FAYETTEVILLE — “And he gave some, apostles; and some prophets; and some evangelists; …”
Those who respond to God’s divine call to be a vocational evangelist in this present culture are to be commended for their obedience and faith.
It is to our shame that fewer and fewer churches are having revivals and evangelistic crusades. This reality leaves a void in the church and makes it difficult for evangelists to fulfill their calling. It is remarkable that Keith Fordham has just completed 50 years of preaching the Gospel, 44 of those years as an evangelist.
To commemorate Fordham’s half century of ministry his church, Harp’s Crossing Baptist Church in Fayetteville, had a special day on Sunday, Jan. 21 to honor his long and distinctive ministry.
Dennis Watson, pastor of Harp’s Crossing, commented, “What a blessing to have a preaching staff evangelist in our church, who has been preaching the Gospel for 50 years! This is an incredible blessing of God! Keith and Shirley Fordham have been part of Harp’s Crossing for 30 years. Keith is a faithful servant and wonderful encourager to our staff, as well as the church body.
“We have our staff meetings every Tuesday and when Keith is in town he is invited to go to lunch with us after the meeting and he is always there to lend his support and encouragement. He is the real deal when it comes to Christian faithfulness and obedience.”
A vow – thankfully – not kept
Fordham was saved in October of 1960, but God began speaking to his heart as a teenager about surrendering his life to full-time Christian service.
In high school Fordham was a halfback on the football team. In that time a teammate who played tackle, Davie Tondee, died from an apparent heat stroke. Fordham recalled, “David was a wonderful Christian. He had been called to preach. He unashamedly stood for the Lord. My response to his death was, ‘Lord, why couldn’t it have been me instead of him?’
“The school established a scholarship fund in memory of David. On Dec. 3, 1967 I surrendered to the call to preach. Subsequently, I was awarded the David Tondee Scholarship and went to Samford University to prepare for the ministry.”
Fordham explained, “My pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Forest Park invited me to preach a sermon when I was 17 years old and the sermon lasted six minutes. One man told me after the service, ‘You might make it as a preacher one day.’ But I was not pleased with my sermon and resolved that day that I would never preach again.
“However, not long after that I was asked to preach once again. I really didn’t want to do it, but I was urged to pray and seek God’s will about the invitation. When I finished praying I got up and saw a book of sermons on my bed by evangelist Hyman Appelman. There was one sermon in that book entitled ‘God’s Go Ye.’ I was convinced that God wanted me to preach that sermon in response to the invitation.”
Fordham continued, “That is precisely what I did and God blessed that message and confirmed in my heart that I was to continue to pursue His call to preach the Gospel.”
Courage and conviction
The Fayetteville evangelist has always preached the Gospel with the clarion call of a trumpet. He communicates God’s message with courage and conviction.
An example of his bold stand as an ambassador of the Lord was evidenced early on. Because in the 1960s the Supreme Court was making decisions to ban prayer and Bible reading from the public schools, Fordham went into the high school principal’s office one morning. However, the principal was not there. So, the brave and intrepid Fordham flipped the switches to all the classrooms’ loudspeaker systems. He announced he was going to lead the faculty and students in prayer, doing exactly that.
In June 1972 Keith Fordham and Shirley Alice Waldrop married. He is a graduate of Samford University, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and has a Doctor of Ministry from Immanuel Baptist Theological Seminary. Shirley is a graduate of Tift College and the Georgia Baptist School of Nursing. Shirley plays a vital role in her husband’s ministry and typically travels with him to his speaking engagements.
Keith is a member of the North American Association of Ventriloquists and his unique ministry includes his “Pal” Homer; Shirley conveys Bible lessons using her “Pal” Joy.
On the Sunday in which the Fordhams were honored for their 50th year in ministry, Keith preached on Sunday morning at Harp’s Crossing. His message was titled “God’s Will For Your Life,” based on Ephesians 5:15-21.
Fordham explained, “It is God’s will that every Christian be a witness, tithe, be baptized, and be an active member of a local church. You do not need to ask God if these things are His will. You are to do them.
“Read the Bible, meditate on God’s Word, pray, put the Lord first and seek the Kingdom of God first, confess you sins, and ‘die daily’ are God’s will for you life. Jesus never revised the law downward.”
An appeal and response
Fordham declared, “It is God’s will that you be saved, that you be sold out to him 110 percent and God’s will for some is that they answer the call to full-time Christian service.”
His appeal to single adults was “to be holy and completely free from immorality.” He said, “The men should know how to take a wife in an honorable way, not with a lustful desire like the heathen who do not know God.”
His appeal was for each one to make the following commitment: “Jesus, be Jesus in me, No longer me, but Thee. Resurrection power, fill me this hour, Jesus, be Jesus in me.”
The response was overwhelming as approximately 50 young adults responded and came to the altar in response to the invitation.
After the morning services two Sunday School classes hosted a lunch honoring the Fordhams to enhance the celebration of their 50 years in ministry. The luncheon was accented with appropriate testimonies, including one from music evangelist David Akin. Fordham also preached on Sunday evening, after special music by Akin, delineating the difference between the rapture and the second coming of Christ. A reception followed the evening service and a love offering was received and given to the faithful evangelist.
It was a glorious day for the Lord and an appropriate way to honor the strategic ministry of a couple who have labored in God’s vineyard for five decades.