Mordecai Ham, Outspoken Evangelist

Dan Graves, MSL

Mordecai Ham, Outspoken Evangelist

Imagine the honor of leading a notable evangelist like Billy Graham to Christ. Mordecai Ham did just that. However, he was in a position to do so only after he had wrestled with his own preferences and yielded to God.

Born on this day, April 2, 1877, in Allen County, Kentucky, he resisted God's call to become an evangelist because he wanted to be a salesman. His grandfather and father, both preachers, had lived in poverty and Ham did not want that. But eventually the Lord prevailed. Six months after Ham married Bessie Simmons, he quit his business to enter the ministry as a fundamentalist Baptist.

Early in his ministry, he claimed to have had an encounter with the Holy Spirit so intense that he pleaded for the Lord to back off or he felt he would die. Thereafter, he evidenced spiritual power throughout his life, continually confronting sin and sinners. In one notable early instance, he confronted an infidel who was hiding in a cornfield to avoid the preacher.

"What are you going to do?" asked this opponent of the gospel.

"Ask God to kill you," replied Ham. The infidel protested. Ham said that since the man claimed to believe there was no God, such a prayer shouldn't bother him in the least. Nonetheless the unbeliever begged Ham not to pray for his death, so Ham agreed to pray for his salvation instead, and the man was converted on the spot.

Ham 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."

In 1905, four years after Ham entered the ministry, Bessie died suddenly of cerebral meningitis. At first Ham thought he would remain single like the apostle Paul. However, a couple years later, he fell in love with a fourteen-year-old girl. They were wed the following year and had a happy marriage that lasted for over fifty years and produced three daughters. Ham considered Annie Laurie the greatest of God's blessings to him.

Ham continued to win souls. In over thirty years of preaching, he won at least 300,000 converts (his estimate was close to 1,000,000). Billy Graham, perhaps the most notable of those converts, made his declaration of faith at a 1934 Ham meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Ham was a fierce opponent of alcohol and many other social evils. He blasted whatever he considered to be wrong and his preaching helped create the climate for prohibition. Today, memory of him is largely swept under the carpet as an embarrassment because he was also virulently anti-semetic and anti-catholic. The outspoken evangelist ran a radio program for many years. He died in 1961. His life's motto had been "Love all men, fear no man."

Bibliography:

  1. Baker, James T. "Ham, Mordecai Fowler, jr." Encyclopedia of Religion in the South. Edited by Samuel S. Hill. Macon, Georgia: Mercer, 1984.
  2. Borland, James A. "Mordecai Ham, a Thorn in the Devil's Side." Fundamentalist Journal 3 (February, 1984) 44-46.
  3. Brackney, William H. Historical Dictionary of the Baptists. Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 1999.
  4. Clutter, R. T. "Ham, Mordecai Fowler." Dictionary of Baptists in America. Editor, Bill J. Leonard. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1994.
  5. Coppenger, Mark. "What I Learned from Mordecai Ham." Leadership IX: No. 4 (Fall 1988) pp. 32-33.
  6. Ham, Mordecai. "Why Men Will Not Come to Christ." Fundamentalist Journal 3 (February, 1984) 44-46.
  7. "Milestones." Time 78. (November 10, 1961): 78.
  8. Mordecai Ham 1878 - 1959 [sic]. n.d. 2006. http://www.cantonbaptist.org/halloffame/ham.htm
  9. Mordecai Ham 1877 - 1961. n.d. 2006. http://www.swordofthelord.com/biographies/ HamMordecai.htm
  10. "Rev. Mordecai Ham Dies at 84; Evangelist Converted a Million." New York Times (November 2, 1961): 37.
  11. Smithers, David. "Mordecai Ham; Prayer Makes History." 2002. 2006. http://www.watchword.org/smithers/ww47a.htm
  12. "What Do You Offer God?" 1999. 2006. http://www.baptistfire.com/gospel/ham.shtml

Posted February, 2006. Last updated June, 2007.

  • Editors' Picks

    Why the Church Must Start Talking about Domestic Violence
    Why the Church Must Start Talking about Domestic Violence
  • Don't Think of Church as Your Own Spiritual Power Bar
    Don't Think of Church as Your Own Spiritual Power Bar
  • So You Think Theology Is Impractical?
    So You Think Theology Is Impractical?