July 17, 2002
BOLIVAR — Jack Stanton, who was just as excited to preach the Gospel to a rural congregation of 15 as he was to the throngs he faced while filling pulpits for W.A. Criswell and R.G. Lee, died July 14 in Citizens Memorial Healthcare Facility here. He was 82.
Known by many Southern Baptists as "Mr. Evangelism," Stanton most recently served as associate professor emeritus of evangelism and was the former director of the International Institute of Evangelism and the Jim Mellers Evangelism and Conference Center at Southwest Baptist University (SBU).
"Dr. Jack Stanton has had a tremendous impact on Southwest Baptist University," said Pat Taylor, president of SBU. "Many of our alumni and current students are Christians because of Dr. Stanton’s ministry of evangelism. Today there are numerous pastors and evangelists who have been taught and influenced by Dr. Stanton. He was a great teacher and a great evangelist, and he always promoted the Kingdom’s agenda."
Stanton served 15 years as associate director of evangelism at the former Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board) before his 22-year tenure at SBU. After his 1997 retirement, the university named the evangelism center in his honor and created the Jack Stanton Chair of Evangelism. He had also taught evangelism at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
"The Jack Stanton Center of Evangelism on the campus of SBU will continue to have a positive influence on countless young evangelists and ministers," Taylor said. "SBU is a better evangelical Christian university because God led Dr. Stanton to minister among our students and faculty. Our university will be eternally grateful for Dr. Stanton and his ministry."
A native of East St. Louis, Ill., Stanton was born Aug. 31, 1919. He often recalled his own salvation experience, one that occurred through the ministry of another well-known evangelist, Earl Pounds. Stanton went on to earn a doctor of theology at Luther Rice Seminary in 1974, which honored him in 1995 as Alumni of the Year. He received a bachelor of divinity degree in 1955 from Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City and, earlier, a bachelor of arts from Shurtleff Baptist College in Alton, Ill.
Stanton was the author of The Christian Witness, How to Have a Full and Meaningful Life, along with numerous article’s for Southern Baptist papers, magazines and curriculum materials. He has had numerous sermons published in various books. He co-authored the books Southern Baptist Handbook of Evangelism, Handbook of Evangelism and We Are Witnesses. In 1993, Evangelism Today & Tomorrow was published honoring his evangelistic efforts.
"The tragic spiritual condition of the lost multitudes calls us to witness," Stanton wrote in We Are Witnesses, a booklet published by the Home Mission Board in 1968.
"Men are lost without Christ. They may be attractive, educated, and cultured, but without Christ they are lost. Lost in time and in eternity. That son or daughter, that husband or wife, that mother or dad without Christ, is lost. … Remember, every person you meet will live as long as God lives in heaven or in hell," Stanton wrote.
Soul-winning, he noted, "is vital to the developing of a growing, victorious Christian life. Personal witnessing is the most effective exercise a Christian can experience. It will cause him to study his Bible, stay close to God through prayer, and rely greatly upon the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. Soul-winning will bring joy, cultivate Christian growth, inspire consecrated living, and prepare Christians for active, spiritual leadership. It provides not only one of life’s great thrills, but adds meaning and depth to every other experience in the Christian life."
It was not unusual for Stanton to fill the pulpits as a guest for preachers like Criswell, Lee, Adrian Rogers, Ed Young and Jerry Vines.
Former HMB President Larry Lewis, now living in San Diego, told Baptist Press, "Probably there was no one more highly respected in Southern Baptist life as a proponent of personal evangelism and mass evangelism. He was in constant demand as a speaker at state evangelism conferences, associational evangelism rallies and area and church crusades. He served the Home Mission Board wonderfully."
Stanton was elected first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention in June 1986 and again in June 1987.
He was elected director of lay evangelism for the men’s department of the Baptist World Alliance, 1990-1995 and again 1995-2000.
The Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelist honored Stanton for Outstanding Achievement in Evangelism at the 1996 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.
He made an evangelistic trip around the world and has been in all 50 states and 80 countries and conducted Lay Evangelism Schools and Lay Evangelism Leadership Schools in Jordan, Puerto Rico, Tortola, Antiqua, Brazil, Germany and Egypt.
"He was one of the really great giants of evangelism," said Jerry Field, evangelism initiatives coordinator for the Missouri Baptist Convention. "He was one of those guys that never stopped spreading the Gospel. He had such a never-say-die attitude. Even during his illness, you’d ask yourself, ‘how does he keep going?’ Then you’d here that he had preached and folks were saved."
He held memberships in the Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education, Baptist Teachers of Religion, Southern Baptist Vocational Evangelists, Missouri Baptist Evangelists, and Washington Roundtable on Evangelism.
Stanton’s special honors included being listed in the Third Edition of Who’s Who in Religion, 1985; being made a Kentucky Colonel on June 23, 1966; being adopted by the Baptist Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma, made chief and given the name "Chief of Many Battles;" and being commissioned admiral of the Texas Navy on June 7, 1985.
Stanton was preceded in death by his wife, Mary, and is survived by their two daughters, Mary Lee, and Melody. Funeral services were conducted July 17 at First Baptist Church, Bolivar, under the direction of Dr. Jim Sells and Rev. Ray Leininger. Burial was in Greenwood Cemetery. (Baptist Press, the SBU public relations department and the Bolivar Herald-Free Press contributed to this story.)