JOHN RICHARD RICE
1895 - 1980
Dr. Rice was born in Cooke
county, in Texas, December 1l, 1895. He lived
and died a man of intense convictions. But,
Dr. Rice was also marked with a sincere spirit
of compassion. Those who knew him best, knew
a man who loved them. In preaching, in prayer,
and in personal life, Dr. Rice wept over sinners
and with saints.
In 1980, one of the most
prolific pens in all Christendom was stilled.
Dr. John R. Rice left behind a legacy in writing
of more than 200 titles, with a combined circulation
of over 61 million copies. And through October
of 1981, a total of 24,058 precious souls
reported trusting Christ through his ministries,
not counting those saved in his crusades nor
in foreign countries where his literature
has been translated.
And who but God knows the
influence of THE SWORD OF THE LORD magazine
which he started and edited for forty-six
"Not only one of the
most controversial figures in the field of
evangelism, being both applauded and criticised,
Dr. John R. Rice is one of the most underrated
Christian leaders of our time. His accomplishments
are nothing short of miraculous. He has put
the fires of evangelism and soul winning into
the bones of more preachers than any other
man. Daring to be different in an age when
Hell-fire-and-damnation preaching is not emphasized,
Dr. Rice simply did it because, as he noted,
So cited a column in a Sword
of the Lord publication some years ago. The
paragraph is without exaggeration -- John
R. Rice has doubtlessly had a more profound
impact on evangelism in the 1900's than any
Texas born (Cooke County
-- near Gainesville), Dr. Rice was often introduced
in his earlier ministry as the "Will
Rogers of the Pulpit," since there was
a real similarity in their looks, cowboy background
and style of speech. Dr. Rice was a five-year-old
boy when his mother died of tuberculosis.
On her deathbed she made a passionate plea
for John, as well as her other children, to
meet her in Heaven. It was a crisis experience
in young John's life, one he never forgot
and one to which he referred multiplied times
in his messages.
At the age of nine he heard
a message on "The Prodigal Son,"
preached by Pastor A. B. Ingram of the First
Baptist Church of Gainesville, Texas. Young
Dr. Rice went forward to claim Christ as His
Saviour. Lamentably, no one dealt with him
about biblical assurance of salvation. And
when his father forbade his request to be
baptized by admonishing him, "When you
are old enough to really repent of your sins
and be regenerated, then will be time enough
to join the church," his confidence in
his conversion was put in doubt.
Three years of uncertainty
and fear elapsed before the youth read John
5:24 and received rock-ribbed, Bible-based
assurance of his personal and eternal salvation.
Thus he preached powerfully and positively
afterwards: "From that day to this I
have never doubted for a moment that I am
God's child. I know one thing beyond any doubt:
When I trusted Jesus, depending on Him to
forgive me, He did! The Word of God says so
and that makes it so!"
His boyhood and youth were
a montage of many employments: a student in
school, a ranch hand for his father, a teacher
in a country school -- physical labors and
mental disciplines which became significant
contributions to his later labors for Christ.
On the calendar, that ministry
officially commenced on January 13, 1916,
when Dr. Rice was twenty years of age. Concerned
about further education, yet depleted of finances,
Dr. Rice laid his life out before the Lord
under a chaparral bush. He later related:
"I told God that I would do anything
He wanted me to do. I would preach the Gospel,
or I would be a Gospel singer, or do anything
else if He should clearly lead." With
$9.35 in his pocket, Dr. Rice rode off in
the rain on his cowpony toward Decatur Baptist
College -- 120 miles away. He was on the road
to becoming a world-renowned evangelist --
although at the moment he was totally unaware
of God's will for his life.
That road had many a twist
and turn before Dr. Rice rode through the
open door into full-time preaching. He graduated
from Decatur, but was immediately drafted
into the army for military service in World
War I. Discharged after the Armistice, he
enrolled in Baylor University, from which
he graduated in 1920, and then married Lloys
McClure Cooke. Dr. Rice's next educational
stint was graduate work at Chicago University.
All the while he preached in jails, on street
corners and "went" soul winning.
But for the record, Dr. Rice
became a preacher when, as he told it: "Down
at the Pacific Garden Mission, singing and
doing personal work, one night I more or less
volunteered myself to be a preacher on the
basis of Romans 12:1,2, 'present your bodies
a living sacrifice,' and the call of Isaiah
6 in which he said, 'Here am I, send me.'"
He then knew that all his life God had planned
for him to be a preacher.
As his biographer, Dr. Robert
L. Sumner, penned in Man Sent From God: "Apparently
the very last one to realize that God wanted
John R. Rice to preach was John R. Rice ....
His mother and father gave him to God before
he was born and his mother (in a letter to
a sister in Texas) called him her 'preacher
boy'; and his father had underscored in his
Bible the words of Luke 1:63, 'His name is
John.'" Also, "Dr. Tidwell (head
of Bible department at Baylor) remarked in
one of his classes, 'If any girl does not
want to marry a preacher, she had better not
marry John Rice.'"
And as Dr. Sumner further
stated of that mission night experience, "Kneeling
with that drunken bum, sensing the evidence
of peace in the troubled sinner's breast,
seeing the transformed expression on his face,
in that single moment all the glamor and glitter
wrapped around Dr. Rice's ambition to be a
great educator or politician fled away. He
lost all his taste and enthusiasm for college
classrooms or political platforms."
Dr. Rice related of that
transforming time: "I wanted nothing
better than to win souls and have welling
up in my heart continually the glad joy I
felt at that moment. I looked through the
vista of future years and saw the time when
'they that be wise shall shine as the brightness
of the firmament; and they that turn many
to righteousness as the stars for ever and
ever' (Dan. 12:3)."
Dr. Rice took some more schooling
-- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,
Fort Worth, Texas -- but the passion and purpose
to preach became a pulsing, propelling power.
John Rice quit school to become an associate
pastor to Dr. Harlan Matthews at Plainview,
Texas. Shortly he accepted a call to be a
pastor himself at First Baptist Church, Shamrock,
Texas. And from there he entered evangelism
for a season.
In an open-air campaign in
the Oak Cliff section of Dallas a revival
ignited. Hundreds were saved and the first
independent Baptist church in Dallas was organized.
Dr. Rice was called to be pastor and for seven
and one-half years led the Fundamentalist
Baptist Tabernacle in a great, growing ministry:
7,000 professed salvation in Christ; 1,700
were baptized and united in membership; a
building was built, then rebuilt due to a
disastrous fire; the area of Oak Cliff was
encircled with the Gospel, resulting in a
multitude of transformed lives and homes.
As an esteemed evangelist,
few people realize that John R. Rice was a
pastor of great repute. It is right to say
at Dallas he was an evangelist doing the great
work of a pastor; calling on, comforting,
counseling, encouraging his members. But he
was also the pastor doing the great work of
an evangelist. Dallas, in that day, knew there
was an old-fashioned, Bible-quoting, sin-hitting,
Christ-exalting preacher in the Fundamentalist
-- or, as it was later renamed, Galilean Baptist
Church -- pulpit.
A sampling of those sermon
subjects shows the sensational yet scriptural
subjects on which Dr. Rice preached: "Wild
Oats in Dallas -- How Dallas People Sow Them
and How They Are Reaped"; "The Dance-Child
of the Brothel, Sister of Gambling and Drunkenness,
Mother of Lust -- Road to Hell!"; "Company
for Supper -- and Not a Bite in the House";
"Filling Stations on the Highway to Hell";
"The Man Who Went to Heaven Without Baptism,
Without Joining a Church, Without a Mourner's
Bench, Without Even Living a Good Life."
Aye -- sensational, spectacular
-- but scriptural! Dr. Rice preached sharply,
severely against sin -- its appeals, but also
its pernicious power and its predestinated
payday! He preached on the home, godly Christian
living, prayer, revival, prophecy -- some
of those sermons are in print today. Although
preached over four decades ago, they are amazingly
timely to our day and still speak to the soul!
It was in that Dallas pastorate
that THE SWORD OF THE LORD magazine was born,
and it was also there that the burning desire
for full-time evangelism reblazed in Dr. Rice's
heart. Thus on January 19, 1940, he announced
in THE SWORD his resignation as pastor of
Galilean Baptist Church and his plans to return
to the field of full-time evangelism. Three
months later the Rice family, THE SWORD OF
THE LORD, his offices and the bookstore moved
to Wheaton, Illinois, from where John R. Rice
would become renowned as one of the great
evangelists of the 20th century -- yea, any
Evangelists, evangelism and
evangelistic campaigns were all at a low ebb
when Dr. Rice entered the field in 1940. After
World War I, humanism, higher criticism, evolutionary
teaching began undermining biblical faith
as well as the foundation of morality, home
Every area of human life
was infiltrated; aye, infected with the unbelief,
compromise and indifference of these infidelistic
teachings. Religion was no exception. Christian
educators and pastors prided themselves on
their "new freedom" in biblical
interpretation. The emotional and moral facets
of the Billy Sunday, Bob Jones, St., citywide
revivals were held in ridicule and disrepute.
Most revival efforts were
concentrated in the southland of America,
nicknamed the "Bible Belt." However,
those revivals were conducted almost exclusively
by Southern Baptist Convention evangelists,
and not on a year-round basis.
During the depression years
of the 1930's, charlatans using evangelism
as a cloak of respectability and for a paycheck
brought true evangelism and evangelists into
degrading disrepute. Every evangelist became
suspect until proven honest, honorable and
holy. Reformed theologians and pastors chilled
the spirit of evangelism nationwide. Men like
Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, president of Dallas
Theological Seminary, cataloged evangelists
as "false forces in evangelism"
and charged that invitations to accept Christ
and confess Him in public services "implied
salvation by works." Evangelists were
labeled "grafters," "racketeers"
and "Elmer Gantrys." It was into
this kind of a religious climate that Dr.
Rice entered full-time evangelism.
He was an ordained Southern
Baptist, trained in Convention schools. At
first, invitations to conduct campaigns came
regularly. However his fundamental conscience
was assailed by the obvious unscriptural practices
and teachings evidenced everywhere in his
denomination. Dr. Rice's characteristic outspoken
opposition soon began to close church door
after church door. Shortly a committee of
denominational dignitaries called on him.
An ultimatum was issued! Further infractions
would necessitate his being blacklisted in
the official denominational magazine, The
Baptist Standard, which, spelled in simple
English, meant being barred from Convention
Rather than buckle under,
Dr. Rice bolted! He could not serve Christ
and denominational bosses -- and he would
not! In his characteristic, confident, in-Christ
kind of spirit, Dr. Rice asserted that if
God could not open doors and could not give
him places to preach, could not provide for
his family apart from the approval of denominational
leaden, then he would find another God to
serve who could!
Dr. Sumner stated of that
separation with the Southern Baptists: "Following
this break with the denomination in which
he was raised, saved, baptized, educated,
ordained and had served all his life, a surprising
thing happened to his ministry. Where he had
formerly preached often to rather small congregations,
now he began to get great crowds of common
people to hear him .... Where he had previously
ministered primarily to those already connected
with the churches, now he began to reach great
masses of those on the outside."
For fifty years John R. Rice
was a living testimonial of the great Bible
truth -- "If God be for us, who can be
against us?" (Rom. 8:31).
Dr. Rice's revival meetings
were not only exciting -- great gospel music,
great gospel preaching, and great results
-- they often were explosive! The Triple Cities
campaign (Binghamton, Johnson City and Endicott,
New York) is a case in point. Almost called
off at the last moment by the host pastor
because of unfounded charges that Dr. Rice
was a "Holy Roller," the campaign
began under a cloud of confusion and suspicion.
Subzero temperatures put another kind of chill
on the campaign. Denominational leaders and
preachers, plus local political officials,
challenged Dr. Rice's integrity and resisted
him openly. But people artended, God blessed,
and 374 public conversions and reclamations
to Christ were recorded.
One of Dr. Rice's messages,
"Sodom, Gomorrah and Binghamton -- Three
of a Kind," resulted in an investigation
of sexual orgies being sponsored and practiced
by local officials. Incredibly, such a carousal
was in progress the very night Dr. Rice was
preaching the message!
Although he had always had
a burden for a renewal of the great citywide
revivals of the Bob Jones, Sr., and Billy
Sunday stripe, it was not until two o'clock
one morning in a southside Chicago YMCA room
that Dr. Rice, after much waiting on God in
prayer, got his directives from Deity. He
promised God that with His help and at any
cost he would bring back citywide revival
campaigns to America. The rest of the story
is hallelujah history!
Teaming up at first with
musician Stratton Shufelt of Moody Memorial
Church -- and later with Dr. Harry Clarke,
former associate of Billy Sunday -- Dr. Rice
experienced what was to be recognized as remarkable
results. Readers must remember that citywide
campaigns in that day were a rarity. He had
to storm the beachhead of anti mass-evangelism
spirit and stigma, suspicion of evangelists,
small budgets and small sponsorship of a handful
of churches. Thus his attendance and decision
reports seem small in comparison with the
huge, highly organized and publicized campaigns
so prevalent today.
Believe it! Dr. Rice's breakthrough
opened wide the doors for the mass evangelism
that became the accepted and welcome norm
of the 1950's until the present. As it is
spelled out in Man Sent From God: "Just
as John the Baptist was the forerunner who
prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus
of Nazareth, so John R. Rice was the forerunner
who helped bring back large-scale mass evangelism
-- and almost all widely-used evangelists
frankly say so, giving him the credit."
For nearly five years Dr.
Rice crisscrossed the continent: Everett,
Washington; San Pedro, California; Waterloo,
Iowa; Springfield, Missouri; Goshen, Indiana;
Akron, Ohio; Winston-Salem, North Carolina;
Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada; Chicago; Buffalo;
The Cleveland campaign was
a thirty-day campaign-something unthinkable
in today's Christian circles, and not altogether
common in the 40's. The closing night attendance
was 3,767, a thrilling total for that day!
At least 800 first-time decisions for Christ
were counted. A year earlier Dr. Rice had
filled Kleinhan's Music Hall in Buffalo, New
York, with attendances reaching 3,094. Some
997 public professions were recorded.
The Chicago campaign, called
"Life Begins," was unique in format
and unusually blessed of God in its finality.
For five weeks, three different' preachers
spoke in the Chicago Arena. About 200 churches
and service organizations united. Dr. Rice
was the speaker for the last fifteen nights,
Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., and Dr. Paul Rood preceding
him. It was the first union evangelistic effort
since the 1918 Billy Sunday meetings. Over
2,000 salvation decisions were tabulated --
which outnumbered the Sunday totals. Some
400 youth dedicated their lives to Christian
service. All involved were agreed that the
"Windy City" had experienced a breath
of blessed revival air from Heaven!
Two years later, in 1948,
John R. Rice made another momentous decision.
At the height of his revival successes, Dr.
Rice retired from the ministry of citywide
campaigns to give himself unstintingly to
editing THE SWORD OF THE LORD, conducting
conferences on evangelism. Dr. Rice reasoned
that through the latter ministries he could
shake the lethargy of Christian America and
shape the course of greatly needed revival
in our land -- multiplied more times by reaching
and teaching pastors and people how to have
revival, how to win souls, how to experience
God's power and purpose in life than he could
from the revival meeting pulpit! That decision
was "the hardest decision I've ever made,"
Dr. Rice related afterward; "it broke
my heart to give up the revivals."
Editing THE SWORD rightly
recognized as "America's greatest soul-winning
publication," had always been one of
Dr. Rice's first loves (he never accepted
a salary for his ministry as editor) and one
of his most far-reaching ministries. Mention
the name John R. Rice and most Christian leaders
(and hosts of laymen) think of THE SWORD OF
THE LORD. The man and his magazine are inseparably
linked. Incidentally, the original title of
this magazine was THE SWORD OF THE LORD, AND
OF JOHN R. RICE, the inspiration for that
title being Judges 7:20: "...and they
cried, the sword of the Lord, and of Gideon."
THE SWORD was born September
28, 1934, in Dallas, Texas, when Dr. Rice
was pastoring the Fundamentalist Baptist Church.
The first page of that first issue carried
this statement of purpose: "An Independent
religious weekly to preach the Gospel, expose
sin, spread premillennial, fundamental Bible
teaching, and foster the work of the Fundamentalist
Baptist Church." This was later revised
to read, "An Independent Christian Weekly,
Standing for the Verbal Inspiration of the
Bible, the Deity of Christ, His Blood Atonement,
Salvation by Faith, New Testament Soul Winning
and the Premillennial Return of Christ. Opposes
Modernism, Worldliness and Formalism."
In over 46 years THE SWORD never dipped its
colors nor deviated from its original purpose.
Mrs. Rice and Dr. Bill Rice
(Dr. John's brother) claim to have been the
first circulation department. Bill handed
out armloads person-to-person on Jefferson,
the main street of Oak Cliff, where the church
was located. Mrs. Rice and four of the Rice
girls (later six daughters made the family
circle complete), and some other Sunday school
children, delivered THE SWORD from house to
That was the genesis of the
magazine that now has a circulation of over
150,000 copies, distributed in every state
of America and in over 100 foreign nations;
read by over 40,000 preachers, evangelists
The magazine has varied in
length from its original four pages to eight,
to twelve, to sixteen, and sometimes more.
Now a bi-weekly, it has 24 pages and regularly
features four to five full-length sermons
by greatly-used present-day preachers and
always one of the past. A sampling of those
authors sounds like a "Who's Who"
of God's greats: Hyman Appelman, B. H. Carroll,
Joe Henry Hankins, Jack Hyles, H. A. Ironside,
Curtis Hutson, Bob Jones, Sr., R. G. Lee,
Tom Malone, D. L. Moody, Rice himself, T.
DeWitt Talmage, Lee Scarborough, C. H. Spurgeon,
Billy Sunday, R. A. Torrey, George Truett
-- the list is endless!
And THE SWORD OF THE LORD
is abrim with timely articles -- an arsenal
of information, instruction, inspiration on
such areas as: "Answers to Bible Questions,"
"News and Views," "With the
Evangelists," "The Editor's Notes,"
columns to children, to teenagers, to women,
to soul winners, "Scrapbook Clippings,"
Small wonder one nationally
known evangelist enthusiastically wrote: "The
paper breathes devotion to Jesus Christ, compassion
to the souls of men. Each issue is a blazing
torch of fire, enough to set aflame the heart
of the coldest, the most backslidden, and
the farthest away-from-God sinner."
And small wonder that THE
SWORD OF THE LORD became required reading
in many Bible colleges-institutions where
the leadership wanted to turn out soul-burdened,
revival-concerned young preachers. Most soul-winning
pastors, evangelists and missionaries regularly
read this magazine that transforms ministries,
inspires zeal, ignites compassion and refreshes
the soul. It has been "must" reading
for me since 1948 -- and it is, in my honest
opinion, one of the mightiest means at our
disposal to light revival fires and infuse
God's people with purpose of life, compassion
for the lost, and power in personal evangelism!
Yet, THE SWORD OF THE LORD
is actually only one of Dr. Rice's printed
ministries. Dr. Robert L. Sumner significantly
titled him: "The Twentieth Century's
Mightiest Pen." He wrote: "When
you begin to total up the cloth and paperbound
volumes which have flowed from the pen of
John R. Rice, you begin to wonder if Solomon
was referring personally to him when he wrote,
'of making books there is no end.' (Eccles.
12:12)." At his death Dr. Rice had over
200 different titles in print with a combined
circulation exceeding 60 million copies.
Many of his books are considered
Christian classics. Prayer -- Asking and Receiving
is doubtless the mostused book on prayer in
this generation. The Home: Courtship, Marriage
and Children and his gospel tract, "What
Must I Do to Be Saved?" must be included,
also. That tract is Dr. Rice's most famous
publication -- and most fruitful -- printed
in 39 languages. There are 10,532 recorded
decisions just from the English printing.
The range of Dr. Rice's writings
is almost unbelievable. He wrote books on
these subjects, among others: inspiration
of the Bible, commentaries on a number of
books of the Bible, books on Christian living,
deity of Christ, doctrines in the Scriptures,
evangelists and evangelism, eschatotogy, the
home, lodges, a novel on Abraham, prayer,
sermon books by the score, worldliness, to
cite just a few.
Such voluminous writing on
so many varied subjects did not produce skimpy-in-substance,
wordy-in-content volumes. Dr. Rice's writings
are not shallow, frothy sentimentalities;
rather, his sermons and studies show strong
scholarship, are supported by many Scriptures
and speak to the subject and to the reader's
intellect and heart.
The "Twentieth Century's
Mightiest Pen" is a plaudit earned not
only by output but also by outcome. Some 25,780
persons (through April of 1982, that would
equal the population of Bristol, Tennessee)
have written Sword of the Lord Foundation
offices that they made a decision for salvation
through Dr. Rice's writings. Further fruit
of his prolific pen is the host of young men
who have surrendered to preach or to enter
into enlarged ministry. To record the number
of men who have gotten a revitalized ministry
through his writings would be humanly incalculable.
It is a rare, rare gathering of independent,
separatist preachers where one does not hear
a glowing testimonial to the transforming
influence of John Rice's writings on someone's
life and labors for the Lord.
Alluded to earlier were Dr.
Rice's conferences on evangelism. In 1945
he instituted the first of these conferences,
which have to be one of his greater contributions
to the cause of soul winning. D. L. Moody
had similar conferences in his day. But Dr.
Rice was one of the first men to sponsor such
conferences on such a wide geographical scale:
Winona Lake, Indiana (the first); Toccoa Falls,
Georgia; Cedar Lake, Indiana; Moody Church,
Chicago, Illinois; Highland Park Baptist Church,
Chattanooga, Tennessee; Bill Rice Ranch, Murfreesboro,
Tennessee; convention centers in Indianapolis,
Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas, Birmingham, Cincinnati,
and Wichita, Kansas.
Indianapolis, Indiana, 1974,
was the first national-inscope Sword Conference
on Evangelism. Seven thousand persons thronged
the auditorium. The week-long program was
freighted with blessings from Heaven. Anointed
preaching spoke to the heart. Pointed workshops
on almost every area of soul winning, revival,
evangelism, church growth, Christian living
and service instructed huge audiences with
"how to" do the job and inspired
them with the "want to." Exhibitors
of Christian literature, audio/visual equipment,
Christian colleges, and hosts of other revival,
evangelism-related organizations filled a
huge hall adjacent to the auditorium. By Friday
evening there were hundreds of decisions made
by Christians smitten over their indifference,
fruitlessness, faithlessness, carelessness
Indianapolis was the pattern.
In following years there were conferences
in Dallas (6,000 in attendance), Atlanta,
Detroit, Murfreesboro, Birmingham, etc. --
all worthy successes. The Detroit conference
at Cobo Hall was highlighted by the Wednesday
night message of Dr. Rice on the subject of
the "New Birth." Dr. Ron English,
former conference coordinator and assistant
to Dr. Rice, told of an emotional moment not
known to many of the 5,000 audience who heard
that stirring sermon. He stated: "I remember
how pleased he (Dr. Rice) was after preaching
the message .... There were thousands of people
present and lots of people streaming down
the aisles at the invitation. Dr. Rice left
the platform and came down to the main floor
and stood by me weeping and said, 'This is
the way it used to be in citywide campaigns.'
And for a moment I felt like I was with the
young evangelist who blazed trails all over
America. We recorded that message for television
and showed it later on 160 stations and had
over 20,000 people respond by phone calls
and letters, with hundreds being saved."
Early in his ministry, Dr.
Rice learned the value of utilizing greatly
used men of God on his platforms. Elite evangelists
have ministered with their holy, white-hot
zeal on Sword conference programs: Hyman Appelman,
B. R. Lakin, Joe Henry Hankins, Dr. Bob Jones,
Sr., Dr. Bill Rice. And pastors -- powerful
preachers, builders of dynamic churches --
have inspired and instructed thousands of
young men (and older ones, too) to build going,
growing, soul-winning churches by the grace
of God for the glory of God: Dr. Jack Hyles,
Dr. Tom Malone, Dr. Bob Gray, Dr. Lee Roberson,
Dr. John Rawlings, Dr. A. V. Henderson, Dr.
Ray Batema, Dr. Curtis Hutson, now Dr. Rice's
successor, and others.
The results of these conferences
are nothing short of phenomenal. In Dr. Rice's
own appraisal, the facts must speak for themselves.
He stated: "In an amazing way, God has
seen fit to bless our efforts and those of
my associates. All over America independent
Baptist churches have sprung up. Old churches
have come to a blessed reviving and blooming
and growth. A few years ago [written in 1973]
we could find only 20 churches that won and
baptized as many as 200 converts in a year;
now there are doubtless ten times that many.
We recently published accounts of seventeen
churches that baptized from 500 to 2,300 converts
in a year. Some hundreds of young men have
started new churches, set goals, and their
works are growing rapidly."
Only Heaven's records will
reveal the eternal worth of the Sword conferences,
but a sampling is already seen.
Dr. Curtis Hutson, a part-time
pastor carrying mail in greater Atlanta, one
who had never personally won a soul to Christ,
had his life totally transformed at a Sword
conference -- returned to build the largest
independent Baptist church in Georgia.
Dr. Bob Gray did the same
thing in Florida after a Toccoa, Georgia,
Dr. Ray Batema attributed,
under God, his great, growing church in California
to a John R. Rice message at a Sword conference
when his ministry was transformed.
Wally Beebe, a young pastor
in Illinois, attendod a Sword conference.
Today we know him as "Mr. Bus."
Dr. Jack Hyles wrote of him, "Without
doubt, there are more people in Sunday school
on Sunday morning in the United States because
of the ministry of Dr. Wally Beebe than any
other living man."
The number of preachers who
have had their visions lifted and enlarged,
their hearts fired, their spirits revived,
their ministries totally transformed in Sword
conferences are beyond comprehension. Those
conferences always will be one of John R.
Rice's greatest accomplishments. His inauguration
of, his involvement in, his inspirational
genius through the Sword conferences will
make his memory and ministry a shining light
through the centuries and throughout eternity.
The sum total of the ministries
of the man tell an almost awesome story. It
seems incredible, impossible that one man
could accomplish so much for Christ in one
lifetime. The average preacher would be thoroughly
thrilled to accomplish but one of Dr. Rice's
achievements. Perhaps that mediocrity accounts
for their "fiverage" status.
Often one hears the question,
"What would the Apostle Paul do with
all the opportunities and resources available
to preaching the Gospel today?" This
is no attempt to compare the spirituality
nor the service of either that first century
apostle or this twentieth century evangelist.
Paul doubtlessly would employ today's opportunities
and resources for evangelism much more zealously
and effectively than John R. Rice ever did
or could, but it is interesting to note that
to equal Dr. Rice's record of service for
the Saviour, the apostle would have to utilize
the following ministries today.
He would have to preach thousands
of sermons in local church revivals and great
citywide campaigns. He would have to preach
in tents, churches, tobacco barns, opera halls,
arenas and civic centers. He would have to
utilize the printed page by editing a worldwide
circulated evangelistic magazine, publish
millions of books, booklets and tracts translated
in many languages, write notes and references
for a reference Bible, and publish full-page
ads in great national magazines (Reader's
Digest, etc.) to get the Gospel into millions
of homes. And Paul would have to pen countless
thousands of letters counseling, answering
questions of pastors, missionaries, evangelists,
sinners and saints around the world. And he
would have to pen and publish poetry and music.
This is not all -- Paul would
have to major with such media as radio, television
and tape ministries to get the Gospel into
all the world. Dr. Rice regularly used radio
in his revival ministries, but in 1959 he
inaugurated the weekly "Voice of Revival"
broadcast which was being heard on sixty-nine
stations at his death.
No wonder internationally
known evangelist Dr. Hyman Appelman appraised
John Rice: "He was a man who comes, perhaps,
once in a generation. The Holy Spirit had
endued him with many talents...gifted author...giant
of the pulpit...pastor, evangelist, protagonist
and a leader of noble causes... Titan in the
realm of soul winning."
As intimated in the very
first paragaph, Dr. Rice was also a controversialist
for the cause of Christ as he saw it. With
his potent pen and his preaching power in
the pulpit, Dr. Rice waged relentless war
against everything he considered heresy or
hypocrisy. He bore strong similarity to Dr.
Henry Coray's commentary on Aurelius Augustine
(St. Augustine). Coray analyzed Augustine:
"A list of his treatises make Augustine
sound like an arch reactionary: Against the
Pagans, against the astrologers...against
the Manichees, against the Priscillians, against
the Donatists, against the Pelagians, against
the Arians .... "
Dr. Rice was against modernism,
against humanisrn, against evolution, against
the lodges, against worldliness, against denominational
overlordship, against formalism, against hypocrisy.
In contending for the Faith,
Dr. Rice, along with others, learned they
had to contend with individuals who deny that
Faith -- there being no divorcing doctrine
from the doer of that doctrine.
Dr. Rice was a fervent and
fearless foe of liberalism or modernism. That
constraining conviction was precipitated by
a crisis that occurred when he was doing graduate
work at Chicago University. After a message
by William Jennings Bryan on the subject,
"The Bible and Its Enemies," controversy
raged on the campus and Dr. Rice saw a Turkish
missionary's son swayed by the controversy
and then succumb to the infidelity. Dr. Rice
related of that defection: "It was a
time of crisis in my life. Standing there
on the steps of Mandel Hall that spring afternoon
with dusk coming on, I felt burning in me
a holy fire. I lifted my hand solemnly to
God and said: 'If God gives me grace and I
have opportunity to smite this awful unbelief
that wrecks the faith of all it can, then
smite it I will, so help me God!' That vow
I tried to keep, and keep it I will by His
grace and help."
Dr. Rice kept that holy vow!
The pages of THE SWORD OF THE LORD and his
printed pamphlets and books became the battleground
where he contended for biblical faith against
the insidious infidelity of the National Council
of Churches; the World Council of Churches;
the Revised Standard Version of the Bible;
The Interpreter's Bible; countless liberal
schools, especially Southern Baptist institutions
and their leaders; as well as the Fosdicks,
Ferres, Oxnams, and other liberal leaders.
Those were not rantings and
ravings of some wildeyed, fire-eating, publicity-seeking
evangelist. Dr. Rice's rebuttals were thoroughly
researched, carefully and accurately stated
(sometimes sensationally), but honestly and
Evangelism and evangelists
were ever near and dear to his heart. He often
stated he prayed daily by name for scores
of evangelists. He also ceaselessly battled
for their acceptance. The Scriptures state
in Ephesians 4:11,12: "And [God] gave
some...evangelists; and some pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the
work of the ministry, for the edifying of
the body of Christ." To Evangelist Rice,
the order of Scripture as well as the content
of Scripture was Holy Spirit of God inspired.
Thus, to him, the office of the evangelist
was the paramount New Testament ministry.
Naturally he battled for the evangelists'
rightful recognition in their office, as well
as the churches' obligation to them.
But his crusade for their
cause was not a one-way street. Just as vigorously
Dr. Rice charged evangelists that they must
be circumspect in every relationship with
pastors and congregations -- that meant in
the areas of morals, manners, message, money!
What he preached to others he practiced himself.
Dr. Rice was unsparing of
himself -- and he was unsparing of others
in the Lord's work. Right was always right;
wrong was always wrong. To him there were
no shades of gray, grayer or grayest -- it
was either black or white. It was this uncompromising
conviction that led to one of the great heartbreaks
of his ministry -- his controversy and ultimate
cleavage with Evangelist Billy Graham in 1957.
The issue was Dr. Graham's crusade policy
of sponsorship of modernists and modernistic
councils and his using liberals in committee
positions and on the platform in his revival
That separation sent shock
waves through the Christian world. Dr. Graham,
in the 1950's, had become a nationally and
internationally known, loved and honored evangelist.
He was regularly preaching to larger attendances
in his crusades and on his weekly radio broadcast
-- "Hour of Decision" -- than any
living man, and the number of decisions for
Christ he saw under his ministry was probably
the largest ever tabulated in evangelistic
Dr. Rice and Dr. Graham were
fast friends. Each served on the other's board:
Dr. Graham serving on the Sword of the Lord
Cooperating Board and Dr. Rice on the Board
of Trustees of Northwestern Schools, of which
Dr. Graham was then president. Dr. Graham's
messages and meeting statistics regularly
appeared in THE SWORD OF THE LORD.
Dr. Rice was one of Dr. Graham's
staunchest defenders in Dr. Graham's early
and surprising defections from the separatist-fundamentalist
position. For example, when Dr. Graham endorsed
the Revised Standard Version of the Bible,
Dr. Rice asked people to excuse it on the
basis of Dr. Graham's youth and immaturity.
And when it was discovered that liberals were
on the Executive Committee during Dr. Graham's
Atlanta Crusade, Dr. Rice passed on to his
readers the explanation Dr. Graham had given
him: The liberals had been placed on the Committee
without his knowledge and he had not learned
of it until he arrived at the Crusade. And
Dr. Rice assured those readers that Billy
had promised God on his knees it would never
However, when Dr. Graham
refused to accept a New York City crusade
under spensorship of only evangelical, fundamental
churches and organizations, insisting that
the liberal Protestant Council support must
be included also -- and when Dr. Graham refused
to be classified as a fundamentalist -- opting
for the terminology "Conservative-Liberal"
or "Constructionist," John Rice
took his stand against a brother he loved
in the Lord so that he himself might walk
in the way of "thus saith the Lord."
Dr. Rice lived and died a
man of convictions -- intense convictions.
To some, many issues he raised and positions
he defended were comparatively unimportant,
but to Dr. Rice an issue was never unimportant
and he spoke out uncompromisingly, dogmatically,
boldly, even harshly, regardless of the person(s)
or price to himserf involved. if he felt he
was right, he stood. His life was a luminous
illustration of that principle.
But Dr. Rice, like many other
strong fighters for the Faith, was also marked
with a sincere spirit of compassion. Those
who knew him best -- his co-workers at Sword
of the Lord Foundation, his co-laborers in
the services, and his close companions in
life knew a man who loved them. In preaching,
in prayer and in personal life, Dr. Rice wept
over sinners and wept with the saints.
Every successful Christian
leader or worker is possessed of a propelling,
compelling, impelling motivation. I am bold
to believe that Dr. Rice's motivating power
was his love for souls. Soul winning was supreme
to the man. As stated earlier, Dr. Rice sold
out to soul winning that night in the Pacific
Garden Mission after leading a poor, dirty,
unshaven bum to Christ.
Out of his inner being poured
this passionate plea: "I wanted nothing
better than to win souls and to have welling
up in my heart continually the glad joy I
felt at that moment." It is safe to say
that this heart cry was the heartthrob of
the rest of his life. He considered soul winning
"the most important business in the world."
And he maintained that "the winning of
individuals by individuals in personal conversation
is the main way to win souls," adding
that, in his evangelism of over fifty years
and having seen tens of thousands of people
come to Christ, he could say that personal
contact, personal invitation had a part in
winning nine out of ten of all those he had
seen come to Christ.
Dr. Rice practiced what he
preached. He resolved as a young evangelist
that "he would never have a fruitless
revival effort...never preach long in any
place attempting to win souls without winning
some." So he would leave off writing
and editing a manuscript on soul winning to
go out and win some soul to Christ. He would
leave the pulpit, rush out of a building to
meet a man and lead him to Christ when his
sermon had failed to do so. He would pay a
drunken bum's lodging in a cheap rooming house
to show him God's love so he could witness
to him more effectively. The stories of John
R. Rice's soul winning became legendary in
his lifetime -- because he lived out soul
winning for a lifetime.
Yet he was human. Once, on
a car trip from Dallas to Chicago, he prayed
with his family, "Lord, help me to find
someone I can win on the way before I reach
Chicago." Then he related how he missed
a turn at Ardmore, Oklahoma, and drove fifty
miles out of the way. At the filling station
where he sought directions, he dealt with
the attendant -- and led him to Christ. Retracing
his route, and upset with himself because
of the unnecessary delay and detour, he was
suddenly challenged by the giggle of girls
who confronted him: "Daddy, don't you
see? You asked God to lead you to a soul you
could win today, so He brought you fifty miles
to reach the man who was ready."
Yes -- John R. Rice was a
soul winner. God led him to souls -- and God
led souls to him. Once, a family of five drove
from Dayton, Ohio, to Wheaton (350 miles),
Illinois, "to have Brother Rice show
us how to be saved." That soul winner's
heart beat with hungering purpose until the
man was discharged from his privileged responsibility
by death. Just days before that summons, he
was seeking the lost. Dr. Curtis Hutson tells
it in these heartwarming words: "Just
a few Sundays ago Dr. Rice was in the Franklin
Road Baptist Church for the last time. Although
he was weak and handicapped by impaired hearing
and eyesight, at the end of the service he
stopped a little girl and asked gently, 'Honey,
are you a Christian?' That experience is typical
of the man."
Dr. Rice bared his soul winner's
heart in this moving message -- a Christmas
letter dictated to his friends a few days
before his death -- when he wrote: "I
still, from my armchair, preach in great revival
campaigns. I still vision hundreds walking
the aisles to accept Christ. I still feel
hot tears for the lost. I still see God working
miracles. Oh, how I long to see great revivals,
to hear about revival crowds once again! I
want no Christmas without a burden for lost
souls, a message for sinners, a heart to bring
in the lost sheep so dear to the Shepherd,
the sinning souls for whom Christ died. May
food be tasteless, and music a discord, and
Christmas a farce if I forget the dying millions
to whom I am debtor; if this fire in my bones
does not still flame! Not till I die or not
till Jesus comes, will I ever be eased of
this burden, these tears, this toil to save
souls." Yes -- that is the beat of a
soul winner's heart!
That was not just Christmas
season sentimentality. It was the overflow
of a bleeding, broken heart for the lost which
had been constrained and conquered by this
terrible truth: "If there is a place
of eternal torment where damned souls cry
in vain for water amid the flames they cannot
escape forever, it is the most alarming and
terrifying fact in the universe! The very
possibility that such a doom may await a sinner
is so shocking that no other question can
compare with its importance. How can today's
feasting or hunger, clothing or nakedness,
honor or infamy, pleasure or pain compare
in importance with a million years of pain,
torment of body, mind and conscience?"
Yes -- John R. Rice -- "Titan
of soul winning"!
These pages are pennod mere
months after Dr. Rice's Homegoing. December
29, 1980. Words written by Bud Lyles in 1965
well express the thoughts of multitudes at
that Homegoing of the one he called "God's
"What is the measure
of a man's ministry?...Can a man's ministry
be measured? Certainly Christians are aware
that the influence of a life extends far beyond
the short span of years in which that life
is lived in this world. Only at the judgment
seat of Christ will all be known of the good
or bad in any one man's life and work ....
It will likely remain for generations beyond
our own, if Jesus tarries, to really appreciate
what the ministry of John R. Rice has meant
to fundamental Christianity."
Hosts of other fundamental
leaders have emphasized the same awareness
of an appreciation for the impact and influence
exerted on his and forthcoming generations.
Dr. Tom Malone measured him: "John R.
Rice loved people. Some men appear to love
great crowds or institutions, but he loved
individual human beings .... He loved God's
servants and had a special love for preachers
.... Preachers and missionaries all over the
world have felt the impact of a man wholly
dedicated to Jesus Christ."
Dr. John Rawlings wrote:
"This has been a period of church history
when the need for leadership was at its greatest.
It is during times like this that a man like
Dr. John R. Rice stands head and shoulders
above his fellows .... He had insight as an
editor to look into the future and chart a
course for evangelism, Bible study, and separation
that few men have had the perception to see."
Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., founder
of Bob Jones University, and Dr. John R. Rice
were associated in the cause of evangelism
and fundamentalism from 1937 until Dr. Bob's
death in 1968. Dr. Bob, who knew John Rice
more intimately than any other man, and knew
men more minutely than most, probably spoke
the sentiments of mulitudes of twentieth century
Christians when he witnessed of John Rice:
"I regard Dr. Rice as one of the greatest
spiritual assets this nation has."
What more could be added
than an articulate Amen!.
(Less than seventy-one hours
before the dawning of 1981, this Giant of
Evangelism, and one of the most prolific pens
in all of Christendom, was stilled. Dr. John
R. Rice, founder of all Sword of the Lord
ministries, went to be with the Lord in the
early morning hours of December 29, 1980.
A church auditorium completely
encircled with memorial wreaths and packed
with nearly 1,200 mourners marked funeral
services for this great man at the Franklin
Road Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, of which
Dr. Rice was a member. The three-hour program
of eulogizers included prominent clergy from
across the nation.
Dr. Rice, who celebrated
his 85th birthday just weeks before his death,
was hailed as one of the most prominent figureheads
of fundamentalism in America, and the most
published author in the country's history.
While his mighty pen and
voice have been stilled, thank God the fruit
remains! Like the noble British writer of
the 19th Century, Charles H. Spurgeon, through
the printed page it is possible for him, though
dead, to continue to speak. As Dr. Jerry Falwell
said at his memorial service, "No one
more appropriately fits the fulfillment of
the promise, '...and their works do follow
them,' than John Rice. He left behind a family.
He left behind an arsenal of written material
that says who he is, what he believes, and
with whom he had a personal relationship."