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Shining the Light of Christ
Matthew 5:16

Dr. Jack Hester:  'From Baseball to the Bible, From the Mill Hill to Calvary's Hill'
(a one-on-one interview with The Christian View magazine)
Written b
y Karen Brewer, Publisher


Dr. Jack and Shirley Hester



Baseball was his passion from the time he was a boy, but Dr. Jack Hester found his true calling in sharing the Gospel. “That was my ambition, all of my life,” Hester said, in an interview with The Christian View magazine. “I don’t remember any time that I didn’t love baseball, and I started trying to achieve that goal when I was just a lad. At 13 years old, I began playing textile baseball. One of the players got hurt, catching, and the coach knew that I loved baseball. The manager asked me during the game, ‘Would you catch for the rest of the game?’ I had never caught before. I never had the mask on. But I did, and I stayed at that position the rest of the year. The fellow got better, but he went into another position on the team, and I was the catcher.” After playing for the Conestee Mill baseball team and the Greenville County American Legion baseball team, Hester, at the age of 18, began playing professionally for the Hendersonville Skylarks, in the same town in which his father served as Pastor of a Baptist church, having moved from Greenville. “During my time on the professional team, I was second base and shortstop,” said Hester. “I would be looking up into the grandstand, knowing the Lord had put into my heart that I was supposed to preach. I wasn’t saved, but I’d look up into the grandstand, and all of these people would be there, and I would say to myself, in my own heart, ‘You should be preaching to these people instead of trying to entertain them.’ That was in my youth days, before I got saved. People say the Lord doesn’t speak to you, but He does. I know that.”
          
Hester was born on May 25, 1930 in Greenville, South Carolina, the youngest child of William Robert Hester, Sr. and Lula Mae Garrett Hester. The following month, his newly saved father dedicated him to the Lord. Hester has stated that he has known since the age of five that he wanted to serve Jesus. In his new autobiography, entitled, My Story for His Glory: From Baseball to the Bible, from the Mill Hill to Calvary’s Hill, Hester shares humorous and also heartfelt stories from his childhood through adulthood, including how he had attained success in baseball but left the sport he loved for a Saviour he loved more.

Even though he was not yet saved at the time, he was under conviction to, as he states, “permit Jesus to have complete control of my life.” During his lunch break at the manufacturing plant where he worked, he would go to his car and listen to Harold B. Sightler on “The Bright Spot Hour.” I began going to as many revival services as I could," Hester writes. I was really interested to know more of the Bible. Most of the revivals I would attend I went alone. Therefore, I had plenty of time to concentrate on the service and what I heard. Hester’s father also preached on the radio, and, one Saturday, as Jack listened, he heard his father request prayer for his youngest son. I was under so much conviction I couldn’t sleep, Hester writes. I would lie in my bed at night and for hours seemingly I would visualize myself before a congregation of people in church preaching. I could see myself doing what God had called me to do. During one lunch break, while listening to Sightler on the radio and reading a Gospel tract a co-worker had given him, Hester began to weep, and, while sitting there in his car, he gave his life to the Lord.

When he told his father that he had been saved and that God had called him to preach, his father asked him to preach at the church he pastored in Hendersonville. Hester preached to a filled sanctuary, and 13 came forward during the invitation to be saved. The 20-year-old new convert, who had just preached his first sermon, was baptized by his father following that service.
        
The following Sunday, Hester was invited to preach at the church where he grew up, where his father had previously pastored. He preached once more to a sanctuary filled to capacity, and, once more, 13 people came forward to receive Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
        
He began to preach in churches throughout South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. Before he could begin to study for the ministry, he was drafted, in September, 1951, and was stationed first at Fort Jackson and then overseas in Austria, where he witnessed to servicemen and civilians.
       
On May 9, 1953, while in Austria, Hester received word that his father had passed away. “We had a great relationship,” Hester told The Christian View, speaking of his father. “My Dad was a preacher. He preached himself ‘to death.’ He pastored a church. He did 42 revivals a year. He had a radio ministry, and he was on about 15 radio stations every day, and also he did tent meetings in the summer. He was dedicated to the Lord. He didn’t give a lot of time to my brother and me, because he was busy. I did the same thing. That’s one regret that I have now. I was busy when my boys were growing up. I didn’t give them the time that I feel like I would have, now, as I look back. I encourage young preachers to give their children quality time, maybe not quantity time but quality time.”
        
Hester also had a great relationship with his mother, whom he calls his prayer warrior. “She was a faithful saint of God, an encourager,” he told The Christian View. “In all of my baseball career, she never saw me play a ballgame. She was a homemaker and was busy at home. I was her Pastor for 21 years. When she passed away, I was asked by my brother and sisters to help do her funeral, and I did. It was hard, but I felt I owed that to her. She was a great, great saint of God.”
        
Upon being discharged from the service, Hester returned home and, with his mother and family, attended Tabernacle Baptist Church, founded under the leadership of Dr. Harold B. Sightler. Hester began singing in a quartet, teaching a Sunday school class, and preaching Wednesday nights when the Pastor was away preaching in revival meetings. Hester again began to preach in churches in his home state and in neighboring states. He returned to work for his former employer, and, in the autumn of 1953, he began attending North Greenville Junior College (now North Greenville University).
       
Hester married his bride, Shirley Annette Koone, on March 6, 1955. Their son Phil and his wife, Aileen, have a son, Jamin, and a daughter, Brittany. Son Steve and his wife, Jean, have two daughters, Amanda and Stefanie. Youngest son Bryan and his wife, Angie, have three sons, Austin, Aaron, and Alex. The Hesters also have three great grandsons, Parker, Ethan, and Zachariah. Hester told The Christian View that his wife and family have been great influences and encouragers to him through the years. “She and my boys are beyond a blessing. She has been very faithful, and our sons are great, hardworking boys. I appreciate the love they show us. Those grandchildren are a joy to us. God has blessed us with good grandchildren and three of the sweetest daughters-in-law anyone could ever ask for.  There is no way that I could tell you all of the ways the Lord has blessed my life. He has blessed me with my wife. He’s blessed me with my children. He’s blessed me with my daughters-in-law and grandchildren and great grandchildren and friends all over America. I guess that’s what’s kept me going – the fellowship and relationships I have with people.”


In 1959, four years after the Hesters married, they and their first two sons, both small boys at the time, moved from Chattanooga, Tennessee, where Hester had been studying at Tennessee Temple University, to Simpsonville, South Carolina, where he was called to pastor Grace Baptist Church.  During his pastorate there, he began “The Gospel Dynamite Hour”, a daily radio ministry which lasted for 21 ½ years. He also released, in August, 1972, a 30-minute audio drama entitled, “The Rapture” on a 78 rpm record; it was later re-released on cassette and on compact disc (cd). He said that this soul-winning tool led thousands to receive Christ, as they listened to events unfold depicting the future Rapture of Christians from earth.

“I was on the radio for 21 years,” Hester explained. “I built my own studio in the church where I pastored in Simpsonville. I was in my office one morning after I had just gotten off the radio. I had just completed a series in the book of Revelation, teaching verse by verse. (I like the book of Revelation. I’ve done a lot of studying in that.) Bryan, our youngest son, had been injured playing football and had to have crutches. He got past the crutches, and he brought the crutches to me to take back to the doctor who had loaned them to us. I sat at my desk, and I looked at them, and I thought, ‘That’s the way it’s going to be when the Rapture comes. There are going to be crutches and all paraphernalia here left behind when the Lord returns.’ I called WFIS radio station, my friends Ben Davis, who was my radio announcer for years, from his teenage years until he married, and one of the greatest guys I’ve ever known, and Leroy Hamilton, who was the owner of the radio station and one of the smartest men I’ve ever known. I said I needed to have a conference for a few minutes, and I went down and spoke about what I had in mind, and they said, ‘We’ll be glad to help you with it.’ And so they did. The Lord gave me that. It is a drama. It’s not preaching. It’s not music. It’s what the Lord revealed to me what is going to be taking place immediately following the Rapture of the church. The Second Coming and the Rapture are two different elements. The Second Coming is when He’s coming back and setting up His kingdom on earth. The Rapture is when He’s coming back in the clouds and calling us out as a bride, the born again, calling us out of earth. The record was professionally done. It has gone all over the world. Missionaries have taken it to English-speaking countries. We’ve had more than 30,000 recorded conversions from that record and no doubt more that we don’t know. It’s possibly the greatest soul-winning recording that has ever been produced, and it’s still being used, across the country and even around the world. It’s more effective now than it was then (in 1972), because we’re nearer to the Rapture than we were then. It could be any moment. We don’t know. It is a very effective tool to witness to loved ones or friends.” 

When his friend and his former radio announcer Ben Davis became President of Connie Maxwell Children’s Home, Hester served as a member of the Executive Board for five years. “I knew Ben from his high school days, his college days, his wedding day, and when he was Mayor, and he and Polly are two of the greatest people who have ever been,” Hester said. “We’re very fortunate to have had them at Connie Maxwell. I had five years of a good relationship with them there. We made a lot of progress. They’re still making progress. It’s a wonderful organization. The reason I accepted it is my heart is for children. On my radio broadcast at that radio station, Ben and Leroy and I and the preachers and churches in the community there raised about six tons of sugar for Miracle Hill. One year, because we had given them so much sugar that they couldn’t use all of it, the Lord put it on my heart to give them sheets and pillowcases for their beds. Our church was 57 feet wide. People brought in new sheets and pillowcases, and we placed those sheets and pillowcases, in packs, right across in front of the pulpit. I had scheduled the Miracle Hill choir to come sing on Sunday. On Saturday night, the laundry at Miracle Hill caught fire and burned all of the sheets and pillowcases. The Lord knows how to work things out. The Lord knew that we’d give them a truck load. See how the Lord works. That’s just one miracle that God’s done.”
        
Hester pastored Cannon Memorial Baptist Church in Central, South Carolina from late 1980 until 1990, and Powdersville First Baptist Church in Powdersville, South Carolina until Easter Sunday, 2002. He then pastored for eight and a half years at Nine Forks Baptist Church in Dacusville, South Carolina. For a few months in 2013, he served as interim Pastor at Mountain Grove Baptist Church in Pickens, South Carolina, and in November, 2013, he began serving as Associate Pastor and staff evangelist at City View First Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina, where Mike Runion serves as Pastor.
        
“I realize my days are coming down,” Hester said. “The shadows are growing. I don’t know how much longer. I’m a busy man. I’m very satisfied here at City View. I believe I’m here at City View First Baptist in the perfect will of God. I think the Lord has blessed our ministry by coming here, being obedient to Him. I have a great Pastor, and some of the finest people in the world. We love it. I don’t know how long the Lord will let us stay here, but God has blessed us, and we’ve seen a lot of people saved by going out from this church, representing the Lord, by the graciousness of City View First Baptist and my Pastor letting us go anytime any place to minister. I wish everybody would come here.”

Hester said that he has had many fond memories from his time in ministry. “I have a lot of fun memories, and I have a lot of serious memories. There has been a lot of fun, and there has been heartache. A lot of times, there has been overwhelming joy. The goodness of God and the blessings of God have outweighed any negative thing over the years. I try to be a positive person. It hasn’t all been well. I’ve had open-heart surgery. I’ve had by-pass surgery. I have stents. I have a pacemaker. But I enjoy life. I really enjoy life.”

When asked what he enjoyed most about being a Pastor, Hester replied, “Seeing people saved and seeing people grow in the grace of God, seeing families come together under the umbrella of the church, seeing converts baptized. I love God’s people, not necessarily in the Baptist realm only. If a person is saved and he or she loves the Lord and they’ve accepted Christ as their Saviour, they’re my brother or sister in the Lord. We may not agree on every doctrinal aspect, but we agree that we are brothers and sisters in the Lord. I’ve had a lot of good fellowship with different people who may not believe exactly like I believe. I don’t let that become a hindrance or barrier between our friendship.”
        
Hester said that he would advise younger preachers: “If you will stay by the Word, the God of the Word will stay by you.” That was the advice given to him, as a young man, by Dr. B.R. Laken, whom he calls an influential person in his life. “He used to come to my house and stay when he would do revivals. He was a very wise man. If I could encourage a young preacher, I would give him advice for him to take much time in Bible study, much time in prayer, and more time with his family. My philosophy was not this all of the time, but, for the last 25 years, it has been -- God first, family second, church third. I had it different. I had it God first, church second, and family third, and that was not good. And I would encourage a young preacher to buy him a house. He needs to have a place he can call his own.”
        
He advises all Christians, especially families, to become involved in a good, Bible-believing church. “I’m concerned about the neglect of parents in bringing their children up in church,” he said.
        
To see himself through difficult times, Hester turns to the Word of God. “I use a verse of scripture that has helped me: I can do all things through Christ which strengthenth me (Philippians 4:13). Also, Jeremiah 33:3 is my lifetime verse: Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. That has been a stabilizing scripture for me in difficult times. But the blessed times outweigh the bad times. We’ve had difficulties, but nothing insurmountable. Everything has been in the hands of the Lord. God has been in it. Most people are gracious and kind and receptive to me and my family. For that, I’m grateful to the Lord and grateful to my friends.”
        
Another favorite verse of scripture is Romans 1:16: For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. “I quoted it on my radio broadcast every day for 21 years, every morning, seven days a week,” he said.
         
Another favorite is Romans 8:28: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. “We can’t understand it all, but we know that it does.
       
“Also, for somebody that hasn’t been saved, I think about Romans 10:13: For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. That excludes no one. That includes everyone.
         
“Those are precious verses of scripture for me.”
         
Hester said that he would do all he could for others to accept Jesus Christ as Saviour. “People don’t realize they’re lost,” he said. “They have a religion but no relationship. You have to know the Lord to have a relationship. My son Bryan made a great statement to me when he and I were discussing church. He said, ‘Dad, people nowadays are looking for a happy religion. They’re not seeking a holy relationship.’ I’ve shared that with different churches where I’ve preached since then. I thought that was a sermon you could preach and dismiss and go home. That’s where we are now. We need to take the time to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, that, when they grow old, they’ll not depart from it. That’s what the scriptures teach us.”
        
A character from the Bible whom Hester admires is Job, because Job’s faith continued even after what happened to him. Other favorite biblical characters include John the Baptist, Paul, and Jonah. “All of the characters of the Bible are important to me,” he added.
        
Hester enjoys Gospel music. One of his favorite songs is “When I Get Up to Heaven,” which he says he wants his wife to sing at his funeral. “I love good singing,” he said. ‘My Dad was a musician. He played the piano and wrote music. Bryan is Minister of Music (at Pickens First Baptist Church). My wife is talented. I can’t sing. I can’t even play the radio without getting static. But I love music. I love good Gospel singing. I go back to the Southern Gospel music that I like more than any.”
        
Hester enjoyed a trip to Israel he took with Dr. Junior Hill and in a group. “I would probably go over there and live, if I could,” he said. “It’s a magnificent place. I would encourage every preacher to go in the early years of their ministry. We had a great time, seeing places I had read about come to life. You’re there. You’ve walked where Jesus walked. You’ve been where He was. When I’m preaching, I can think about it. Like Lazarus’ tomb – I laid down in his tomb. Something stays with you after you go there. When you’re preaching, and while you’re visualizing it, you’re sharing it with the people and they’re listening more effectively. It’s a great experience. You grow a lot. It’s one more wonderful, wonderful trip. I’d go back tomorrow if I had the opportunity.”
        
Hester lives in Easley, South Carolina and stays busy in the ministry. “I’ve preached in some of the largest churches in America, and I’ve preached in some of the smallest churches in America,” he said, adding, “If you’re too big to preach in a small church, you’re too small to preach in a big church. I never ask a church what size it is when they ask me to come. I never ask them what the offering is going to be. It’s a move by faith, and the Lord has always taken care of all of that down through the years. So, we go by faith. It’s a ministry of faith. God has blessed us. We’re busy all of the time, busier than I want to be.”
         
When asked how he would like to be remembered, Hester replied, “I’d like to be remembered as being faithful to the Lord, faithful to my wife, faithful to my family, and faithful to God’s Word, and being a friend to everybody.”



For details on purchasing Dr. Jack Hester’s autobiography, My Story For His Glory, visit his website, www.PastorJackHester.com.