Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

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Evangelist 111, Still Preaching

By KIM ROUDEBUSH
Times-News Religion Editor

     Rev. J. F. Akers was born in 1871, just six years after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

     In 1926, after preaching at a revival, Akers collapsed from exhaustion and doctors thought he had died. They placed his body in a morgue. But a nurse saw him blink his eye and after months of recovery, Akers was back in his pulpit

     Now Akers is 111 years old. That means he has been preaching for 90 years including seven years as a teacher; and spent his first 21 years living on his family farm with his six brothers and four sisters.

     Akers, a Lynchburg, Va. resident, has not preached in Kingsport for a while. But this week at the Good Shepherd Baptist Church on Old Beason Well Road, he is leading a revival that is astonishing to his audiences.

     Services begin at 7 p.m. tonight. His preaching is astonishing because Akers, who is nearly blind, has committed the entire Bible to memory. In his nine decades behind the pulpit, Akers has yet to use any notes; all his sermons are memorized.

     As Akers describes his unique style of communicating the gospel, a Bible verse is quoted from the audience and he preaches a sermon on the topic. He uses the central thought in the verse as the topic of the sermon and then weaves the rest of message from related verses. For instance, John 3:16, a verse describing salvation, is teamed with verses in Deuteronomy, Psalms and Romans.

     He is known to quote more than 75 scriptures in a single sermon.

     But what makes this man unique is his age. He accredits the longevity of his life to abstention from cigarettes, whiskey, bad company, and never taking the name of God in vain. His wife, Louise, has also been an important asset.

     When Akers's eyes began to fail him Louise aided his ministry by reading the Bible to him. Every day the couple reads four chapters together. This reading helps him remember the Bible verses.

     Akers's preaching schedule demands that he remember the verses. Three weeks out of every month he is preaching at revivals.

     In his career he has spoke from pulpits in 48 states including every county in Tennessee and Virginia.

     In fact, his appointments for revivals are booked through November, 1983.

     Will he still be preaching in another year?

     "Of course," he explains. "Jesus told me my work is not done until the Lord comes after me."

Rev. J. F. Akers is 111-years old, but he still preaches for the Lord.
Services will be tonight at 7 p. m/ at the Good Shepherd Baptist Church.


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