Gage's fervor touches 4 sons, evangelists, 1 million others
EULESS, Texas (BP)--W.A. Criswell has called him "the bouncing ball of fire." Baptist Sunday School Board President James T. Draper Jr. has known him since 1953 "and he is one of the greatest soul-winning and evangelistic ministers in America." John Bisagno of Houston's First Baptist Church has said, "Without question, he is second only to Billy Graham in winning men to Christ in the Southern Baptist Convention."
Featured in publications from Newsweek to the Baptist state papers, he has preached in more than 1,300 crusades with 10,000 churches. As a direct result of his ministry, it's estimated that more than 1 million people have professed faith in Jesus Christ.
He is Freddie Gage.
"The first time I heard Freddie Gage," said evangelist Jay Strack of Florida, "I was in college struggling to determine many priorities in my life. Upon hearing Freddie's message, 'Tears for Souls,' emphasizing the importance of soul-winning, I resolved to spend the rest of my life winning my generation to Christ."
Gage will be among several evangelists honored by the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. The evangelists' annual conference will be from 1:30- 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 18, at First Baptist Church, Dallas.
Born in a hospital charity ward, raised by grandparents in a ghetto section of Houston and an undisputed gang leader by age 16, Gage was saved in a 1951 revival and felt God call him to preach that same night.
In the more than four decades since, said evangelist Michael Gott, "Either directly or indirectly, Freddie Gage has influenced three generations of evangelists."
They include Gage's four sons, all of whom are ordained Southern Baptist ministers focusing on evangelism or church-related ministries.
Today, despite his laurels, Gage quickly focuses the conversation to his wife, Barbara -- "the glue that held our family together. She was at home raising the boys, nurturing their Christian growth and handling the daily crises while I was on the road."
"All four of our sons are different," Gage reflected. "They have their own identities and their own ministries."
Daniel, 44, worked with his father in area-wide crusades for four years before becoming a full-time evangelist. In addition to crusades and speaking in high schools, Daniel now assists his father in Rapha, a counseling and treatment ministry for hurting people.
Paul, 42, has been an ordained SBC minister since age 19, having specialized in advance work for evangelism crusades and served for many years as executive director of his father's ministry. Now he does capital giving campaigns for churches through The Gage Group Ministries.
Rick, 39, turned from the gridiron to the pulpit to answer God's call to preach. His "On Track" school assembly program has been delivered to more than 1 million students across America. His three "Go Tell" camps attract hundreds of young people annually. This year, Russian teens will participate.
--Rodney, 31, preaches in major youth conferences, has conducted more than 400 local church crusades and has spoken to more than 2 million students in public and private schools in North America, Eastern Europe and Russia. The core of his ministry is a three-day event, "48 Hours," which features a contemporary approach to outreach involving the whole family.
Gage is proud of his sons' accomplishments, especially in light of his feelings that "there is a crisis facing evangelism and soul-winning today. We talk a lot about evangelism but it is no longer our heartbeat, no longer our priority.
"What deeply grieves me is seeing men water down and compromise the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have no problem with change. Change is inevitable, but a watered-down, compromised gospel with no conviction has no power.
"Where is the passion for souls we once had?" he asked, "and where are our tears for souls? It's time for us to share the uncompromised gospel!"
Preaching an uncompromised gospel has been Gage's life and it is his legacy. Said Gage's fellow evangelist, Junior Hill: "I am confident when the future historians write the history of evangelism, Freddie Gage will be among those who turned many to God and kept us on the path of soul-winning."