HOUSTON — John Bisagno, pastor of one of the Southern Baptist Convention’s largest churches at First Baptist Houston, died early Sunday morning after a bout with cancer. The church’s current pastor, Greg Matte, told worshippers the news prior to his message yesterday.
“You’re standing on the shoulders of … an amazing man of God,” Matte said to the crowd.
Bisagno became pastor of the congregation in 1970, staying in that role before becoming pastor emeritus in 2000. During his life he authored more than 30 books, including the best-seller The Power of Positive Praying.
A native of Augusta, Kans., Bisagno, 84, served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference and became known as a national speaker. He would go on to earn doctorate degrees from Oklahoma Baptist University, Southwest Missouri Baptist University, Houston Baptist University, the latter which also named its Chair of Evangelism in his honor.
A music evangelist before preaching
“We would not be in this building … without his vision. “Campuses,” said Matte in addressing worshippers watching from four other locations, “you wouldn’t exist without us being able to be here to then be there.”
Georgia Baptists joined Matte online in praising Bisagno’s ministry.
Bisagno’s ministry began in music evangelism during crusades. He as soon called to the preaching ministry, however, and in 1965 accepted a call to serve as pastor of First Baptist Church in Del City, Okla. He would remain there until going to First Houston five years later.
According to his biography at PastorLife, Bisagno would lead First Houston to leave downtown to build new facilities. That move would bring membership in excess of 40,000 people, including 15,000 by baptism. Furthermore it led to starting 63 local missions and three schools. More than 450 members went into full-time Christian service, 101 of them to foreign missions.
During his ministry Bisagno spoke at the Southern Baptist Convention, the World Congress on Evangelism, and at multiple state conventions and evangelism conferences. He also preached at every Southern Baptist seminary and conducted 37 overseas evangelistic crusades.
Matte noted the appropriateness of when Bisagno passed on.
“The Lord’s timing is always right,” said Matte, “that he would die on a Sunday and be worship in Heaven with Jesus on this Sunday.”
Bisagno’s wife of 63 years, Uldine, preceded him in death in September 2017. The couple had three children – Ginger Dodd, Anthony Bisagno, and Timothy Bisagno – and seven grandchildren. A celebration of life event will take place at The Loop Campus of Houston First Baptist, date and details to be posted on the church’s website.