ccc logo

legacy

Mordecai Ham

"Anything that dims my vision for Christ, or takes away my taste for Bible study, or cramps me in my prayer life, or makes Christian work more difficult, is wrong for me; and I must as a Christian turn away from it."  J. Wilbur Chapman

‘Boasting excluded, pride I abase; I'm only a sinner, saved by grace."  James M. Gray

"Pray for me in the light of the pressures of our times. Pray that I will not just come to a wearied end---an exhausted, tired old preacher, interested only in hunting a place to roost. Pray that I will be willing to let my Christian experience and Christian standards cost me something right down to the last gasp!"  A.W. Tozer

"God does not require a perfect, sinless life to have fellowship with Him, but He does require that we be serious about holiness, that we grieve over sin in our lives instead of justifying it, and that we earnestly pursue holiness as a way of life."  Jerry Bridges

"The sign of Christianity is not a cross but a tongue of fire!"  Samuel Chadwick

The reputation of this travelling evangelist always preceded him. When he arrived in a new town the first thing he would do was search out the biggest and vilest sinner. He would not begin a revival meeting until that sinner was converted and sitting on the front row. It usually took just one encounter. On this hot summer day, in a sleepy Southern town, this man of God was on the trail of the most notorious sinner known in those parts. The sinner was an avowed atheist and had heard that he was in the sights of God's "bounty-hunter" Mordecai Ham. Ham was given directions to a certain cornfield. When the atheist saw the feared preacher approaching he immediately went into hiding. Ham began to hunt his prey and, hearing suspicious sounds under a cornshock, he reached down grabbed an ankle and hauled the man out. Frightened, the infidel shouted, "What are you going to do with me?" Ham shouted back, "I'm going to ask God to kill you!" The atheist begged him not to pray that way. Ham said, "What are you afraid of, you don't believe God exists. If there is no God, then my prayers can't hurt you. BUT if there is a God, you deserve to die because you are making atheists out of your children and grandchildren." The man then fell on his knees and, again, begged him not to pray that way. Ham said, "Very well then, I shall ask God to save you." The man was saved, and that night at the revival meeting all of the former infidel's family were baptized-forty of them!

Mordecai Flower Ham was a Baptist evangelist throughout the South. In his first year of ministry it is reported that more than 33,000 conversions were documented. Over a thirty year span, as a result of his ministry, more than 300,000 new converts joined Baptist churches in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Carolinas. In the Congress of the United States, in the fight to outlaw liquor, the author of the amendment for Prohibition stated that the Law was possible since two Christian evangelists, Billy Sunday and Mordecai Ham have nearly put most of the saloons out of business.

During the revival campaigns of Ham he allowed no middle ground. You were either in the Kingdom of God or you were not. There was no precept for fence-sitting. You were for Jesus or you were not. The middle ground where most of the Church tried to gravitate to was, to Ham, a dead-man's zone. One observer writes:

"He exalts Christ and fights sin with all his might. There is no middle ground in his campaigns. It is impossible to evaluate his ministry. Under his preaching I have seen murderers saved, drunkards converted, homes reunited, and men and women dedicate their lives for special service."

In his own words, Ham tells us:

"There are a lot of Chrisitans who are halfway fellows. They stand in the door, holding on to the church with one hand while they play with the toys of the world with the other. They are in the doorway and we cannot bring sinners in. And, until we get some of God's people right, we cannot hope to get sinners regenerated. Now they always accuse me of carrying around a sledge hammer with which to pound the church members. Yes sir, I do pound them, every time I come down, I knock one of the halfway fellows out of the doorway, and every time I knock one out I get a sinner in."

The "Prince of Preachers" Charles Spurgeon once said:


"...a church in the land without the Spirit is rather a curse than a blessing. If you have not the Spirit of God, Christian worker, remember that you stand in somebody else's way; you are a fruitless tree standing where a fruitful tree might grow."

Ham entered the ministry in 1901 and continued to evangelize until his death in 1961.

On a farm in Allen County, Kentucky near Scottsville, Mordicai was born on April 2, 1877 to Tobias and Ollie (McElroy). He was from a long line of eight generations of Baptist preachers so it was not a surprise when he wrote :
"From the time I was eight years old, I never thought of myself as anything but a Christian. At nine, I had definite convictions that the Lord wanted me to preach..."

He could not date his conversion but attributed it to his devotional training as a youth in his boyhood home. By the time he was sixteen he was the Sunday School Superintendent of the Family church at Greenwood in Warren County, Kentucky. Looking at the poverty that his father and grandfather lived in as preachers, he put his evangelistic calling aside until he could make his fortune in the world. He studied law but never took the Bar examination. He became a successful traveling salesman for a grocery company and by 1897 he was crew manager for a picture-enlarging firm. Being very successful in business he still could not quiet that inner voice of God to preach. In July, 1900, he married Bessie Simmons and in December he gave his partner his entire share of the business and borrowing money he started out to answer the call to preach. Five years later, Bessie died. Ham would later marry Annie Laurie Smith. Ham was thirty at the time, Laurie was fifteen. The marriage would last over fifty years and produce three daughters.

Ham's first sermon was at the church at Scottsville, where his grandfather had pastored for over forty years. Entitled, "The Absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ" the sermon rocked the congregation. Everyone in the church was praising God and someone invited him to speak in the First Baptist Church of Scottsville that very night. Establishing a pattern of no compromise in your walk with the Lord, he was soon preaching his first revival at the Mt. Gilead Baptist Church in Kentucky. It was during this revival that Ham experienced two incidents he would never forget. The first took him by total surprise. He had been praying for a closer more intimate walk with the Lord, asking God to reveal Himself in a powerful way. Suddenly an almost unbelievable power from the Holy Spirit rushed through him. It staggered him to the point that he pleaded with the Lord to cease or he would surely die. It left him with a boldness to confront sin and sinners with the compassion of Jesus Himself. Ham writes, "I had an overwhelming experience of the Lord's presence. I felt so powerfully overcome by the nearness of the Holy Ghost that I had to ask the Lord to draw back lest He kill me. It was so glorious that I couldn't stand more than a small portion of it." This experience did not sit well with members of his denomination but they could not doubt the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit that was now prevalent in all he did. Stephen Hill in his book "Wanted: Extreme Christians" addresses this type of critical, petty, jealous spirit among church people:

"Why do so many Christians have such a difficult time accepting the fact that Jesus is touching people today? Why does it disturb them so when they hear things like..."I felt the power of God sweep through me." Why can't today's Church accept that the God of past generations is the God of this generation? If He touched people throughout the Bible...why is it so unusual to believe He's touching lives today? Why do folks work themselves into such a frenzy when they hear that someone had a powerful encounter with the Holy Ghost? I remember the first time I read about Charles Finney's encounter with such power when he had a visitation from God. He said it was like jolts of electricity flowing through his body. Why is it that over 100 years ago this great man of God experienced and wrote about this encounter and people today have no trouble accepting it? But talk about the same thing happening today and you are greeted with raised eyebrows, skepticism and even persecution."

From that day on Ham always preached with convicting power.

The second incident opened his eyes to the reality of two worlds and how real eternity is. He visited a dying girl named Lulu. This girl was not saved nor cared to be. Since he was called to her side by relatives he was still prepared to lead her to salvation. However, he arrived too late. When he knelt by her bedside she immediately closed her eyes in death. Ham then called to her, "Lulu, how is it?" A voice came back that shook him to his core. It was not a voice of one living, but that of one who is in another world saying, "Lost...lost...Oh...so dark; so dark!..." He was never able to forget that voice of despair as long as he lived. Now he was even more determined than ever for souls. His next sermon was entitled, " And Sudden Death" and thousands descended upon the altar and sixty-six demanded to be baptized that very night. This was truly the beginning of his ministry of evangelism.

His reputation spread throughout the South. Higherpraise.com speaking on Great preachers, declares:

"He preached against vice and corruption; he rebuked ‘Modernist preachers'. He exposed sin, warned of the judgment to come, implanted conviction, and called a wayward people back to the Bible they had forsaken. He hunted the lowest sinners in a community and would pray and witness to them until they trusted Christ as their personal Savior."

An example of the power of his meetings can be seen in this article written in the Jackson, Tenn. Newspaper dated April 1905:


"Has the spiritual fire of the great Wales revival reached across the ocean and ignited the hearts of the people of Jackson? It begins to look as if it has at the big tent revival conducted by Rev. M. F. Ham."

The fruitfulness of his revivals stem from his intensity in prayer. Before the gatherings he would always plan all night prayer meetings to be attended for several consecutive nights so that the proper ground work would be set for a moving of the Holy Spirit. He always declared it was not him, but the Holy Spirit that brought conviction of sin. He was zealous in prayer, "sometimes he spent hours in his room wrestling with God."

Many Church leaders and newspapers reported that he often walked in Apostolic Power. Many of his meetings brought to mind the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). An awesome fear of the Lord came on all those attending the meetings. David Smithers writes in, " Mordecai Ham-Prayer makes History":

"He faced down stubborn opposers of the Gospel, declaring he would pray to God either to convert them or to kill them. In Mr. Ham's biography there are several incidents recorded where those who resisted and opposed the Holy Spirit were brought to swift judgment. ‘The evangelist recalls with great reluctance that deaths took place during many of his great campaigns. Ambulances would have to come and carry bodies away from our services.' Many persons that openly fought a Ham meeting met with some form of violent death soon after. So as the Holy Spirit was being poured out, some were visited with judgment while others were saved and even physically healed."

Opposition against his ministry grew along with his success. Here are some examples:

Mt. Zion Church, Kentucky:
On the second night of the revival the moonshine crowd surrounded the church and threw rocks at the people and preachers. The leader then went inside and threatened Ham with a long knife. Ham said, "Put up that knife, you coward...now I'm going to ask the Lord either to convert you and your crowd or kill you." The next morning Ham received an urgent message to come fast to the bully's house. The man died before Ham could get to his bedside. Later that same day an explosion at the neighborhood saw mill killed three others of that crowd. That night Ham declared he wanted everything that was stolen from the church and the people returned by the remaining members of the crowd before God killed the rest of them. Everything was returned within the hour. Before the revival was over eighty souls were converted that night.

First Baptist Church, New Orleans:
A prominent man of the city declared that if his daughter joined the church he would personally kill Ham. Ham said if he raised a hand against the "anointed of God" he would be struck down dead. The man later came back with his daughter and was converted and both joined the church.

Wilmington, North Carolina:
The liquor crowd fought him hard. One night a drunken desperado rushed into the church and threatened everyone with a gun. Fear swept through those attending. Ham jumped off the platform singing, "Tell mother I'll be there", and by the time he reached the fellow, the Lord had already knocked him down so powerfully that he was on the floor begging God for mercy. He was gloriously saved as he threw down a liquor bottle, a pair of dice and a gun.

New Orleans:
A drunken ex-steamboat captain entered Ham's hotel room waving a gun in his face, threatening to kill him. Ham got down on his knees and asked the Lord to show mercy and please take his hand off the man and do not kill him. He prayed this with his eyes wide open fixed on the man. The gun dropped from the man's hand and he was saved.

Salisbury, North Carolina:
Ham had to be escorted to and from the tabernacle by armed guards and after the service the men of the town paraded through the streets all night shouting, "Hang Ham! Hang Ham!" As Ham left the city by train, a U.S. Marshall had to stand outside on the station platform holding two pistols pointed toward the crowd. A railroad detective sat by his berth all the way to Ashville. Ham saved him before the trip was over.

Gonzales, Texas:
A murderer was sitting in the audience. He had killed four men and despaired of ever being saved. He was waiting for the right moment to take out the evangelist and himself in a blaze of glory. Midway through the sermon he jumped up from his seat and ran toward the front shouting, I'm saved, saved, saved. Arriving at the altar he fell on his face and thanked God for His mercy.

Corpus Christi, Texas:
Ham was assaulted in the lobby of his hotel. He deflected the blow with his Bible but was immediately arrested for fighting. Thirty-five hundred people appeared outside the courthouse and threatened to tear it apart brick by brick. As a result, the matter was thrown out of court and the trumped up charges dismissed.

San Benite, Texas:
Some military servicemen broke into the Woodman Hall and put on a dance. They were angered because Ham refused to allow his tabernacle to be used for a Red Cross rally when he heard a dance was to be part of the rally. Crazed with liquor, they marched into his tabernacle, seized him and started up the railroad tracks with a rope, a bucket of tar, and a sack of feathers. The mayor of the city contacted Washington for help. A detachment of cavalry from the nearest army base came to the rescue. They had gone three miles down the track before they were overtaken.

Elizabeth City, North Carolina:
Here, Mordecai Ham was to endure a new wave of persecution at the hands of one W.O. Saunders, who compiled a viciously slanderous book of lies titled, The Book Of Ham, and was circulated in all the cities where the evangelist undertook to hold meetings. It was all to no avail as the wrath of the Lord was soon to fall on all those involved.

The more the opposition and persecution the more his ministry grew. Every town saw larger crowds than the one previously. In Houston , what started out as a Baptist meeting soon became a city wide endeavor with 4000 attending in a downtown skating rink. Five hundred were converted almost immediately. In 1908, Ham decided to hold a revival meeting in New Orleans during the Mardi Gras. Three thousand new converts were added to the city churches. It was the first time this, predominately Roman Catholic, city became protestant conscious. Many said the Ham revival was the only other important thing happening during the year besides the election of a pope.

Ham would travel around the circuit with Mr. W.J. Ramsey who would lead the singing during the crusades. Throughout the South they were known as "Ham and the Ram." Together they continued to give glory and honor to the name of the Lord. By 1927 Ham's legacy was tremendous. 33,650 souls in Texas, 8,737 in Oklahoma, 12,043 in Kentucky, 10,013 in Tennessee, 26,475 in North Carolina, 9,500 in South Carolina, and 4,385 in Virginia. Before he died he would be credited with over 300,000 converts actively attending services. It was in 1927 that an unexpected change occurred in his ministry. One day he was met getting off a train by forty of the leading laymen of the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. Their pastor had resigned and they asked Ham to accept the position. He had never been a pastor of a local congregation but reluctantly he gave them a challenge. Knowing that he had many enemies he told the men that if they could get a unanimous vote by the church to accept him as pastor, he would come. He never dreamed he would get total support with his reputation of sternness. No one was more shocked than he when the unanimous vote was cast. He built the congregation to 2,200 and had a pleasant time. But after two years the freedom of evangelistic work was calling him again. In 1929, he resigned his pastorate and was once again campaigning for Christ.

The protection of the Lord, he had known from the start, was still being manifested wherever he went. One icy, snowy night at a meeting in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, the timbers were straining from the weight of the snow on the roof. During the message, someone suggested they all should vacate this location and go to the First Baptist Church to finish the meeting. When the last person left the building, the center section caved in, cutting down seats like a giant knife. Everyone knew a tragedy had been averted by the hand of God.

Revival was the heart of Mordecai Ham. The Church could not and would not survive without revival. Ham believed that God's heart was revival, unhindered revival, but it was man who was the log-jam:

"One of our troubles is we are not willing to humble ourselves. We are not willing to give up our opinions as to how things should be done. We want a revival to come just in our way. You never saw two revivals come just alike. We must let them come in God's way. People are ashamed to admit they need revival. If you are not willing to take the shame on yourself, you then let it remain on Jesus Christ. You must bear the reproach of your sinful state of indifference, or the cause of our Master must bear it."

In 1932, during a crusade in Chattanooga, the king of the local underworld, Wyatt Larimore was converted and most of his workers. He had been in court for almost everything from minor traffic violations to first-degree murder. He had more than 300 men working for him at the time of his conversion. In January 1933, Ham opened a campaign in Little Rock, Arkansas, there the world renowned, wild, worldly, wicked, vain and reckless world heavyweight boxer, Otto Sutton, was saved. He would later pastor the Valence Street Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana. In the fall of 1934 while on a crusade in Charlotte, North Carolina, Ham was having a difficult time. There was a stuper that was over the crowd and it looked like this meeting would be very unfruitful. Nevertheless, Ham prayed and persevered. Finally the crowd began responding to the word of God. Attending every meeting was a sarcastic, lost young man of sixteen. His mother made him go to the meetings and sent him with a trusted friend, Grady Wilson. The young man was amazed when he saw 5000 people at every meeting, with every seat filled. By the third meeting people all around him were getting saved and he became very nervous. It seemed to him that the only place safe from Ham's wrath was the choir-and that's where he and Grady sat the next night. The power of God filled the room that night from the very first. It was like a weighty cloud. Ham's first words that night were, "there's a great sinner in this place tonight." The young boy thought, "Mothers been telling him about me." Half way through the night he couldn't stand it anymore, he turned to his friend Grady and said, "let's go!" In a manner of minutes both boys were falling on their faces at the foot of the platform with the feet of Mordecai Ham just inches away from their heads. A total of 6,400 people gave their lives to Christ at that crusade. The young boy had no idea what the Lord had planned for him. Today we know that boy as the most renown evangelist in history, Billy Graham.

The Ham-Ramsey tent revivals continued until his sixty-fifth year, 1941, when he began his last year in tent and tabernacle campaigns. From the time in 1929, when he gave up pasturing to return to evangelizing, to 1941 he preached in sixty-one crusades in fifteen states. Ham had some 168,550 decisions including new converts and backslidden church members reclaimed. Even though he came off the traveling circuit he remained active for the Gospel during his last twenty years. In 1940 he started a radio ministry on the Mutual Broadcasting System and had a hook-up of over fifty stations. In 1947 he started the publication of a Christian Paper entitled, The old Kentucky Home Revivalist. He would write that there are three reasons men run from Christ:

"Love of gain, love of sins that make them shun the light, and fear of what others will say. The best way on earth to study human nature is to hold up Christ to your crowd and note how He affects them. Each man or woman can be judged by his or her attitude toward Christ. If their deeds are evil, they will shun His light."

Ham was a fierce opponent of alcohol and many other social evils. He was one of those who helped create the climate for prohibition. The motto he followed all his life was, "Love all men, fear no man." Still in relative good health Ham died on November 1, 1961. He was 84 years, 6 months, and 29 days old.

His nephew, Edward Ham, summed up Mordecai Ham's ministry:

"God raised up evangelist Ham to do more than hold meetings in the great cities of the South. He ordained him a prophet to do more than lead great campaigns against liquor during the pre-prohibition days. God raised him up to remind Christian America of the main spiritual issue that has been in existence since man's beginning on this earth; Christ versus the anti-Christ.

Acts 5:9-10 "Then Peter said to her, ‘How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.' Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband."

JJ (Dark)Di Pietro
Cane Creek Church
http://www.canecreekchurch.org