ASHLAND, Ky. (KT) – Evangelist Jon Reed has concentrated his ministry on small-town America, holding crusades in places big name preachers fly over on their way to big cities.
The Georgia evangelist will be preaching in the Hope for the Mountains crusade on Nov. 11 at the East Kentucky Exposition Center in Pikeville, a town in the heart of central Appalachia where an estimated 350,000 people don’t attend church.
To reach the expansive region, scores of churches within a two-hour drive of Pikeville have joined together with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, the state’s largest religious organization, to coordinate the crusade.
“If all these churches come together and help prepare their members to pray and reach out to the lost – I call it the tidal wave effect – it will be an exciting night,” Reed said.
Reed’s call to be an evangelist could not have been clearer if it had been written in the sky.
During his early years, he liked nothing more than going door to door and telling people about Jesus.
“All I knew was witness, witness, witness,” he said. “At every church we broke every record for baptisms, giving, attendance and leading people to Jesus.”
Nothing fulfilled him more than evangelism, and in 2004 a senior pastor at a church where he had been saved years ago asked him to come on staff.
“I never felt led,” Reed said of the invitation to join the church staff. “God never gave me the OK. But I flew down to Florida. He asked me ‘Jon, have you ever thought about fulltime evangelism?’ It was almost as if I didn’t have to pray about it. That’s exactly what I wanted to do.”
And for the last 14 years, that’s exactly what he has done.
Reed said his evangelism ministry has been completely faith based, that he never solicits events or sends out brochures. He said he lets God lead the ministry and that includes all the funding.
“If God is big enough to save us and sanctify us, he’s big enough to supply for us,” Reed said. “God has supplied the last 14 years. It’s been a faith walk.”
Reed said he has done about 20 crusades and hundreds of revivals, which is the biggest part of the ministry.
“I love working one-on-one with the pastor,” he said. “The office of evangelist and pastor should complement each other.”
Crusades, he said, are different because of the number of pastors that are involved; they’re a team effort.
He has found the communities in eastern Kentucky to be beautiful, friendly and motivated heading into the crusade. Reed had a three-day tour in September where he led seminars in preparation for the November crusade night.
Reed utilizes a smartphone app that he developed to help church members and church pastors track prayers and encouraging actions for lost family members and friends.
Reed, a resident of Bethlehem, Ga., grew up in a Christian home and professed to be a Christian at 8 years old, though he realized later that he didn’t actually born-again experience at the time.
“When I share my testimony, I tell people I was no more saved than Hitler,” he said. “My life reflected it. I was raised in church and as a teenager kind of rebelled. I had great parents and my brother sang in a gospel quartet.”
Reed said he was in 13 car accidents and overdosed twice on drugs as a wayward teenager. “My life was really a mess,” he said.
At 21, he went with a friend to an outing in Gatlinburg, Tenn., that Reed didn’t know was a college retreat. “That’s the weekend I got saved. I always tell people even though I’d been in church all my life and heard the gospel with my ears, I never heard it with my heart.”
Reed said he was saved that weekend and immediately was delivered from drugs and alcohol. “I didn’t have desire for it. It was an amazing salvation experienced. I was baptized on Sunday (the next day) and my life just radically changed.”
Within five years, he was feeling the tug of going into ministry work and despite flunking out of college twice was able to get into Southeastern Seminary in North Carolina and completed a bachelor’s program in Biblical studies. He later received his master’s at New Orleans Seminary.
Five more years of working in various churches convinced him that he was best at sharing the gospel and leading people to Jesus.
“When I surrendered and said yes (to becoming an evangelist), I called some other evangelists to see what they do and I got some really bad counsel,” he said “Just about every one of them said ‘Are you sure God is calling you?’ It’s a hard day for evangelists.”
Reed said in his mind and heart, the decision was already settled.
A friend from seminary who was pastoring his first church in a tiny town in Alabama asked Reed to do a revival. He met with the church several weeks before the revival to prepare and that included making 60 three-ring notebook binders with information on how to prepare for the harvest.
The church that was averaging 60 members had 300 in attendance on the seventh day of what was supposed to be a four-day revival, he said. Fifty-six were saved and Reed said everything he has done traces back to that church. The work, he said, comes in the preparation.
Reed is also a family man. He and his wife, Inga, have two boys, ages 13 and 11.
God has provided for his ministry. The 48-year-old has become a well-known evangelist in Georgia and is president of the Georgia Baptist Evangelists Association for the second time.
Reed is excited about what’s ahead for the churches in eastern Kentucky that have been a part of the crusade, which comes the night before the KBC’s annual convention in Pikeville.
“Right now, I feel like we’ve got a spark,” he said. “It’s difficult. I’m usually working with one pastor and this is spread out over like 50 churches and I don’t have hands-on with pastors like I normally have. This is the Super Bowl for churches.”