Friday, January 17, 2014

This Week in Texas Methodist History   January 19

Evangelist Luther Bridgers, Author of He Keeps Me Singing, Begins Tent Meeting in Brownwood, January 22, 1924

It may seem strange to have a revival tent meeting in January in Texas, but the famed evangelist Luther B. Bridgers did just that in Brownwood in January, 1924.  Bridgers was one of the greatest revivalists of his generation who is mainly remembered as the author of the popular hymn, He Keeps Me Singing.

Bridgers was born in North Carolina in 1884,  He was converted and felt the call to the ministry.  To prepare himself for such ministry, he entered Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky.  He was soon serving student pastorates and discovered his great talent for preaching.  He also met and married a Kentucky belle, Sarah Vetch.  The couple was blessed with three sons, and Bridgers left the parish ministry for full time revival work.  In 1910 he  preached a two-week revival near his wife’s Kentucky home.  It seemed like a good chance for Sarah and the boys to visit her parents, so they stayed with them while Luther Bridgers conducted the revival. 

On the last night of the revival, he retired to his lodgings, but was awakened by a telephone call informing him that his wife and three sons had all been killed in a house fire at his in-laws. 

He later wrote that upon hearing the crushing news, he dropped to his knees in prayer, “Lord, I have often preached to other people, and told them it would comfort them in every hour of sorrow.  Grant that same gospel may comfort me.” 

The tragedy inspired Bridgers to write the hymn, He Keeps Me Singing.  Think about his crushing loss the next time you sing the song’s verse,

Though sometimes He leads through waters deep
Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
See his footprints all the way. 

Bridgers continued his evangelistic work in the United States, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and Russia.  Unlike some revivalists, he was careful to coordinate his efforts with the local Methodist pastors and used the revivals to try to build up the local churches. The Brownwood Bulletin reported on the first night’s sermon.  Here is an excerpt

People sponge on God’s free grace.  They live like the devil all the week but try to look like angels on Sunday.  They cannot fool their fellow men, let alone God.  God has a wonderful redemption for everyone who seeks it, but you cannot deceive God, and you cannot deceive your fellow man.

 He eventually remarried.  Luther Bridgers died in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1948.  


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