once said.
The “Pilgrim Preacher” exhibit focuses on how the Bible shaped the evangelist’s ministry, starting when he was a young college student trying to follow God’s path.
Billy Graham, Shoe Salesman
That path actually led a 17-year-old Billy Graham to Cleveland, Tennessee, where Bob Jones College was located at the time. While he spent only one semester at the school in 1936, Mr. Graham left his mark on the city. Bob Jones College conferred an honorary doctorate on him in 1948. Decades later, the Cleveland City Council voted unanimously to name a road after the evangelist. He was also named an honorary citizen of the state of Tennessee and the city of Cleveland.
Dr. Bruce provided one more piece of trivia that makes the new location for the exhibit particularly fitting:
“While Mr. Graham was a student at Bob Jones, he worked in a shoe store in downtown Cleveland,” Dr. Bruce said. “So I think he would be particularly pleased that the story of his life and ministry is captured in a shopping mall storefront!”
More Than ‘Retail Therapy’
The exhibit is sponsored by a Cleveland, Tennessee-based ministry called Trek Thru Truth, which is planning to open a permanent children’s museum centered on the truth of the Bible. In the meantime, the exhibit inside the mall is giving shoppers, mall workers and passersby a chance to find inspiration in a place where they might not expect it.
“I don’t think people can live without hope,” Billy Graham once said. “And the Bible is filled with hope.”
As the holiday season quickly approaches, the exhibit allows people to experience something beyond the temporary rush of “retail therapy”—the permanent joy and peace that comes from encountering Jesus Christ through the Word of God.
The exhibit is open seven days a week at Bradley Square Mall through March 2020. Find out more about the exhibit, including hours of operation.