Dr. Ben Graham is the antithesis of an “everyman.” Yet, he’s too humble to accept the moniker of “renaissance man.”
Graham’s a fifth-generation preacher, evangelist, author, actor, singer and movie producer. And a cancer fighter.
The Lebanon resident, husband and father of four boys stepped into this career at a very early age. Today, one of his many careers is senior pastor at Music City Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet.
He’s acted in and produced a dozen family friendly movies streaming on Prime Video (and in big box stores sold as DVDs), and has authored numerous faith books. A Christmas film he produced debuted last month and several more are scheduled to be released in 2021.
“At the age of 14 I began to feel like I wanted to be a preacher,” he said. “We were in a Christian group and God began to call me to speak. I did this all through high school.”
He gave his life to the Lord as a teenager and surrendered to preach less than a year later.
“Of course, I still was a 14-year-old boy and liked pretty girls,” he said with a laugh. “My dad started preaching at the age of 13.”
He graduated high school with a basketball scholarship, but went into the seminary and ministry.
“I knew I had a chance to play basketball,” he recalled. “But I needed to do what God wanted me to do. Ministry was so much fun because I could care for others.”
He’s the oldest of eight siblings (four brothers and three sisters). They are all in some form of ministry. His dad stepped down from the pulpit to retire and Graham’s brother took over the church in Arkansas.
Graham has preached in all 50 states and more than 30 countries. He and his wife, Candice have been married 22 years and have four boys: Jordan 20, in the ministry; Zach, a homeschooled senior; Carson 12; and Cooper 10.
He and his family moved to Mt. Juliet in December of 2012, staying there seven years and moving to Lebanon a year ago. His move to Wilson County was enlightening. He was pastoring in South Carolina and heard about Mt. Juliet. He said he knew the area was dubbed the “Bible Belt,” but also said fewer than 51 percent of residents go to church.
“Ironically, about the same time, my wife came to me and said I should start a church in Nashville, Graham remembered. “We prayed. God brought us here.”
At first, they were based in the former Sellar’s Funeral Home on N. Mt. Juliet Road and then the city bought the building. Graham then bought the former Cedar Ridge Church on Lebanon Road and planted there four years ago.
Evolution of Graham Family Films
Four months after Graham and his family moved to Tennessee, they were invited to be extras in a film shot in the old hospital in Madison. The director needed a whole family for the scene. That led to Graham and his brothers starting Graham Family Films in 2015.
“We got involved in the film business,” said Graham. “It’s a different kind of ministry outside of church. We could minister through films and movies. And, yes, it was a big leap of faith at the time.”
The family film company has produced and distributed 12 films, among other projects. Three more are in the works for 2021 release.
This past November, they released “Miracle on Christmas” which was shot in Michigan.
“Our films are family friendly, but not all necessarily faith based,” he said. “Our goal is to provide good family entertainment. There’s just not enough of these. We are not about nudity and vulgarity. These are top, quality family films.”
Graham said the films have been popular during the pandemic.
“People are home more and the sale of films are up,” he said. “Our films are hopeful in a world filled with despair now. We provide encouragement and hope and are a reminder of why we continue to smile because of the hope.”
Graham acts in many of the films, but his major role in the company is executive producer.
Another spoke in Graham’s career and a natural extension of his ministry is the role of author. The holder of a doctorate of temperament counseling and licensed counselor has written four books. His latest is called “1948 - Countdown to a Day of Reckoning.”
Since the summer of 2018, he has been working in Washington for the White House Faith and Opportunity Team, joining a group of pastoral leaders to the White House for briefings with the administration staff.
Brown received a cancer diagnosis last spring.
“I felt sick in February and March, but was traveling so much I figured that was it,” he said. Instead, he learned he had cancer on a kidney, leading to chemo and radiation treatment.
Graham said his future will be a “different normal.” He hopes to create some series and produce more films, as well as expand his outreach.
“I guess you could say I’ve taken a non-traditional route, but I’ve accomplished a lot and hopefully uplifted many people,” he said.