40 Years and Counting
Four decades have slipped into the pages of history for the Jerry Drace Evangelistic Association. From the first revival to the last God has allowed me to preach in approximately a thousand churches in addition to the numerous area wide crusades and conferences both nationally and internationally.
Becky has been my greatest supporter and prayer warrior throughout this journey. Promising her that I would never accept more than 25 engagements a year which would take me from home, she encouraged me and put me on many a plane while knowing I was following God’s call on my life. She faithfully taught Drew and Becca to pray for their Daddy and all the people to whom I would be sharing the Good News. Thankfully in the last several years she has traveled with me and spoken in our Hope for the Home conferences. Her book, Becoming A Woman Of Worth, has been used in numerous churches for ladies events and teaching seminars.
I have been blessed with gifted and talented musicians who have been an inspiration to the thousands who have heard them. Randy Posey served with me the first three years, followed by Archie Jackson the following three, and then Ken and Lois Holland for the next 21 years. In the past 13 years the majority of our ministry has focused on families through our Hope for the Home ministry. Becky and I have conducted approximately 300 of these unique family events throughout our nation and in Great Britain. God has blessed in ways that have left us humbled and grateful. We have seen hundreds of families transformed by the power of God and recommitted to each other. We have witnessed marriages restored and children reconnecting with their parents. We were able to publish the Hope for the Home Study Bible which has been a blessing to thousands.
As I reflect upon the platforms on which our team has stood and the pulpits which I have stood behind I am amazed how God has protected and provided our every need. He has blessed us with health and safety as we have traveled from the interior of China to the major cities of Europe and in the majority of the states in our great nation. We have proclaimed His unsearchable riches in the most primitive of locations and in the most cultured of circumstances. Regardless of the occasion the message of the cross and its redemptive work has been the central theme of our ministry.
We have now reached a crossroads in our nation where the majority of churches no longer schedule the traditional revival into their annual events. It is rare for a church of medium size or above to invite an evangelist in for a series of evangelistic messages. As a result the number of vocational evangelists, especially in the Southern Baptist Convention, have decreased from a high of over 600 in the later part of the twentieth century’s to less than 100 in the early part of the twenty first century. The need is greater than ever for the church to use the gift of the God-called evangelist. However, the invitations for these men of God to come and call the lost to repentance and the saved to commitment have all but dried up.
What does the future hold for our ministry? Only God knows. This much I do know, our culture is quickly changing. We are becoming more pluralistic and hedonistic. Christians in the United States and around the world are facing persecution on a scale unthinkable a few years ago. As technologies change so must methods change to share the Good News. However, as methods change, the message must never change. It is timeless and eternal.
One of many memorable moments in the 40 year history of the JDEA took place in December, 1982, on the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. I was serving as the co-chairman of the First National Conference for Southern Baptist Evangelists along with the late Dr. Lewis Drummond. I, with assistance from the late Dr. Duke McCall, had asked Rev. Billy Graham to be the keynote speaker. He graciously agreed. In a letter to him I requested that in one of his messages he address the topic, “Things I Would Do Differently”. On the first night of the conference as he rose to speak he looked out over the assembled evangelists, pastors and guests and then turned to me seated right behind him and said, “Jerry has asked me to do something tonight I have never before done in a sermon. He asked me to share with you what I would do different if I could start over again.” Then for an hour and a half Rev. Graham opened his heart and shared much of what would later be written in his autobiography, Just As I Am. The next day at a private lunch in the home of Dr. McCall, Rev. Graham invited Becky and me to attend what became known as Amsterdam ’83. This lead to Amsterdam 2000 which saw over 14,000 men and women from over 200 countries in the world come together for ten days of training and encouragement. It was my privilege to serve on the Strategic Task Force for that great gathering of God-called evangelists.
As I look back over these 40 years I am reminded of James 4:14, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” What does the future hold for the JDEA? When I am asked that question I can hear my Daddy’s voice as he would often say from behind his pulpits, “We don’t know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future.” I cannot summarize our four decades of ministry any better than to quote Rev. Graham, “I cannot take credit for whatever God has chosen to accomplish through us and our ministry; only God deserves the glory, and we can never thank Him enough for the great things He has done.”
Becky and I thank each one of you for your support and prayers throughout these years; may they never cease.
Jerry and Becky Drace,
February 28, 2015