|The World is His Parish|
From the book "Ambassadors for Christ"
Published by Moody
Sammy Tippit made the mistake of dating a deacon's daughter. One Sunday night in 1965, just after Tippit had graduated from high school, his girlfriend's father wouldn't let them go out unless they went to church first. Sammy did, despite the laughter and derision of his partying friends. There Sammy heard the gospel and received Christ. Immediately he felt that God was calling him to preach.
He had already been recognized at the United Nations as the outstanding high school speaker in North America. Now all he needed was knowledge. He was discipled by his pastor and quickly he began to visit in a nursing home and preach in the bars and nightclubs of his hometown, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In college Tippit was restless, still driven to witness and preach on the streets during the week and at various churches on the weekends. He married Debara Ann (Tex) Sirman in June 1968 and dropped out of college during his senior year, "unable to sit in class while the world was dying." It was a major decision, for his late father's last request was that Sammy finish college, and friends told him he would never speak in large churches or gain any ministerial reputation without a degree. The first day on their own, Sammy and Tex saw all their belongings stolen. Now they were really living by faith; Sammy continued to witness and preach with nothing but the clothes on his back. When a friend invited him to a regional evangelism conference, Tippit, unshaven and in his only set of clothes, felt compelled to speak from the floor about his burden for kids and street people and how the church must begin ministering to them. From that brief moment came dozens of invitations to speak in churches.
Provision for restlessness
He and Tex remained faithful to their call, and Sammy developed the philosophy of ministry that remains his hallmark. "Somehow I knew that if God had put that restlessness in my heart, He would take care of Tex and me. My reputation wasn't as important to me as it had once been. I would be just as happy to share Christ with one person in the middle of nowhere as to preach from the most well-known pulpit in the world." From youth crusades all over the country to walks from Louisiana to Washington, D.C. (pushing a wheelbarrow full of Bibles), or carrying a cross to the 1972 Democratic National Convention, Tippit threw himself into ministry. He was called one of the original Jesus People, though he never identified himself that way. Living on faith, preaching Christ, and witnessing on the streets became the trademark of his fledgling ministry, which he called God's Love in Action. Another uniqueness of Tippit's ministry was that he decided early never to ask for money. He sent out a newsletter to a small mailing list of friends and prayer partners, but he never solicited funds. He believed that income was a harbinger of God's blessing on his plans. "If the money came in, God wanted us to go. If it didn't, then He didn't." Even in those earliest days of his ministry, Tippit felt a distinct call to Eastern Europe. He didn't understand it and had no idea how he would ever get there or what he would do when he arrived, but he harbored that inclination for years.
Witness by fasting
Settling his street ministry in Chicago in the early 1970's Tippit and an associate were arrested for witnessing in front of nightclubs and ostensibly hurting their businesses. Sammy felt led to fast and pray in the famed Daley Civic Center Plaza for twenty-five days before his trial, which was handled gratis by a Christian attorney. The case drew worldwide interest and the charges were dropped, but many came to Christ during that period. The day of the trial, September 29, 1971, Sammy and Tex's first child, Dave was born. One of the great thrills of Sammy's life came nearly twenty years later when a woman at the Lausanne II Conference in Manila, Philippines, informed him that she had come to Christ through his ministry in Chicago. She had been a dancer at a nightclub, had read one of his tracts, and went to hear him speak. There she had received Christ, and now she and her husband were missionaries. When Tippit was finally able to make his first visit to Europe in 1971, he developed a love for the people that has centered much of his ministry there ever since. He learned of the Communist Youth World Fest to be held in East Berlin in 1973, and his consuming passion became to infiltrate that meeting of 100,000 Communist young people. He and two friends preached, witnessed, and passed out tracts there, seeing two hundred receive Christ as Savior. Later, as he was following up with some of the converts, he heard a girl add a phrase to her prayer that became another catch phrase in his ministry. She prayed that God would give her the courage to live for Him, "no matter what the cost."
In the spring of 1974 Tippit's resolve to live for Christ no matter what the cost was put to the test when he and an associate were arrested in Leningrad (Petersburg) for witnessing to Soviet college students. They were put under house arrest in their hotel, interrogated for hours, and forced to sign a confession to their crime of "spreading the disease of religion." In their confessions, however, they wrote their testimonies and explained how the reader could receive Christ. Finally they demanded to see the American consulate. Eventually they were deported to Helsinki, Finland. Sammy had no idea how long that black mark might remain on his record and keep him from coming back to preach in the Soviet Union. Soon Sammy began feeling that his ministry was outgrowing his maturity, so he sought a place to minister where he could settle in and grow. He accepted a three-year pastorate of an English-speaking church in Hahn, West Germany, where the congregation was made up largely of American Military personnel.
The Domestic Front
The church, and Tippit, grew by leaps and bounds. Sammy accepted speaking engagements throughout Europe and discipled many men in his church, seeing their families grow in Christ, too. He also learned many hard lessons, the most important one from his wife, Tex.
Sammy was devastated and broken. He asked the elders for time off, and he and Tex got away where they could work out the problem. Sammy saw that she had been right. Without being aware of it or meaning to, he had not treated Tex the way he should have. "I began to see in a new way my self-centeredness, pride, and impurities." Sammy asked for and received her forgiveness and the Lord's and he pledged himself to be a more loving, giving husband.With their relationship rejuvenated and Sammy's ministry flourishing, they visited Romania for the first time. Sammy developed such a loving relationship with the people there that he became a favorite and continued to preach there for years.
More international crusades
He accepted a couple of pastorates in the United States and eventually settled in San Antonio, but he quickly grew restless, sensing God's call to continue to preach internationally. As he battled his fears of subjecting his family to such danger and uncertainty, he ran into his old friend Arthur Blessitt, another outspoken and gifted evangelist. Blessitt challenged him to follow God's call again. Other seemingly coincidental meetings confirmed in Sammy's heart that he must release his family to God's protection, being careful and prudent but also involving them in the traveling and the ministry to the hard places. When he finally left the pastorate and returned to full-time international evangelism in 1986, he saw his ministry explode. He has since held crusades in India, South America, Africa, the former Soviet Union, Romania. Mongolia, Albania. In July 1988 the Romanian Government blacklisted the Evangelist and kicked him out of the country. But in 1990, after the revolution and the ouster of Nicolae Ceaucescu, Sammy returned to Romania and conducted the first soccer stadium crusade in the nation's history. Hundreds responded to his preaching. He also returned to the Soviet Union without incident and preached in great outdoor meetings there; at one meeting about 2,500 responded to the invitation to receive Christ as Savior. Sammy Tippit continues to preach all over the world. He says, "The burden God has given me for lost souls is so great that I can't begin to do a thing about it. I can preach everywhere I have the time and resources to go, and there will still be millions who haven't heard the gospel."
-- Jerry Jenkins