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John R. Rice

John R. Rice

John R. Rice (1895 - 1980)

Was a Baptist evangelist and pastor and the founding editor of The Sword of the Lord, an influential fundamentalist newspaper. Rice believed that the mission of churches was "not to take care of Christians" but to "win souls," a notion his mostly lower-middle-class church members did not wholeheartedly endorse. When Rice spent more time away from his pulpit to hold revivals elsewhere, a supply pastor and his supporters staged a coup. Rice decided to reenter evangelism. Yet before he did so, he encouraged the church to change its name from Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle to Galilean Baptist Church, thus distinguishing his ministry and that of the church from J. Frank Norris.

In 1934, Rice founded The Sword of the Lord, a bi-weekly publication that grew into an influential fundamentalist Baptist newspaper. At first it was simply the publication of his Dallas church, handed out on the street and delivered door-to-door by Rice's daughters and other Sunday School children. The Sword's circulation grew dramatically. It was thirty thousand in 1940, fifty thousand in 1946, and ninety thousand in 1953, surpassing the circulation of the venerable Moody Monthly. Rice regularly published reports from evangelistic campaigns that became valuable publicity tools for approved revivalists. In 1946, he and other prominent evangelists adopted a code of ethics and a statement of faith to prevent "evangelists from being unduly criticized for commercialism and unethical practices." The same year Bob Jones College conferred on him an honorary Litt. D. degree.

John Richard Rice was born in Cooke County, Texas, on December 11, 1895, the son of William H. and Sallie Elizabeth LaPrade Rice. Educated at Decatur Baptist College and Baylor University, he did graduate work at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the University of Chicago.

Although Dr. Rice served as pastor of Baptist churches in Dallas and Shamrock, Texas, in addition to starting about a dozen others from his successful independent crusades, his primary work was as an evangelist. He had been a friend and peer of Billy and Ma Sunday, Bob Jones Sr., W.B. Riley, Homer Rodeheaver, H.A. Ironside, Robert G. Lee, Harry Rimmer, and other leaders of that era. He himself held huge citywide crusades in Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, Seattle, and numerous other key metropolitan centers.

Dr. Rice authored more than 200 books and booklets, circulating in excess of 60,000,000 copies before his death--about a dozen of which were translated into at least 35 foreign languages. His sermon booklet, What Must I Do to Be Saved?, had been distributed in over 32,000,000 copies in English alone--8,500,000 in Japanese, and nearly 2,000,000 in Spanish.

In 1934 he launched The Sword of the Lord, which, by the time of his death, had become the largest independent religious weekly in the world, with subscribers in every state of the union, and more than 100 foreign countries. Thousands of preachers read it regularly, and it undoubtedly had the greatest impact on the fundamentalist movement of any publication in the 20th century.

      Rice was a Baptist evangelist and pastor and the founding editor of The Sword of the Lord, an influential fundamentalist newspaper.

      Rice was born in Cooke County, Texas in 1895, the son of William H. and Sallie Elizabeth La Prade Rice, and the oldest of three brothers. The death of John R. Rice's mother when he was was six years old left a lasting mark on the man.

      Rice did not complete his seminary course but in 1923, took a position as the assistant pastor of a Southern Baptist church in Plainview, Texas. The following year he became senior pastor in Shamrock, Texas, an oil boomtown; but in 1926 he left the pastorate for evanglism. Settling in Fort Worth, he became an unofficial associate of the flamboyant and authoritarian fundamentalist J. Frank Norris, pastor of First Baptist Church, who was preparing to leave the Southern Baptist Convention. Rice himself broke with the Southern Baptists in 1927.

      During the next few years, Rice held a series of successful revivals in Texas that were promoted by Norris. Rice made converts during his campaigns and then organized the new Christians into at least a half-dozen churches with the name "Fundamentalist Baptist."

      In July 1932, Rice held an open-air evangelistic campaign in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas and hundreds made professions of faith. There Rice organized the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Dallas; but instead of moving on, he pastored the church for more than seven years.

      Rice believed that the mission of churches was "not to take care of Christians" but to "win souls."

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Rice Reference Bible
Rice Reference Bible
by John R. Rice

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