NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–It started as a simple invitation to church. Zula Montgomery saw Junior Hill, only 12 years old at the time, playing in a field near Hartselle, Ala. She invited him to come to church with her and God used the invitation in a mighty way.
Hill, whose parents were not believers, began attending church at First Baptist Church in Hartselle where Montgomery was a member. A few years later, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and in 1955 God called Hill to preach.
Now in his 50th year of ministry, Hill has preached more than 1,500 revivals throughout the United States and across the world. Through the years, thousands of people have responded to his preaching by receiving Christ.
After experiencing the call to ministry, Hill earned his bachelor’s degree at Howard College, which is now Samford University. He also earned a master of divinity degree at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1962. For more than 11 years, Hill pastored SBC churches in Alabama and Mississippi. Then in 1967, God changed Hill’s direction — leading him into a ministry of evangelism and encouragement.
In 1989, Hill served as first vice president for the Southern Baptist Convention, and in 1995 New Orleans Seminary named him their distinguished alumnus.
Hill said that he has enjoyed preaching revivals over the years, but God has also given him a deep burden for pastors. Because of his love for pastors, Hill often speaks at local pastors’ conferences and similar events. Most recently, Hill preached during the SBC Pastors’ Conference June 20 in Nashville, Tenn.
“Early in my ministry I realized that God had somehow turned my heart to loving preachers,” Hill said. “Little bit, by little bit, the Lord broadened that opportunity. I’ve had the joy over the years to speak at many venues where pastors were at and that’s been a great blessing to me.”
Hill especially enjoys offering encouragement to small church pastors. According to Hill, many events focus on the highly successful pastor, causing those with smaller ministries more discouragement than encouragement.
“One of the things God has really laid on my heart is to try to give encouragement to those who think they are not important or are beat down,” he said. “God doesn’t reckon success and failure like we do.”
Instead, Hill sees success in ministry as being faithful to do what God called the minister to do. He hopes in the future more effort will be given to affirm the ministries of all those called by God.
“I’m not sure when we stand before the Lord in the judgment seat that He’s going to be overly concerned with how big our ministry was but how faithful we were to what He had given us,” Hill said.
One of the main ways Hill encourages others is through the humorous sermon delivery he uses — all without compromising the biblical truth. But, Hill said, he never intended to be a funny preacher.
“Jerry Clower summarized it pretty well. He said, ‘Some people tell funny stories and others tell stories funny,'” Hill said. “I guess that would be the case for me. I don’t necessarily set out to tell funny stories.”
Hill’s humor and commitment to Scripture struck a cord during this year’s SBC Pastors’ Conference. Even after 50 years of ministry, Hill continues to connect with his audience. The crowd responded to his message with hearty applause and a standing ovation.
At age 68, Hill still keeps a busy preaching schedule — in fact he has more invitations to speak than ever. When Hill started in fulltime evangelism, he would commonly preach 40 or more revivals per year, and most were extended revivals lasting from four to eight days. Now he preaches at fewer extended revivals than he used to. Instead, he focuses on one-day meetings that he calls “Harvest Days.”
“Surprisingly, these meetings are very fruitful,” Hill said. “As a matter of fact I have probably seen more people saved in those one-day events than in the four-day events.”
Sundays that Hill is not on the road preaching at a church are rare. Counting all his conferences, seminary appearances and revivals, Hill preaches about 100 different places each year.
In May, Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., hosted a celebration to honor Hill for his 50 years of ministry. During the event, Hunt said he looks up to Hill like a father. Hill said that he and Hunt have enjoyed a wonderful friendship over the years.
“It was really a pleasant thing,” Hill said of the celebration. “I was quite honored by it all … that they would take the time to do that.”
Hill said that a few years ago while he was reading from the Psalms, God gave him assurance that his last days of ministry would be fruitful.
“God gave me a wonderful promise that my last days would be my best days,” Hill said. “You know, it is amazing, but that has certainly come to pass.”
Hill said that he has more opportunities to preach than ever. He also said that he is seeing more people saved than ever. Clearly, God continues to work through Hill.
When asked to identify one instance when God used him in a special way, Hill told a story of one of his early revivals. The setting was a small church with about 80 members. A few people were saved during the event, but Hill did not think about that revival for many years.
Twenty years later Hill returned to the same church to find it had grown to more than 500 members. The young pastor greeted him by saying how much he loved and appreciated Hill. He did not recognize the pastor.
“He said, ‘About 20 years ago you came to this church and had a special children’s night. I was a little boy that somebody had invited to church and I was saved and now I’m the pastor of this church,'” Hill recounted with tears in his eyes.
Just as someone reached out to him when he was a child, Hill has reached out to others. For 50 years his ministry has been about reaching the lost with the Gospel and encouraging believers to be all God wants them to be.