In the late 1970s, I was introduced to the ministry because my mother had suggested that I watch the Jimmy Swaggart telecast. I immediately sensed the presence of the Lord during the music but especially while Brother Swaggart preached. The Lord began to use the preaching and teaching programs to prepare me for ministry.
At that time, I was particularly interested in Bible prophecy. Israel was on my heart daily. Furthermore, the Lord was moving on me to look at false doctrines, and even Islam. I had no idea at that time why the Lord would sow those thoughts in my mind. I continued to watch the programming and to my surprise, Brother Swaggart’s teaching programs would go into detail about Bible prophecy and current events. His strong support for Israel and boldness to speak out against false doctrine fit well with my needs and learning desires.
I was no longer satisfied with just watching television. I had to experience what I had heard others say about attending a Jimmy Swaggart crusade. My opportunity came when I heard there would be a crusade in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland was less than a three-hour drive from Pittsburgh. I had no idea what was in store for me.
When I arrived at the coliseum, my friend who joined me said, “It looks like a sea of people had the same idea as we did to arrive early to find a good seat.” We were four hours early, and there were already enough people waiting outside to fill half of the coliseum. As we made our place in the gathering, we were blessed with some folks singing while others were sharing testimonies of what God had done for them. I found it so fascinating that all types of people from all walks of life were peacefully gathered together. To my immediate front was a young black family and right behind me, there was a couple of Asian descent. My thoughts were of heaven and how we’ll all get along just fine.
When the doors were opened, it looked like an Olympic steeplechase race. People were walking, running, and leaping over barricades with one goal in mind: To find a good seat. When we finally got to our seats, I began to sense the Spirit of God moving. The sound system came to life with the song, “Jesus, Just the Mention of Your Name,” being played for the huddled masses to enjoy.
I spoke to several folk seated near me and found many of them telling me of the sacrifice it was for them to attend. There were no soft drinks or popcorn. What I did sense was a holy reverence. The coliseum filled as if someone poured water into a container. The anticipation and excitement exceeded what I had felt while attending a Pittsburgh Steelers football game: however, this evening would consist of believers and not players. There were no referees, only ushers.
Beyond the music playing, all I could hear were the sounds of so many people talking that it resembled the crashing waves against the Atlantic shoreline. It was an ocean of people like the sand that is washed in by waves on the beach. Waves of God’s love had brought the wayward and lost to the harbor of life. There was no doubt in my mind that everyone there, just like me, had come with anticipation of God moving and Jesus Christ being magnified in our midst. As I write this, I am reliving that most wonderful evening.
THE LORD SPOKE
Donnie Swaggart came out and spoke a few words before introducing his dad as “my father and your evangelist.” Although I had heard him say this on TV dozens of times, that night was like hearing it for the first time. The music began and one by one, the singers and the musicians blessed us. Some folk beside me wanted to hear John Starnes hold a note for a “half hour.”
Although there was a great display of talent, what was most rewarding was the Spirit of God. The Lord’s presence began to grow as if it were being spread in layers. I could almost sense the Holy Spirit sweeping over us like a wind. In the midst of thousands of people, I began to feel as if I were the only one there. Thanksgiving poured from my mouth to quench my overwhelming desire to express my love for God and what Jesus had done for me at the Cross. At that moment, I felt as if God stopped the universe and paid me a special visit. There were no thoughts in my mind of what I had done wrong in the past or how far I had missed the mark. It was perfect peace in a room that I shared with thousands of others.
The Lord began to deal with my heart about serving Him in ministry. He had done this many times before but had never shown me how or where I would be used. Now He would begin to reveal to me the “where” part.
I saw the world from my seat as Brother Swaggart shared what the Lord gave him - to “touch the world with the gospel.” There were many feet between Brother Swaggart and me, but it felt as if he were only one step away. God called me then to support Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, which God said He raised up. This was no longer a crusade; it was a mission. It was no longer a service; it had become a destiny.
That was in 1983. In 1999, my family and I moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
When I look back on the years of what the Lord had to do in me to accomplish His promise and calling, I am encouraged to have adopted a father in the faith who has remained faithful to the calling God gave to him. I see an example and a testimony of God’s love and provision, not just for me, but also, for the body of Christ, in the calling God gave to Brother Jimmy Swaggart and his entire family.
As we commemorate 60 years of service to our Lord, we must not separate those God has chosen for his work. Let us all with thanksgiving give honor to where honor is due. Join me in a special prayer for Jimmy and Frances, Donnie and Debbie, and Gabe and Jill, that our Lord who called them will continue to anoint them with His Spirit so that the Great Commission in our generation can be fulfilled. How does one measure a ministry? Very simply: by the number of lives changed by the power of God.