The death of my spiritual father: Is this "the greatest evangelistic hour" in history?

Friday, February 3, 2023

Site Search

The Daily Article

The death of my spiritual father: Is this “the greatest evangelistic hour” in history?

January 29, 2021 - Jim Denison, PhD

© Lynn/

The front of a white church bus

© Lynn/

I will be in heaven because of the ministry of a man who went to heaven Wednesday night.

In 1973, Dr. Cecil Sewell, Jr. left his church in Alabama to become the pastor of a small congregation in Houston, Texas. One of his first acts was to begin a bus ministry, something few churches across the country were doing. The church purchased an old school bus and enlisted volunteers to knock on doors in the community looking for people to bring to worship. 

In August of that year, two men from the church knocked on our family’s apartment door. My father told them my brother and I would be on the bus the next day. That Sunday, through Dr. Sewell’s sermon, I heard the gospel for the first time.

His wife, Sharon, was my Sunday school teacher. The joyful faith she and her husband shared became powerfully compelling for me. A few weeks after we started visiting, on September 9, 1973, I asked her how I could have what she had. That day, she sat down with me and led me to trust in Jesus as my Savior. 

A few weeks later, Dr. Sewell led my brother to Christ. A few months later, he baptized us both. Over the years, he licensed and ordained me to the ministry, conducted my father’s funeral, and performed our wedding. Over the decades since, he has remained my first father in the faith. 

His daughter, Melanie, went to be with the Lord in 2013. Now they are reunited in worshiping our Savior. One day, I will join them. In the meantime, every person I influence in any way for Jesus is an extension of Dr. Sewell’s ministry. His vibrant love for our Lord and his passion for evangelism will mark me forever. 

Francis Chan forced to leave Hong Kong 

These are challenging days for the gospel. 

Pastor and author Francis Chan and his family have been forced to leave Hong Kong after Chinese authorities rejected their visas. A German ministry founded in 1972 that places Bible verses on public advertising is facing opposition from those who want “more neutrality in the worldviews” of organizations that buy advertising space. No other religious group or worldview is facing such restrictions. 

The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ activism group, is urging the Biden administration to require that faith-based schools adopt its positions or lose their accreditation. As I noted yesterday, the so-called Equality Act poses an unprecedented danger to religious freedom for evangelical Christians in America. 

But God is still on his throne. He promises that his word “shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). If we are willing to speak biblical truth with boldness and courage, God will use us for his eternal glory. 

“This is hope for us, new life for us” 

The Pew Research Center reported this week that Americans were more likely than those in any other advanced economy to say the pandemic has strengthened their faith. Only 4 percent said it made their faith weaker. 

The first new building in years is being constructed at Mississippi’s oldest prison, but it’s not a new cellblock. For the first time in the prison’s 120-year history, a church is being built inside prison walls. Services will be conducted by inmate pastors. 

A seventeen-year inmate said, “A lot of us come in here thinking all of us [have] been forgotten, that everybody did away with us. So this is hope for us, new life for us.” 

According to evangelist Nick Hall, God is using the coronavirus pandemic to spark what “could be the greatest evangelistic hour in the history of global Christianity.” During Easter week alone, his ministry shared the gospel with over 120 million households from 140 countries; of these, 130,556 became Christians. 

He added: “With total views of people hearing the gospel last year, we had more people in a single year hear the gospel than we’ve had in the last fifteen years combined.” 

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord” 

No amount of discrimination against Christians can keep Christians from loving Jesus and loving everyone he loves. Or from paying any price to share our Lord with our culture. 

Dr. Cecil Sewell gave up every Tuesday evening for evangelism, visiting in homes across our community to share Christ with them. Church members who volunteered in the bus ministry he launched spent every Saturday morning knocking on doors, inviting everyone they could to ride the bus to church. He and they were often rebuffed but never discouraged. Only the Lord knows how many people have followed Jesus because Dr. Sewell followed Jesus. 

Who is your spiritual father or mother? Who helped you follow Jesus? Like me, you owe them an eternal debt of gratitude. But if they are like Dr. Sewell, they would tell you that the best way to repay them is to pay our debt forward by sharing Jesus with everyone we can. 

Dr. Sewell’s homegoing is a vivid reminder that we are all one day closer to eternity. Our job is to be faithful each day until the day Jesus returns to earth or we go to heaven. 

Then, on that day when death shall be no more and life becomes life eternal, we will see Jesus. After I thank my Savior for my salvation, I will thank the man whose ministry led me to him. In the meantime, I claim this promise for my spiritual father: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord . . . that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13). 

His deeds will follow him forever, to the glory of God.

NOTE: This is the last note you’ll see from me regarding the release of my newest book, To Follow in His Footsteps: A Daily Walk with Jesus through the Holy Land. Although you may not get to visit Israel this Easter, I pray that my newest book transports you to the land where Jesus lived—and that these words and images ultimately bring you closer to him. Please request your copy of our new Easter devotional today.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

What did you think of this article?

If what you’ve just read inspired, challenged, or encouraged you today, or if you have further questions or general feedback, please share your thoughts with us.

What did you think of today's article?

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Denison Forum Search


Denison Forum
17304 Preston Rd, Suite 1060
Dallas, TX 75252-5618