Prophetic Evangelist: Harry Denman

Prophetic Evangelist

Celebrating Harry Denman’s Legacy as Prophetic Evangelist.

I was honored with the Denman Evangelism Award in 2004 by The Holston Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. This year I am honored to be the one presenting this award as the Chair of The Holston Conference Witness Team. The awards will be presented this year on Tuesday June 16th between 2 and 3pm.

In this post you see the book “Prophetic Evangelist”. When I received the award in 2004 I wanted to get my hands on everything that I could find that Harry Denman had done. I was able to acquire this book from The Foundation for Evangelism. Here are a few pieces of information from the book about the ministry and person of Harry Denman.

“He was an ecclesiastical statesman. His spiritual vision was always bifocal. He was at his best when telling the story of Jesus and salvation to an individual, something he managed to do every day of his mature life. Yet he always kept in mind and heart the needs and opportunities of the whole church in its wider mission. Harry Denman’s vision grew out of his conviction that it was possible, in God’s time, for the whole world to turn to our Lord. He believed that his job was to do what he could to bring that about, one person at a time”.

When Harry Denman Died

“Closing his estate was no big task, for he gave all his material possessions away throughout his life.”

“He preached to large crowds in churches, auditoriums, stadiums, and camp meetings, but he would pour out his      heart and soul with equal fervor to the few gathered in a remote village or at a storefront church.”

Harry Denman copied the entire Bible in handwriting at least once in his lifetime. He said this discipline led him to new insights into the scriptures.

Dr. Denman arose about 12:30am each morning, studied the scriptures by copying them, and prayed during the night.

“Harry would agree with Dwight L. Moody, who told one of his critics:”  “I like the way I an doing evangelism better than the way you are not doing it!”

Harry Denman had a view of evangelism that was anything but narrow. “While he subscribed to most of the traditional methods of evangelism – including revivals and personal witness – he was open to many other methods, some new and experimental.”

“He set the churches on fire, and we had the greatest years in evangelism in the history of modern Methodism.”

“Harry’s real genius was his ability to sell evangelism to the whole church. The lay visitation movement was never done before and has never been done on a church-wide basis since. Every Bishop was in on it.”

“I remember being so impressed to learn that most of his worldly possessions consisted of what he was wearing on his back! He had no need for material gifts.”

” A friend of ours tells about meeting Dr. Denman at the airport in Ashville. His plane was very late getting to Asheville. He was scheduled to speak at a certain time at Junaluska, so she was driving a little fast to get there. He told her he would rather be Harry Denman late than the late Harry Denman, so slow down.”

When all is said and done, Harry Denman really was a man with only one message, and that was the validity and vitality of evangelism as the sharing of the good news of the new life in Jesus Christ and a call to all persons to follow Christ as Lord and Savior.

These are just a few of the quotes from the book. Harry Denman was a man of prayer and evangelism. He shared with everyone he met about the love of Jesus Christ and he always asked for a commitment to Follow Jesus.

I am honored to be a recipient of the Denman Evangelism Award and I am again honored to be able to present the same award to 3 people this year at Annual Conference.


Harry Denman 1

Harry Denman was a noted Methodism lay leader and evangelist within the United Methodist Church who emphasized the life taught by Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount. Denman strongly challenged modern materialism and prejudice, by exemplifying and teaching a simple life, and by personally relating to all people, regardless of race, gender, or economic means. His personal property was very limited; for example he usually had only one pair of shoes to his name. Articles that were given to him were generally given away to the needy. He was a close friend of another well-known evangelist, Billy Graham who called Denman “one of the great mentors for evangelism.”[1]

He was born September 26, 1893 in Birmingham, Alabama of Hattie Leonard and William Harry Denman, who immigrated from Gloucestershire, England. He earned a bachelors degree from Birmingham-Southern College in 1921, and a masters degree in social work in 1930. In 1936 he received an honorary doctorate from Athens State University in Alabama. In 1915, Denman became secretary of the Birmingham Sunday School Association, a post which he held until 1919, when he became church manager of the First Methodist Church in Birmingham.

In 1939 he was elected General Secretary of the Commission on Evangelism, later known as the Board of Evangelism, of the newly formed The Methodist Church [2] which had united three branches of Methodism. As the general secretary, he also had responsibility for the publication of The Upper Room, a devotional publication. He was also a member of the Jurisdictional Conferences in 1940, 1944, 1948, and 1952.

On January 31, 1949 Denman incorporated The Foundation for Evangelism. The founders included Denman, the General Secretary of The General Board of Evangelism and a dedicated group of elected members of the General Board who wanted to directly support evangelism ministries within the Methodist denomination. Created as a non-profit entity, the Foundation for Evangelism is most notable as the home to the Harry Denman Evangelism Awards given to those clergy and lay persons for outstanding service in evangelism. It is also home to the E. Stanley Jones Professors of Evangelism which supports 15 professorships at various colleges and seminaries around the world, funded by the “Christian Art” initiative. The Foundation sponsors various groups and organizations like youth ministries and established the “Web Empowered Church” website which offers open-source software created specifically for local churches, free of charge.

In 1965, Denman retired from the Foundation and with his final salary turned around and donated it back to the organization. He then traveled extensively in the United States and throughout the world to preach and conduct evangelistic meetings. He died November 8, 1976 in Birmingham, Alabama at the age of 83.


Foundation for Evangelism:

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