By Allen Palmeri
SEYMOUR—The story of 28-year-old Ean Hendrix is proof that God is still calling vocational evangelists in Missouri.
Hendrix is pastor of Antioch Baptist Church here, a congregation of around 25 people in this Webster County community of around 2,000 that manages to support him full-time and eagerly send him out to do the work of an evangelist anytime his services are requested. His wife, Elizabeth, has often affirmed his giftedness as an evangelist, and his membership in the Fellowship of Missouri Baptist Evangelists (FMBE) is active, strong, and sure.
The Bible theme of Jesus Christ glorifying God the Father is prominent on his business card, with “All Things Through Christ” printed above his name. Hendrix explained how he is clinging to that truth from revival to revival.
“While He was on earth, He was not trying to bring glory to Himself,” Hendrix said. “He was trying to bring glory to His Father. And He told us that He is glorified through us. That’s our job.
“So we are following Christ’s example. He is the one who bled and died. He is the one who paid the price. He deserves a reward for what He has done. And if He bled and died so that we may have salvation, that’s why He came, then that’s the message—that Christ has offered us salvation through His sacrifice. That’s what I want. I want Him to be glorified, and through that the Father’s glorified.”
The Ava native rejects the idea that vocational evangelists are a dying breed.
“God’s going to do some mighty things, and the people who love the Lord are going to respond,” he said. “Who cares what man thinks? When you have a church, and this pastor’s here, and these deacons are there, if they have the attitude, ‘This is my church and it’s going to go the way that I say it’s going to go,’ that church is going to die.’ When they say, ‘This is God’s church and we’re going to do what He wants us to do,’ that’s going to be a thriving church.
“Now there are a lot of churches that survive by carnal means. They bring in all kinds of worldly things, but those churches are going to die. It’s going to be the churches full of people who love Christ … you know what? If God is calling me and calling other people into evangelism, (then) that means that He’s going to give churches to preach at.”
Hendrix prayed to receive Christ as a boy but was not converted. He credits the love of a church, Living Water Tabernacle of Seymour, in the days leading up to his wedding for his salvation. The pastor offered to perform the marriage ceremony for free, and a Wednesday night Bible study on Revelation began to interest Hendrix to the point where he knew God was getting his attention.
“Very nervously I went up to the altar and I prayed,” he said. “He just got a hold of me, and that’s when I felt, that’s when I knew, I had a relationship with Christ. So really it was the kindness of a church that really didn’t even know me that got me to where I felt like I needed to come.”
The year was 2003. Hendrix was alive in Christ.
“In ‘Blessed Assurance,’ there’s a line in that song that says ‘lost in His love,’” he said. “I had that experience to where when was at work, I was thinking about Him. When I came home, I wanted to read the Bible. Actually, my wife at one point even said, ‘I think it’s great that you’re reading the Bible, but you need to make sure you’re spending time with me, too.’ So we started reading the Bible together, and that was definitely for the best.”
Soon he got a message from the Bible and a method of presenting it that he took straight to his pastor so that his pastor could go ahead and preach it. Instead he was told to preach it himself. That led to some conversations about what it was like to be called as a preacher, which resulted in him preaching every now and then at the church and helping teach the youth.
He then took a job as a correctional officer on the night shift with the Greene County Sheriff’s Department. For about a year and a half he and another preacher filled the pulpit at Living Water. His routine was to come home after a 12-hour shirt, prepare for church, preach, and take a nap to get ready for another night’s work.
By this time he was starting to do a couple of revivals and thinking that maybe God was calling him into vocational evangelism. A pastor friend mentioned that Antioch was without a pastor, so in October 2009, after leaving Living Water a few months earlier on the promise of Matt. 6:33, he decided to do a good deed, of sorts, by preaching a couple of Sundays.
“I preached one time and they asked me if I would stay for a month,” Hendrix said. “I agreed to that, not even thinking that they were going to ask me to pastor. I wasn’t even a part of the Southern Baptist Convention at the time. I was there for actually two weeks and they asked me to stay for three months. I said, ‘Well, I’ll keep coming out here preaching until God leads me in another direction.’
“I began to love the people. I began to really care about the church. They asked me to become pastor, and I told them I don’t feel like I’ve been called at all to pastor. I told them, ‘I don’t think that I’ll be your pastor. My heart’s in evangelism.’ Now keep in mind, I was not a Southern Baptist at the time, and I told them, ‘If a church calls me to go preach a revival, I don’t care what denomination they are, I’m going to go preach.’”
Understanding those terms and knowing full well that he could eventually wind up spending less time with the flock, Antioch still called him as its pastor. They even gave him a raise after one month. Hendrix was amazed.
“They said, ‘You’re out doing God’s work. We want to stand behind you. We want to support you.’”
Now he spends his time making contacts, going to revivals and conferences, networking in various ways, and working toward the day when he can book more dates like his May 12-16 time in revival with Calvary Baptist Church, Ozark.
“I’ve gotten to know several of the pastors,” Hendrix said. “If they have a revival, and I know about it, I go to their church. If they’ve got a special event, I go to their church. I meet them. I try to do a few special events here and there, and I make sure to invite them.
“I preached at a nursing home down in Marshfield, and I invited several of the pastors. One of the pastors came out and heard me preach, and I talked to him about it. I’ve put a little digital voice recorder in the pulpit while I preached, and from that I’ve made some CDs. I’ve passed those out to probably every pastor in the area.”
Veteran evangelists in Missouri have told him it will take about three to five years for him to become established. He figures he has about a year’s worth of experience right now and a telephone number that is open to inquiries at (417) 830-2571.
“This spring I would like to do a few and through that make a lot more contacts,” Hendrix said. “By this fall I would like to do seven or eight revivals. And then by next spring I would like to see where it’s really picking up. So after about two years of building rapport and really establishing myself as an evangelist, I’m really hoping by the beginning of the third year I would be full-time.”
One of the regular FMBE evangelists who is trying to help Hendrix is Jimmy Harriss, whose home church is Victory Baptist in Ozark. Harriss did a revival at Antioch and is inviting people from Victory Baptist to Calvary in May.
“Jimmy’s really supporting this revival in a big way,” Hendrix said.
Making a go of it in full-time vocational evangelism these days is anything but easy. Hendrix is well aware of how challenging the road before him is.
“I know of a couple of evangelists who are struggling and had to leave full-time evangelism after they’ve done it for a long time and get a regular job,” he said. “I could focus on that stuff, but every time I’ve stepped out in faith it’s been always the best way, without a doubt. So I guess this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to say, ‘It’s in God’s hands.’”
He introduces himself as an evangelist to as many people as he can. Now he has a friend calling on his behalf in an attempt to make contacts and line up future preaching opportunities. Hendrix said one of these dates appears to be materializing in the St. Louis area.
“The key to all of it, the most important part, is prayer,” he said. “I know that 100 percent. I can do all the work and get nothing done, but God will open doors and make things happen that I couldn’t do.”