The Marvelous Effect of an Evangelist's Meetings

Title: The Marvelous Effect of an Evangelist's Meetings
Category: Ministry Issues
Subject: Evangelist; Ministry Effectiveness; Mass Evangelism
The Marvelous Effect of an Evangelist’s Meetings

(Dr. Kirksey shares a testimony regarding the ministry of the late Jess Hendley. The testimony is from Dr. James (Jim) Bryant who was saved under Jess Hendley ministry. It helps us to remember the effectiveness of godly evangelists and evangelism in the days gone by. It is time to return to mass evangelism again.)

I was converted and called to preach under the ministry of Jess Hendley. Billy Graham had come to Atlanta in 1950 and some Christian business men wanted him to come back again in 1951. He declined. So they asked Jess Hendley. In the 1940's Billy and Jess were neck in neck in the size of crowds attending their crusades. (Research the Decatur Crusade of 1937 and the Augusta Crusade, I think that same year.) I saw Atlanta Journal two page articles with pictures of the Decatur crusade which had to be moved from the tent into the same ball park where Billy came in 1950.

The Atlanta Crusade of 1951 was held in the old Atlanta Convention Center which does not exist today. It seated 5,000 but they never had 1,000 people there on any service. That is where I learned not to call any evangelistic meeting a "flop." I was saved on the first Sunday afternoon, September 16, 1951. The next Saturday night, September 22, I was called to preach just two days before my 15th birthday.

Jess was one of the last scholar evangelists in the lineage of Charles Finney and R. A. Torrey . Jess had hand-copied the Greek NT by the time he was 19 years old. Although he never graduated from a seminary, he attended classes to study Greek and Hebrew at both the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and the Columbia Presbyterian Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. Pastors like Charles Stanley, Jerry Vines, and Adrian Rogers phoned Jess almost weekly with Greek and Hebrew questions. So did I when I became a Pastor.

I had Jess preach revivals in most of the churches I pastored over the years. When I moved to Atlanta, Georgia to become the Vice President and President-elect of Luther Rice Seminary in 1990, I bought Jess's condominium. Louise had just died and Jess had moved into a retirement center. We had some precious fellowship together during those last years of his life.

Jess was a pastor of Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia for 14 years before he went into full-time evangelism. He trained and took lay soul-winners with him on his crusades, people such as Price and Willis Horton. He described his pastorate as a 14-year-long revival. People as far away as Birmingham, Alabama would hear him on the radio Sunday morning and then drive to Atlanta for the evening service to be saved.

I still miss him. He could preach on heaven and make you cry with anticipation. And he could preach on hell and make you tremble in the lineage of Jonathan Edwards. In early years he was known as "Hell Fire Hendley." He never liked that. I still pass on to my students at the Criswell College what Jess said about preaching on hell: "Don't ever preach on hell unless you can do it with a broken heart."
May God raise up some new Jess Hendleys and Billy Grahams!

Dr. James W. Bryant via e-mail 03/28/09
8923 White Pine Lane
Dallas, Texas 75238
Home Phone: 214-340-9625
Office Phone: 214-818-1352