Amarillo preacher marks 70 years since first sermon
Rodeo cowboy-turned-preacher Jimmy Phillips preached his first sermon at a Friday night youth gathering just 30 days after becoming a Christian. He spoke about the love of the Holy Spirit to a crowd that grew to the hundreds in Utica, Okla..
A 17-year-old at the pulpit was quite novel.
Wednesday will mark 70 years since that first sermon, Phillips said, and he hasn’t quit since that first sermon, which had his phone ringing with requests for more sermons.
“I hitchhiked,” said Phillips. “I didn’t have a car. I had a guitar and an amplifier and old gray suitcase and I would tape the name of the city I was going to on the side of the suitcase and set it aside the highway.”
Phillips, now 87, said his life didn’t always reflect the faith with which he was raised. He described his pre-Christ days as “traveling in rodeos, sleeping in horse trailers and chasing girls.”
But at a revival in Tulsa, Okla., Phillips remembers being filled with conviction and tears. Now he says tears don’t solidify salvation, but that night was when he realized Jesus offered the salvation he needed.
In between ordination classes at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Phillips kept opening his mouth to share his realization of faith with others.
After his first stint pastoring a congregation, he moved to Amarillo. Once there, he was promptly invited by a well-meaning pastor’s wife to a singles gathering at a local church. Phillips initially balked, but upon entering the room, he saw “sweet Joyce.”
“And I think it (our marriage) was made in heaven,” said Phillips. “She was every ounce a Christian and I think she’s the best thing that happened to me other than my salvation.”
Joyce traveled with Phillips, offering her own musical ministry alongside his preaching. They traveled to 50 countries as international missionaries and evangelists.
One of Phillips’ most cherished memories is when he stood at the pulpit of what was considered the world’s largest church — Yoido Central Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, where he preached to a congregation of 750,000.
Joyce became known as “sweet Joyce” to those who met her in Amarillo, South Korea and the countries in between.
Photos of sweet Joyce now decorate the Amarillo home they shared; her wedding ring is endearingly fastened on a chain around his neck. She died two years ago.
Phillips said he’s kept busy, now realizing how much she did to keep the house tidy and homey. His children encouraged his collection of the Trail of Painted Ponies now lining his desk, and he enjoys painting strictly in the Old West style.
But Phillips spends the majority of his time with eschatology — the theological study of the end times.
For the last eight years, Phillips has held monthly ecumenical gatherings known as the Bible Prophecy Seminar.
He is also teaching an eschatological Sunday school class at The Church at Quail Creek in Amarillo.
Phillips says he sticks to prophecies found in the Bible and helps others understand how those prophecies relate to current times.
His belief is that 2017 falls into the end of the end times.
“Everything that’s happening in the Middle East, as sad as it is, it is scripture being fulfilled according to the 21st chapter of Luke and the 24th and 25th chapters of Matthew,” Phillips said. “I’ve been a pastor, I’ve been a world evangelist, but the last 15 years I’ve had this focus on eschatology simply because we’ve got to get people saved, we’ve got to.
“There’s 100,000 people a day dying without Jesus … So I have no options. I have this burning sensation to get this message out and to reach the unsaved.”
After 70 years, Phillips says he still gets invited to preach in other countries, and he considers and prays over each of those invitations. Currently, he’s considering a trip to Africa, where he’s been promised a crowd of 1 million.
“I won’t even see everyone there,” Phillips said in disbelief.
He has no plans to retire, believing an evangelist never truly retires — “Unless my health breaks or I get goofy in the pulpit,” he said with a smirk.
Written for the Amarillo Globe-News