For 28 years, Dan Nelson has served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Camarillo, Calif. Pastor Nelson will submit a series of posts to SBCToday about people who influenced him for the sake of evangelism.
Jim Akins was a strong evangelistic pastor in Missouri and California whom God used to grow churches. He was director of evangelism for the California Southern Baptist Convention in the 90s. Later he worked at the North American Mission Board before returning to the pastorate. Jim was taken from us suddenly through cancer. He didn’t pass into glory, however, without taking many with him to heaven through his witness.
Jim and his wife, Kay, started out well in ministry after he graduated from seminary. However, shortly after that a terrible automobile accident put Kay in a wheel chair for the rest of her life. Kay was a wonderful person who traveled with Jim as much as she could, and she always had a cheerful spirit. The accident never deterred the couple. Jim was one of the most positive people I have ever known. When he became evangelism director, he lifted the spirits of many-a discouraged pastor at state evangelism conferences. You left those conferences knowing God could use you to grow any church through evangelism.
People enjoyed being around Jim. He was an encourager and tremendous soul winner. When he witnessed to someone, it was like he had the greatest news in the world to share (which he did). To turn down the gospel when he shared it with someone was like walking away from the greatest deal of your life (which it is). I have seen him talking with people everywhere — just asking if he could pray for someone and getting into a person’s relationship with God in his conversation with them.
Jim came to preach in a revival meeting at our church in 1996. We had tremendous results in that meeting when he was with us. Through his colorful and positive messages, God used him to bring revival to our church in the “Here’s Hope” emphasis. I got to lead a neighbor close to our church to Christ through a Bible distribution project in our neighborhood before the meeting, so we were ready for great time. We had our highest number of baptisms that year chiefly as a results of that meeting.
I have two notable memories about that wonderful meeting. First, in the opening meeting on Sunday morning, Jim asked if everyone had a spiritual birthday. He said those who were unsure about that could designate that very day as their spiritual birthday by believing and trusting in Christ as their Savior. Several came forward trusting Christ as Savior, and those decisions set the tone of the meeting.
We also got several invitations to go and speak with people. We visited in the home of members who had two couples that we talked with. The one couple was not as interested as the relatives thought they would be and politely excused themselves. But Lisa and Rick Colon happened to be there and intently listened to Jim share the gospel. Both trusted Christ and came that night, making professions of faith in the invitation. We planned the Colons’ baptisms on Sunday. That Saturday night, Lisa, only 34 years old, died of a heart attack. Her husband was baptized that Sunday morning anyway.
Lisa trusted in Christ and died only a few days latter. Lisa’s profession of faith just before her death greatly moved Jim and me toward the urgency of presenting the gospel, and emphasized the urgency for people to accept Christ. In an evangelism conference later that year, Jim shared this story about God using our witness to reach Lisa. Jim used the story to motivate everyone to share the Lord with urgency. I’ll never forget that witnessing experience.
God used Jim Akins to motivate and encourage me as well as many pastors. May we present the gospel the way Jim did as the greatest news we could ever share with a person. Jim led people to Christ constantly and will see the many he won to Christ in heaven.
May we have the testimony Jim did through his soul-winning efforts. He overcame much, never got derailed or seemingly discouraged. Jim kept going, sharing and motivating till the Lord called him home. Thank you Jim Akins for your example.