John Richard Rice (John R. Rice)
BORN: Dec. 11, 1895
DIED: Dec. 29, 1980
LIFE SPAN: 85 years, 18 days
John R. Rice has been one of the most widely used and controversial figures in Christendom. But none can deny his accomplishments. He revived the spirit of evangelism in America in the mid 20th Century when it had almost faded from the American scene, and he certainly has to be considered one of the most prolific writers in the history of the Christendom. His weapons has been the weekly Sword of the Lord for over 40 years. The conducting of soul-winning conferences has helped ignite the fires of soul-winning and evangelism in more preacher's bones than has any man of his time. Daring to be different, in preaching and convictions, Rice is one of the most under-rated Christian leaders of this century. In truth, he is one of the most significant men in Christian history.
He was born the son of Will and Sallie (LaPrade) Rice, the second of five children. Home was in the country outside Gainesville, Texas, where Will Rice pastored in a little building at a crossroads called Vilot Community. From early days his mother called John "her preacher boy," which was to be remarkably fulfilled in later years. In September, 1901, when John was five, his mother died. He never forgot her plea for her children to meet her in Heaven. John attended the First Baptist Church of Gainesville. One Sunday morning the pastor, A.B. Ingram, preached on "The Prodigal Son." John, age nine, slipped to the front of the church to make public his profession of Christ. No one showed him any Scripture, so it was three years before he got assurance of his salvation by reading John 5:24.
The same year his father moved from Gainesville to Dundee, in West Texas, where he married Dolous Bellah. There John lived with his family until he went to Decatur College.
He won his first soul to Christ at age fifteen at a revival meeting when a fourteen year old boy responded to the preaching by raising his hand. No public invitation was given, so Rice talked to him outside the building and led him to Christ.
John grew up in poverty conditions but learned how to get things from God. After finishing what high school courses were available, Rice decided to study for a teacher's examination. Upon receiving a teacher's certificate, he taught in a country school fifteen miles from his home, earning $220 for his four-month efforts. He felt an increasing burden to continue his schooling and broaden his education, so he began to pray much about this possibility.
In January, 1916, he packed his clothes, saddled his cowpony and started off through the rain toward Decatur (Texas) Baptist College, some 125 miles away, with about $9.35. He was able to borrow $60 from the bank in Archer City, Texas, and soon he was enrolled in school. He milked the college cows and later was asked to be one of the two waiters who served in the dining room. It was here he met Lloys McClure Cooke whom he would marry five years later.
One week after seeing the first football game in his life, he joined the college team as a regular tackle and played for the next two seasons. He was never knocked out or taken out from the moment he first began to play the game. He graduated in the spring of 1918.
Rice was then drafted into the army and sent to Camp Travis. He served in the Army for eight months where he was in the hospital with mumps and missed going overseas, so he went on guard duty, and finally was assigned to the Dental Corps. He was discharged in January, 1919, and immediately enrolled at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, from which he graduated with his A.B. degree in 1920 after only one and a half years.
He worked his way through college, getting up at 5:20 every morning to deliver mail from Waco to the University. He then milked the Baylor cows, strained the milk and put it away, until it was time to dry the dishes in the girls' dormitory. In addition, he worked at the University bookstore and served as a janitor for a local Baptist Church. This was all besides the mission Sunday school he conducted for the same church, plus his studies, which ultimately brought him the 1914 Class Scholarship. This scholarship was presented each year to some worthy student who, by good scholarship, leadership, and character deserved honor. The tremendous pace of Dr. Rice in later years can be attributed to his learning to work early in life.
He took a teaching position in English at Wayland Baptist College at Plainview, Texas, and also coached football and basketball teams there. In the spring of 1921, he attended the University of Chicago, looking forward to a master's degree in education and psychology.
One night he took off from his studies to attend services at the Pacific Garden Mission where Rev. Holland Oates addressed the men. He wasn't polished but the message surely touched Rice. If God could use this man, surely a college English teacher should be able to be used also. That night he knelt beside a drunken bum and led him to Christ. His life work now seemed to be altered ... no longer political and educational goals, but he was determined to pursue the souls of men!
Soon he left the University of Chicago and returned to Texas where he led singing in revival meetings throughout the state in the summer of 1921. He borrowed $100 to get married on September 27, 1921, to Lloys McClure Cooke at her father's farmhome near Muenster, Texas.
Next, he enrolled in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary at Fort Worth, Texas, in the fall of 1921 and stayed until the spring of 1923. During these days, he preached in jails, on street corners, and served as student pastor to rural churches in Cooke and Fannin counties. His summers were filled with revival campaigns. Upon leaving the seminary he became associate pastor of the First Baptist Church of Plainview where he stayed for a year. He then accepted the pastorate of the First Baptist Church of Shamrock, Texas, where from 1924 to 1926 the church grew from 200 to 460 members.
In 1926 John Rice moved to Fort Worth, Texas to enter the field of evangelism. He became associated more and more with a great independent Baptist there, J. Frank Norris, and often supplied the pulpit in Norris' absence. This relationship brought him enemies as well as friends. Opposition came from the Southern Baptists who insisted Rice break ties with Norris. This, plus Rice's opposition to some of the denomination's practices and teaching, began to close some of the Convention churches to him. However, his daily radio broadcast gave him many friends in Oklahoma and Texas.
Purchasing a tent, he held many good campaigns - beginning in the Fort Worth area. John then pitched his tent in Decatur, Texas, where his father lived. The revival lasted ten weeks resulting in many hundreds of conversions! Most of the churches had opposed his revival, so in order to care for the new converts, a tabernacle was erected and a new church began with 500 people. Then he went to Waxahachie, Texas, where he took a former livery stable and workers built seats for about 1,200. The twelve-week campaign ended with some 300 converts again organizing a new church. Then on to Sherman, Texas, where it happened again - 12 weeks of revival and a new church organized with another 300 people. Other cities experienced much of the same kind of blessing. Before this phase of his life was over, he was to build eight tabernacles with five becoming permanent churches.
In July of 1932, John Rice began an open air revival in Dallas. He had no money, no building, no organization - just God. Three weeks later, after hundreds had been saved, a group met on July 31 to organize the Fundamentalist Baptist Church of Oak Cliff. Nine hundred united with the work in a little under two years, and Rice stayed on to pastor until 1939. The membership grew to 1,700 with 8,000 professing salvation.
It was here that The Sword of the Lord was begun on September 28, 1934. The revival weekly had printed 5,000 copies its first issue and was offered for $1 per year subscription.
Norris, in Ft. Worth, and Rice, in Dallas, were proving that independent Baptist churches could thrive in the midst of strong Southern Baptist Convention country. However, 1936 brought a tragic split between them. Rice felt that Norris, one of the worlds great preachers sometimes attacked good men without justification. This he opposed, especially a forthcoming article on Sam Morris, another pastor and radio preacher. In January of that year, Rice had scheduled a campaign in Binghamton, New York. Norris did all he could do to cancel this crusade. He warned the pastor that Rice was a Holy Roller, accusing him of preaching "McPhersonism and Pentecostalism." With many supportive letters in hand, the local pastor let the meetings proceed; they soon outgrew his Grace Baptist Church. Services moved to the Binghamton Theater seating 2,200 and several other churches joined in the revival series. From January 12 to February 23, Rice preached with some 374 public conversions recorded. The January 31st issue of Norris's Fundamentalist described the "Rice heresy" as "one of the outstanding heresies of modern times"; whereas the February 6th issue of The Sword of the Lord had Rice urging people to forgive Norris for his charges and to support him.
A tragedy of a somewhat different nature took place on November 23, 1938, when his church in Dallas burned down. Fire was seen suddenly shooting up above the baptistry while a missionary named Skivington from South America was speaking. The church building was a total loss without one cent of insurance on the property. Starting all over again, the church recovered and on December 22, 1939, the name of the church was changed to the Galilean Baptist Church.
It was on January 19, 1940 that The Sword of the Lord announced Rice's resignation from the pastorate to enter the field of full-time evangelism. The year 1939 had found Rice in various sections of the country - and now the fires of evangelism were burning in his bones. It was a time when city-wide campaigns and mass evangelism had all but disappeared. Bob Jones, Sr., and Mordecai Ham were finishing up great careers, but there was nobody new on the horizon, with the exception of Hyman Appelman. Rice was proud of the title "evangelist" even though the name generally was not too well thought of at that time. The Sword of the Lord was having an impact. Great soul winners of the past and their messages were featured. Such things as evangelism, preaching against sin, the public invitation, the evangelistic church, and the fullness of the Spirit were promoted. It was Rice who was leading the way into a new generation of revival and evangelism, winning thousands of souls along the way. The spring of 1940 found Rice moving his family, the paper, the office, and the bookstore from Dallas to Wheaton, Illinois. One reason for this move was his desire to get his six daughters under the influence of Wheaton College.
Praying one morning in a YMCA room on the south side of Chicago, Rice pledged himself to God to bring back mass evangelism to America. Having majored in single church campaigns, he was now getting invitations from groups of pastors to have him lead them in union campaigns. One of the first such campaigns was in Minneapolis where sixteen churches chaired by Richard Clearwaters called Rice ... some 200 were saved. In March, 1944 it was Everett, Washington, with Stratton Shufelt as his regular songleader and soloist, some 300 to 400 were saved. In April, 1944, he held one of his largest campaigns in Buffalo, New York, at the Kleinhans Music Hall. Closing services saw thousands crowd in with hundreds standing or turned away. Some 115 churches participated and the number of first-time decisions was 997. Another great campaign was in Cleveland, Ohio, February 11 to March 11, 1945, with 93 cooperating churches. This campaign had some 800 first-time decisions for Christ and a closing night crowd of 3,767 jamming the Cleveland Public Music Hall. Again Shufelt was heading a fine musical program. Rice was now 49 years old. Youth for Christ and Jack Wyrtzen were a new phenomenon, and evangelism was becoming popular again. Hundreds of young men were entering the field of evangelism, many from Bob Jones University. Rice continued to do the work of two men for several years - large scale evangelism and editing and writing. In January of 1946, some 48 churches sponsored him in Pontiac, Michigan. In March, 1946, it was Miami, Florida, where 44 Baptist churches sponsored him, and in fifteen days there were 600 professions of faith at the meetings and another 400 in the public school meetings. A great Chicago crusade was held in May of 1946 with Rice speaking during the final fifteen days ... the first united campaign there since Sunday's meetings in 1918. Over 2,000 decisions were made during the series which also featured Bob Jones, Sr., and Paul Rood in the weeks preceding Rice's ministry. In September, 1946, Rice held a campaign in Dayton, Ohio, with some 500 decisions for Christ at the meetings and 450 more at the high school services. Harry D. Clarke was now his songleader. In January, 1947, 20 churches brought him to Lima, Ohio with some 500 saved at services and schools. The Rice-Clarke team was in Marion, Ohio, in February with over 200 first-time professions of faith. In March and April, the team held a large tent campaign in San Pedro, California, with some 600 decisions for Christ. Seattle, Washington, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and other cities were also to be stirred.
The Sword of the Lord was growing by leaps and bounds as well, and soon Rice had to decide where to spend the bulk of his time, as an editor, trying to influence Christians weekly in revival emphasis, or as an evangelist in crusades across the country. Both would contribute to the winning of the lost. But after much consideration, the nod was given to The Sword of the Lord. Other evangelists on the scene could perpetuate the mass crusades that Rice and Appelman gave birth to in the early 1940's.
With purpose never wavering in 41 years of issues, the weekly masthead continues 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 Moderism, Worldliness and Formalism." The paper averaged 7,200 copies weekly the first year - -1934. It reached 100,000 weekly in 1955; and some 200,000 in 1972; and then 300,000 in 1975 making it the largest independent religious weekly in the world. It is published with Portuguese and Spanish editions as well. There has probably never been a periodical in history that has seen so many saved, and so many Christians challenged to revival and soul-winning.
When Dr. Rice moved to Wheaton, the office work was done in his home. In 1945, a basement office was rented in the business section of Wheaton. In 1946, a large, two-story brick warehouse was purchased and remodeled. In 1952 another two-story brick building was purchased and in 1955 the First Presbyterian Church property was purchased to provide location for future building. Sword of the Lord Foundation was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1947.
John Rice's evangelistic campaigns were replaced by periodic conferences on revival and soul-winning held at conference grounds and in strategic churches. This has continued through the years, stirring the fires of revival in thousands of Christians' lives. In recent years, Jack Hyles has become his co-worker in this ministry. The first of these conferences were held at the Bethany Reformed Church in Chicago. In 1945 a large conference was conducted at Winona Lake, Indiana. Six evangelists agreed to work toward nationwide revival campaigns: John Rice, Bob Jones, Sr., Hyman Appelman, Jesse Hendley, Robert Wells, and Joe Henry Hankins. Repeat conferences were held in 1946 and 1947. After 1947, ironically, they were notified that they were not welcome back to the grounds housing the late Billy Sunday's activities, (a man he was trying to follow.) Under new leadership, however, they were back in 1976. National conferences of great magnitude were held in Indianapolis in 1974, in Dallas in 1975 and Atlanta in 1976.
Rice's book sales have been phenomenal, beginning with the tract/booklet, "What Must I do to be Saved?" written in San Antonio, Texas, during a revival campaign in the late 1920's, and first published in The Fundamentalist, Norris's paper. Some 15 million copies have been distributed and thousands of souls have been saved. It is in some 38 different languages. Along with Ford Porter's famous tract, God's Simple Plan of Salvation, and Campus Crusades God's Four Spiritual Laws, it is one of the most effective and widely used explanations of salvation's plan in print today. His first sermon was put into print in 1931.
Soon he was compiling his sermons into booklets and books, and writing on specific issues such as lodges, the movies, woman's attire, prayer, the Holy Spirit, etc. In 1967 Moody Press published a list of over 10,000 books in print from 57 religious publishing companies. The one man who was responsible for the most books/ booklets published was Rice, with some 142 different titles and/or editions, more than doubling the second place entry, Harry Ironside, who had 65. The titles, too numerous to mention are widely accepted by Christians everywhere. In 1936 his first clothbound book came out entitled, The Coming Kingdom of Christ. His book, Prayer, Asking and Receiving (1942), sold 250,000 copies in these years, besides 8 foreign language editions. The Power of Pentecost is considered a classic on the Holy Spirit. His booklet, What is Wrong With the Movies? has caused thousands of people to turn away from movie attendance for more consecrated lives. The Soul Winner's Fire, published by Moody Press, was another outstanding booklet. In 1973 the tally was 134 titles with a circulation of 47 million in over 38 different languages.
Rice stayed on in Wheaton until 1963, when he moved most of his large staff to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. While in Wheaton, he founded the Calvary Baptist Church. Rice has six children, all daughters, and they all married men active in the Lord's work. Grace was the first, born October 22, 1922. Along came Mary Lloys (June 27, 1925), Elizabeth (May 18, 1927), Jessie (January 13, 1929), Joanna (November 3, 1931), and finally Joy (September 27, 1937). Allan MacMullen, Charles Himes, Walt Handford, Don Sandberg, Wm. Carl Rice and Roger Martin, the husbands, all have made valuable contributions to the work of the Lord.
Rice has been engaged in several controversies, two of note in recent years: the Chafer book, and the policies of Billy Graham since 1957. In the 1940's a book by Lewis S. Chafer entitled, True Evangelism, was produced by Moody Press. Feeling it to be a harmful book to the cause of evangelism, Rice protested loud and long about its continual promotion. In the 1950's, Rice was one of the first men along with Bob Jones, Sr. to take the unpopular position of opposing the sponsorship of Billy Graham's ecumenical crusades which began with the New York crusade of 1957. Previous to this, Rice had given Graham much encouragement by his reports of Graham's ministry in The Sword. It has never been a personal vendetta, but a matter of following his scriptural convictions.
Almost overlooked in his ministries is the fact that he is a radio preacher and a song writer. His Voice of Revival broadcast continues on more than 30 stations across the country. On one occasion years ago, he received 17,000 letters in one week resulting from his broadcast in the Philadelphia area. His songs such as Never Lonely, Never Fearing, His Yoke is Easy, Souls Are Dying, Oh, Bring Your Loved Ones, So Little Time, Jesus is Coming, The Price of Revival, We'll Never Say Good-bye, When Jesus Comes to Reign have been a blessing to many.
His exciting story is told in depth in Man Sent From God, authored by Robert Sumner.
One of his final projects was the editing of The Rice Reference Bible, with his notes of a lifetime.
He preached his last message in Wadsworth, Ohio. Failing health overtook him and he soon passed on to his eternal home.
John R. Rice, as a Bible believing Christian, knew that his place in Heaven was secured by repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ and the blood He shed for our sins when He died on the cross of Calvary. Brother Rice is with the Lord Jesus Christ right now, but do you know, with 100% assurance, from God's Word, that you will be with Jesus when you die?
If you do not have this assurance, please read:
God's Simple Plan of Salvation
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God;
that ye may know that ye have eternal life,
and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
1. Biographies have always been used of God to stimulate more service for Christ. Paul said, "Be yea followers of me as I am also of Christ." Only eternity will reveal how many have gone into Christian service or a deeper walk with God as a result of reading such as David Barren's journal.
2. Biographies keep the wonderful ministries of many people alive and fresh before us. Many might soon be forgotten unless their challenging stories are brought to the attention of the Christian world afresh.
3. Biographies introduce people to us whom we might not know, or perhaps have misunderstood. This would be especially true of people now living. In a day when Christians seem to be divided into many "camps", it is hoped that this series will help give all true believers a new appreciation of ministries other than their own.
4. Biographies introduce us to people we will soon be living with for all eternity. The "family of God" is such a wonderful family. If you do not have the assurance that heaven is your home, that your sins have been forgiven, and that Jesus Christ lives in and through your life, please write us. We would like to introduce you to the Saviour, and welcome you to this wonderful eternal family.
ED REEVE, Psalm 35:28
THE CHRISTIAN HALL OF FAME SERIES ANTICIPATES PRODUCING MANY MORE TITLES FOR YOUR ENJOYMENT AND ENRICHMENT. START YOUR COLLECTION NOW!
Publishers & distributors of Christian aids & reference works
The scores of sources used in obtaining data for this series are too numerous to mention. They include bank issues of many Christian journals, such as Christian Life, Decision, Sword of the Lord, etc. The major sets of encyclopedias plus the Who's Who in America series often provide factual data not obtained elsewhere. A library of close to 500 biographies plus numerous other books, booklets and files have been most valuable as well. Questionnaires returned from Christian leaders now living have also been helpful.
The people who have encouraged me and worked hard in the project are also rightfully acknowledged. The designing and editing of my wife Margaret, and the typesetting of Griffin Graphics have all made these biographies possible. I am thankful for this team God has put together.
Also a word of thanks to Harold Henniger of Canton, Ohio for allowing me to use the Christian Hall of Fame title, which he originated.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Edward Reese graduated from the Moody Bible Institute in 1950. His varied background has included Youth for Christ ministries, service as a pastor, evangelist, musician (Cordovox record inn artist), and missionary (Japan and Brazil). He serves on the faculty of Hyles-Anderson College. He founded Fundamental Publishers and also Reese Religious Research, a non-profit ordain nation that collects and makes available data on the Christian scene. He has served as a researcher, writer, administrator for such works as World Literature Crusade, Church League of America and Second Coming, Inn. He is the editor and compiler of THE REESE CHRONOLOGICAL BIBLE, and CHRISTIAN HERO CARDS, and other Christian reference materials.
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