Over the past six and a half years, Walt Durant has led 629 people to the Lord.
Durant is not flashy, tall, or handsome. He is more comfortable wearing blue jeans and a cowboy hat than a suit and tie. He doesn't have a seminary degree; in fact, he never completed high school.
Oh, and one other thing: He's seventy-three years old.
Durant retired in 1992 and moved to Rogers, Ark., from his farm, where he had raised beef cattle. He said he had been involved with the visitation program at his previous church, but it consisted of "visiting people who had been members there for forty years." In all his years of visiting, he had only led one person to Christ.
In Rogers, he joined Immanuel Baptist Church. When pastor Thomas Hatley preached on soul-winning, Durant felt convicted and went forward, committing his life to evangelism. Shortly thereafter, Durant attended a class on soul-winning, and "I've been running ever since."
Durant started going out with Immanuel's "Highways and Hedges" visitation program in 1994 and led forty people to Christ the first year. The next year he led sixty, followed by sixty in 1996, ninety-five in 1997, and eighty in 1998.
In 1998, Hatley heard about LifeWay Christian Resources' FAITH evangelism program, and that summer he took the entire Immanuel staff – and Durant – to a clinic at Village Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.
"[Durant] and Tom Johnson, our senior adults minister, aced their tests, because they studied every night," Hatley recalled. After the clinic, Immanuel started with five FAITH teams.
After four semesters of FAITH, Hatley said he is sold on the program. He said it works because it focuses on soul-winning and is tied to the Sunday school.
"Those two things make FAITH unique," the pastor said.
The first year Durant used the FAITH program, the retiree almost tripled the number of people he led to the Lord, with 234 coming to know Christ in 1999. In the first three months of 2000, the rate was slightly higher, with sixty professions to that point.
Durant spoke highly of the FAITH program of evangelism.
"I love it," the layman said. "It presents the gospel in such a way that all the bases are covered."
For all its success, though, the FAITH program is not easy; in fact, it takes a lot of work.
Durant practices his presentation twice a day. Each week he goes out on Monday night, Thursday night, all day Saturday, and Sunday afternoon; he also sets up appointments for other days. He visits an average of sixty-five homes weekly. Of those sixty-five, he is able to present the gospel five to eight times, and an average of five accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.
"It's a powerful presentation," Durant said. "If they'll listen, chances are I will lead them to the Lord. But, I had 111 say no last year, and twenty have said no so far this year."
Even when people say no, though, Durant said they are visibly affected by the gospel. "They can't hear the gospel without it affecting them," he noted.
The secret to his success, Durant said, is simply a willing heart.
"You have to really want to do it," he said. "I believe that if there are any Christians who want to be soul-winners, they can do it by dedicating their lives to soul-winning, by praying real hard, and by going.
"God does the soul-winning," Durant continued. "The only thing we can do is go. I thank God that I don't have to worry about getting professions out of people."
Durant said he is the perfect example of the fact that God uses imperfect people.
"I don't have a good education; I didn't even finish high school," he said. "I am bowlegged, bald, and old. I thank God I'm not perfect. The Bible says God uses the base, and I am about as base as you can get."
After leading 629 people to Christ, Durant said he rejoices over every soul won.
"I'll never get over that feeling," he said. "It is the greatest privilege any man could ever have. I pray every day that the Lord will allow me to do this until the day I die. I hope to be witnessing at someone's door when the Lord calls me home."
Durant spoke at a pastor's conference at Immanuel in February. Since then, he has had a number of requests to speak, but he keeps turning them down. He said he doesn't want speaking engagements to interfere with his primary responsibility – winning people to the Lord.
Hatley said it is a privilege to have Durant and other active soul-winners in his church.
"He ought to be an encouragement to anyone who's retired," the pastor said of Durant. "God can continue using you even after you retire."
Hatley said others could emulate Durant's success, if they would only work at it.
"Probably the missing element most folks have is the desire to work," Hatley said. "He's not afraid to work.
"I have a feeling that if a lot of Christians visited fifteen hours a week, they would have a lot of success, too."