Dr. Phil Hoskins
“He was one of the sweetest, kindest, most beautiful little brown-haired, brown-eyed, most precious little boys you’ve ever seen in your life.” Dr. Phil Hoskins, evangelist and Pastor of Higher Ground Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tennessee, described his eight-year-old nephew, Dwayne, who was diagnosed with acute leukemia a few years ago.
“He loved me, and I loved him,” Hoskins said of his nephew. “He’d get dressed up like a preacher and go with me to church. He loved his Uncle Phil. I never will forget when they told us that he had leukemia and that it was acute. It shattered our world.”
On the last day of his life, after visiting with his family in the hospital room, Dwayne wanted to be alone with his grandmother, Juanita Hoskins.
“The favorite person in his life, beyond his mama, was my mama,” said Hoskins. “He loved for her to rock him and to hold him and to sing to him.” Recalling that last day of his nephew’s life, Hoskins, said, “Mom sat in a rocking chair, and my brother got Dwayne out of the bed and placed him in my mother’s arms. She held him and began to rock and to sing. After 15 minutes, my Mom just lost it. There was a sudden realization that, only in a matter of hours, our little buddy would not be with us anymore.
“In all of his pain, little Dwayne raised up out of my Mama’s arms and looked into her eyes and said, ‘Mamaw, are you crying over me?’ And she said, ‘Yes. Yes, I am.’ And he smiled, and he said, ‘Mamaw, don’t you cry anymore. Stop crying, Mamaw. Don’t cry anymore, ‘cause I’m going to live with Jesus.’ And those words dried my mother’s tears.
“My little buddy had a saving faith, because, when he was seven years old, I had the privilege of turning to the book of Romans and walking the Roman Road to Calvary with my little nephew, and he prayed the sweetest little prayer and asked Jesus to come into his heart. My little nephew is in heaven, not because he was a church member or because his Papaw was a Baptist preacher or for any other reason but that he had experienced a saving faith, because, when he was seven years old, he went by the way of the cross and gave Jesus his little heart. That’s all that matters at the end of the way.”
Hoskins gave his own heart to the Lord at an early age, becoming a Christian at age nine. Five years later, he surrendered his life to the ministry. “I knew the call of God was on my life,” he told this writer, in an interview with The Christian View. “When I was 14, I surrendered, and I began preaching two weeks from that night.”
He preached his first sermon, on Naaman the Leper, in 1969 at Blessed Hope Baptist Church, where his father, Rev. James ‘Jim’ Hoskins, pastored, in his hometown of Kingsport, Tennessee. “It was a small country church,” he said. “We had about 40 people. I have precious memories of old-time religion being alive and well in that little church.”
As a high school student, Hoskins spoke at youth services and youth revivals. After graduating from East Tennessee State University and Milligan College, he earned his Doctor of Theology degree from Andersonville Baptist Theological Seminary.
He served as a full-time evangelist for 13 years prior to taking the pastorate of Higher Ground Baptist Church in January, 1991. Under his leadership, church membership has grown from 150 to 3,400.
“My years as a Pastor have changed my style of preaching,” he said. “Before, I was totally focused on winning people to Christ. But now, as a Pastor, discipleship and dealing with people who are despondent and depressed, with family crises and interpersonal relationship problems, changes the style of preaching dramatically.
“I enjoy seeing our people grow,” he said. “Since I have been at a church for this number of years, children who were small when I came are now graduating from high school and entering the workforce and getting married. People I baptized as children now have children I have the opportunity to baptize.” It has been a blessing, he said, to receive calls and letters and e-mails and cards from those who came to Christ under his ministry. “They thank me for preaching the Word and for remaining faithful to my call,” he said. “So many people have seen Pastors and evangelists who were in the ministry but who are no longer there, and they’re encouraged to see those who have been long-term in ministry.”
He met his wife, Brenda, at Higher Ground. They have been married for 15 years and have two daughters, McKenzie, born in 1994, and Madison, born in 2004.
“I think my greatest blessing was when the Lord brought Brenda into my life,” he said. “I did not marry until I was 35. I had been an evangelist for almost 13 years and had spent 45 to 46 weeks a year on the road. My life changed at the age of 35, when I got married. Then, with the birth of our two daughters, there has been a great change there, as well. I remember the worry and fret the first time our first child got sick. I remember how my Mom used to kid me, when I would tell her that she worried too much. She would say, ‘Some day, you’ll have a child of your own, and you’ll know what it’s like.’ I think that, after a person has a child, they can know the heart of God better, because, when a child hurts, you hurt, and you can relate to the suffering and the heart of God when He gave Jesus to die for us.” His greatest memory of being in the ministry, he said, was the night his then nine-year-old daughter McKenzie came to him at the end of a Sunday evening service and told him she wanted to be saved. “I led her to the Lord on the spot,” he said.
“The greatest encourager in my ministry is my wife,” he said. “She has been my encourager, but she is honest with me. She keeps me in tow.”
His father, who was a bi-vocational Pastor for almost 40 years, has been his greatest mentor in the faith. “He had no formal education, but he was my mentor and my role model,” said Hoskins. Both of his parents are now faithful members of Higher Ground. “My Mom and Dad are godly people,” he said. “They are both 85 years old and are still going strong.
“Another individual who has greatly influenced my life and ministry is Dr. Bill Stafford,” he said. “He is an evangelist in the Southern Baptist Convention. I heard him preach when I was a young boy. His approach to grace giving and the spirit-filled life really challenged me as a young person, and I carry that with me today. He is a wonderful man.”
Another mentor has been Dr. Sam Cathey. “Dr. Sam has been there when I’ve needed a Pastor and needed a friend,” he said. “Have you heard the statement that Pastors don’t have a Pastor? Dr. Sam is my Pastor. If I’m in a situation where I need advice or help or instruction, I call him. He has been a great encouragement to me.”
Hoskins has preached in more than 600 revivals and crusades. “I look at the opportunities God has given me to preach and to minister in so many places, and I wonder why He has chosen me,” he said. “I shared that with a Pastor one night. I was preaching in Virginia Beach, and there was Dr. Jerry Vines and Dr. Fred Wolfe and Dr. Johnny Hunt and all of these great preachers. I said, ‘What am I doing on this program?’ He said, ‘Phil, as long as you have that attitude, you’ll always be on those programs.’ I’m not sure why the Lord is letting me do it, but I’m enjoying it.”
His favorite book of the Bible from which to preach is I John. “The book of I John is a letter of instruction and tells us what we need to do,” he said. “I like the book of I John because it is a book of fellowship. It tells us how to fellowship with the Father and how to fellowship with our family.”
His favorite verses from Scripture are 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, and Isaiah 40:31, But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
He uses many different types of Bibles from which to study and to preach. His favorites are a Criswell Study Bible and a Thompson Chain Reference Bible.
He also enjoys reading works by Dr. Charles Stanley, Dr. John Hagee, and Dr. Bailey Smith.
Preparing for sermons is a challenging experience, said Hoskins. “I normally try to do a series on specific titles,” he said. “I’ve done a series on the spirit-filled life, on spiritual warfare, and on the family. Committing myself to a series helps me to be more disciplined in having to study to prepare new material. I review other works from several authors and commentaries by Dr. John Phillips, and I do my best to work up something that will be fresh and presentable.
“Probably the sermons that I’ve preached that have received the most recognition are a sermon called Jesus Passed By, from Luke 19, the sermon Calvary Through the Eyes of Angels, and a message that I preach on faith from Hebrews 11.
“I think the greatest sermons I’ve ever heard as far as reaching people for Christ are Dr. Bailey Smith’s sermon The Wheat andthe Tares and Dr. Junior Hill’s sermon Four Roads to Hell.”
Hoskins admires John the Baptist, from Scripture. “God placed him in position to be the forerunner of Christ,” he said. “I think that one of the most awesome statements in the Bible is when many people mistook John the Baptist to be the Messiah, and he said, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only the forerunner of Christ. I have come to be the one to prepare the way for Him. I have baptized you with water into repentance, but there is one coming after me, and He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”
Hoskins said that he would advise other preachers “to study hard, pray hard, and never try to be like anybody else, but take what abilities God has given you to be what He has called you to be.
“My mission in life is to win as many people to Jesus as I can,” he said. “Deep within the heart of every individual is a desire to worship God. And Jesus is very clear that the only way to God is through Him. For anyone who is not a follower of Christ, Romans 10 will clearly show the map to the Father.”
Hoskins believes that the spiritual condition of our country and our world is at an all-time low. “Things are only going to get worse,” he said. “I think we’re in preparation for the coming of Christ. Everybody should be ready, because there is nothing keeping Jesus from coming today.”
He advises Christians to “be faithful, stay focused, and finish the course.
“I want to be remembered as one who finished the race,” he said. “In the Greek Olympics, it was not the runner who crossed the finish line first who won the race. It was the runner who crossed the finish line with his lamp still burning. The Christian life has had a lot of good starters, but few faithful finishers. At the end of my life, when the time comes for me to die, I want to cross the finish line with my lamp still burning for the Lord.”