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Southern Baptist evangelists honor leaders

The Conference of Southern Baptists Evangelists inducted three people into the Southern Baptist Evangelists Hall of Faith June 11 during an event in Indianapolis. Inductees included evangelists Gary Bowlin, Sammy Tippet and Jerry Drace. Photo by Robin Cornetet

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) – Six men were added to the Southern Baptist Evangelists’ Hall of Faith Monday, June 10, at the Westin hotel, across the street from the Indiana Convention Center.

Typically, two evangelists are honored every other year, but because of the pandemic, none had been honored for six years, the group’s secretary, Amy Stockwell, explained to Baptist Press.

Two of the six have “gone to their reward,” President Keith Cook told the perhaps 200 people at the group’s no cost “Finish Well Cookout” timed to be part of the 2024 SBC Annual Meeting.

Music evangelists Joe and Kim Stanley provided inspirational opening and closing vocal arrangements to the evening, and Stockwell sang “How Great Thou Art” before the inductees were named.

First, several were recognized for 50 years’ service in evangelism: Keith and Joan Cook, Keith Fordham, Beverly Massegee, Betty Moni and Kay Cox, who died this spring. Daniel Howard was recognized for 25 years in evangelism.

The honorees:

Gary Bowlin of Summit, Miss., entered evangelism in 1980 after a successful business career. He and his wife Norma organize and lead overseas mission trips. He is a preaching and harvester evangelist with a focus on revivals, one-day events and missions.

“God called me to be faithful,” Bowlin said as he received a substantial glass plaque.

Jerry Drace of Humbolt, Tenn., entered evangelism in 1975. He and his wife Becky launched “Hope for the Home,” and he kept his promise to her to never be away from home more than 20 weeks a year, he said. Drace is a preaching and harvester evangelist who has ministered across the United States and worldwide.   

“When I entered evangelism in 1975 there were 600 of us,” Drace said. “Now there are fewer than 50.” He later told Baptist Press he attributed the decline to pastors not calling for revival and a lack of support for evangelists.

Sammy Tippit of San Antonio, Texas, entered evangelism in 1969. He and his wife Tex, plus three other young preachers for four months during the Jesus Movement carried a wheelbarrow filled with Bibles as they walked from Monroe, Louisiana, to Washington, D.C. A preaching and harvester evangelist, he has ministered in at least 80 nations, where he combines counseling, teaching and preaching, emphasizing discipleship and multiplying disciple-makers. Always at the forefront of technology, most recently Tippit led in the development of the Digital Bible Institute, which trains leaders to disciple.

In introducing Tippit, Cook said, “Sammy was one of my first heroes.”

Speaking of his evangelistic call, Tippit said, “I didn’t know the words. I just knew He wanted me to tell people about Jesus. … I just want to be faithful to Him.”

Charles Massagee of Nevada, Texas, entered evangelism in 1953. He is married to music evangelist Beverly, who was honored for her 50 years in evangelism earlier at event. Charles Massagee is a preaching and harvester evangelist who specializes in crusades, revivals, friend days, evangelism training, eschatology and Bible conferences. He also uses visual arts in his ministry: drama, comedy, ventriloquism, illusion and chalk art.

“Charles Massegee was creative before people knew to be creative,” Cook said.  

Ron Herrod and Darrell Robinson were honored posthumously.

Herrod, who died in 2018, served in evangelism for 23 of his 60 years in ministry, which included national television, crusades and mission projects in more than 30 nations. His goal was to reproduce himself through winning the lost, planting churches and discipling new believers.

Darrell Robinson, who died this January, is perhaps best known for his passion for soul-winning and for one of his seven books: “People Sharing Jesus.”

“Everywhere he went, he introduced people to Jesus,” said his son Loren Robinson in accepting the heavy glass award. His father loved people and it showed, Loren Robinson said. A sign he saw once exemplifies his father, he continued by reciting from memory: “Love changes the world one heart at a time.

“Keep sharing Jesus!” said Loren Robinson, pastor of Cross Culture Church in Mobile, Ala.

New officers were elected for the Southern Baptist Evangelists:

President: Royce Williams; Vice-President: Derek Keiser; Secretary-Treasurer: Amy Stockwell.

Music Directors: Russell and Kristi Johnson; Parliamentarian: Jerry Drace; Recording Secretary: Becky Drace; Digital Evangelism Advisor: Sammy Tippit; and Financial Advisor: Gary Bowlin.