Keith Fordham honored for 50 years as Georgia Baptist evangelist


FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. — At a recent Georgia Baptist evangelism conference in Tifton, Ga., Keith Fordham was recognized for his godly service of 50 years as a vocational evangelist. His fundamental goal in life is to glorify the Lord by helping those who are lost find salvation and eternal security in Jesus Christ.

Steve Foster, an evangelism consultant with the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, presented Fordham with the award. “Keith is uniquely gifted by God as a harvest evangelist," Foster said. "He has preached the simple gospel in over 1500 revival meetings and evangelistic events and is the epitome of faithfulness in vocational evangelism having served for fifty years.”

Fordham’s wife of 52 years, Shirley Alice Waldrop, has been a vital source of support for the Georgia evangelist. For more than sixteen years Shirley and their two children traveled with him, and she continues to do so most of the time. Fellow Georgia evangelist Joe Stanley said Fordham could not have succeeded in his ministry for this long without God, but he also "could not have done it without his precious wife, Shirley."

It has not been an easy calling, due to constantly trekking across the nation, nights away from home, moments of loneliness, and the occasional struggle to make ends meet during those first years as an evangelist. However, those things pale into insignificance compared to the joy of seeing people receive Christ as their personal Savior.

Fordham recalled preaching at a revival in a church in North Georgia when a high school student who was a pitcher on the school’s baseball team got under conviction. He was scheduled to pitch in the game the next night and that afternoon he called his dad and said, “Dad, I’m not going to pitch in the game. I need to go to church tonight to profess my faith in Christ.” That night the baseball game lost its significance for the father and his son, who publicly confessed Christ as his Savior at the revival meeting.

Evangelists thrive on salvation stories like the one above and it fuels their passion for souls even more.

Fordham was preaching six years before incorporating his ministry as an evangelist. As a student at Samford, he preached at youth rallies and student revivals. In one church, 70 people were saved and 40 of them were baptized by the pastor before the meeting ended on Sunday night.

In 1971 and ‘72 Fordham was interim pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Jonesboro, where 70 were saved within a two-month period and another 45 added to the church membership by letter. The church attendance increased from 145 to 240 during that period and it was sustained all during the interim.

In 1972, while preaching in a meeting at Central Baptist Church in Decatur, Alabama, two high schools permitted Fordham to preach to an assembly of their students. There were 70 saved at one of the schools and 60 professions of faith at the other one. Fordham was accompanied by 30 of the church’s laymen who were present to provide counseling to those who trusted Christ.

In the last eight weeks of his education at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Fordham preached eight revivals and still graduated. The Lord used all these experiences to confirm and authenticate his call into vocational evangelism.

Not only did God validate Fordham’s call into the ministry, but during his 50 years as an evangelist he calculates between 150 and 200 individuals surrendered to full-time Christian service as a result of the revivals he has preached.

Foster describes Fordham’s impact, saying, “Keith has been a mentor to many men over the past thirty years who were praying about the call to vocational evangelism and his book The Worth and Work of the Evangelist has been a guide to help these men know the life and work of the traveling evangelist.”

"Keith has studied and has done so much research on the Bible and revival statistics on Southern Baptist history," Stanley said, "that almost every Georgia evangelist has gleaned success from using his teachings. I know I have!"

On Easter weekend 2020, Texas evangelist Sammy Tippit invited Fordham and several other evangelists to join him in hosting the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists’ largest evangelistic event ever, which was held online.

The program included singing, gospel presentations, and testimonies. According to Baptist Press the event “garnered nearly 400,000 views Easter weekend” with almost 90,000 viewers watching the entire broadcast.

On the program, Fordham described his bout with a cancer diagnosis. “I know if God wants to cure me, He can cure me,” Fordham said. “If He wants me home, He’ll take me home. I’m ready either way because the Lord Jesus indwells me.”

He added, “I may have communicated my message to more people in those five minutes than I would be able to address in a decade.”

Both Keith and Shirley are graduates of the Maher School of Ventriloquism and Keith is a member of the North American Association of Ventriloquists. He effectively uses Homer, his dummy, to teach Bible stories and present brief gospel messages, especially in reaching school age children and youth. Shirley conveys Bible lessons using her “pal,” Joy.

Stanley recalled the first time he and Fordham were at a revival. Fordham used Homer to put children at ease as they met with him before service each night. "He made sure each child who prayed to receive Jesus as Savior knew what they were doing, " Stanley explained.

Fordham’s ministry has also had an international impact. He has preached in India on three different occasions where thousands responded to the gospel.

He has also preached in churches across our nation. Some years he has preached as many as 42-45 revivals. When asked if he could estimate how many souls have been saved under his preaching and witnessing, he replied, “Only heaven will be able to reveal that number.”

Today the number of evangelists has decreased precipitously, and fewer and fewer churches are having revivals. 

Fordham suggested, “We have lost the synergy for revivals by having events rather than a series of services to reach the lost. Why not incorporate into our revivals a night for men including a wild game dinner, a night for women with a testimony from a lady who can capture the hearts of women, a youth night with pizza and a praise band, a children’s’ night with hot dogs and a special children’s feature, and a family night to bless and encourage families?”

The evangelist is God’s gift to bless, edify, and complete the ministry of the church according to Ephesians 4: 11-12. If you would like to have an evangelist speak at your church or revival, go to or