Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart Preaching

A Brief Biography of Jimmy Swaggart

Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature
(Mark 16:15)

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The Reverend Jimmy Swaggart has preached the gospel of Jesus Christ on television longer than any other American evangelist in history. From the time Mr. Swaggart launched into full-time ministry in 1955 until now, where he preaches to a worldwide audience through his SonLife Broadcasting Network, the number of people who have heard him minister live and on television is incalculable.

The Beginning
Jimmy Lee Swaggart was born March 15, 1935, in Ferriday, Louisiana to parents W.L. and Minnie Bell Swaggart. After a dramatic salvation experience at the age of eight, young Swaggart felt the call of God on his life. He spent hours reading the Bible, praying, and, after a certain revival meeting, decided to ask God for the talent to play the piano.

Young Jimmy Swaggart at Piano

The Music
Musical ability runs in the Swaggart family. Both W.L. and Minnie Bell were gifted musicians. During the Great Depression, they were able to earn a few precious dollars by playing the fiddle and guitar at dances. And two of Reverend Swaggart’s cousins rose to fame in the music industry—rock ’n roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis and country music superstar Mickey Gilley. But unlike his cousins, Reverend Swaggart did not rely on natural ability. Instead, he promised the Lord that if He would give him the talent to play the piano, Jimmy would never use it in the ways of the world—a promise he has kept to this day. Along with the talent that God did give him to play the piano, Reverend Swaggart believes the Lord also gave him an understanding of what the Holy Spirit wants regarding praise and worship—a perception demonstrated throughout his music ministry.

Reverend Swaggart’s first album, Some Golden Daybreak, was released in 1958 and became an immediate favorite. Since then, he has sold more than 17 million recordings. Awards and recognition for his musical accomplishments include:

  • 1974: Favorite Gospel Music Artist for Singing News.
  • 1976: Grammy Awards nomination for Best Album (Live From Nashville)
  • 1977: Male Vocalist of the Year by Record World Magazine; Dove Award finalist in three categories: Male Vocalist of the Year, TV Program of the Year, and Instrumentalist of the Year
  • 1978: Dove Finalist as Instrumentalist of the Year
  • 1980: Dove Award finalist in four Categories: Children’s Album of the Year (Color Me A Story); Instrumentalist of the Year, Year’s best Traditional Album (Homeward Bound); Best Gospel Album of the Year (Worship); and Grammy Awards finalist (Worship)

A young Jimmy Swaggart

On Radio
Jimmy Swaggart Ministries (JSM) has been on radio for fifty-one continuous years. The Campmeeting Hour, Reverend Swaggart’s first radio program, aired on January 1, 1969, in Atlanta, Georgia. Within five years, The Campmeeting Hour was airing on seven hundred radio stations in the United States. In 1995, JSM started the SonLife Radio Network, which currently airs on seventy-eight radio stations around the world and on the internet. Today, the ministry owns and operates seventy-five radio stations that carry programming twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

In Print
In 1970, Reverend Swaggart published the first issue of The Evangelist magazine—a magazine that has printed, without interruption, for fifty consecutive years. What started as a four-page, black-and-white newsletter has grown into a fifty-two page full-color magazine filled with articles written by the JSM senior staff and advertisements that display all ministry products including more than one hundred books and Bible commentaries authored by Reverend Swaggart. In 2005, the evangelist released his life’s work, The Expositor’s Study Bible (ESB), which has since been translated into Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. More than four million of these Bibles have been sold and over two million have been donated by ministry supporters to pastors in third world countries.

On Television
In 1973 Reverend Swaggart started production of a thirty-minute weekly television program titled, The Jimmy Swaggart Evangelistic Association Presents Jimmy Swaggart, also known as the Jimmy Swaggart telecast. That same year, the evangelist hired a local television crew to tape his meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana. At that time, his was the Christian organization attempting to tape live church services. The process took some refining, but by 1975, Reverend Swaggart and his television crews were able to capture the services live and replay them on his weekly program. In 1979, The Jimmy Swaggart Broadcast increased to a one-hour format and was watched by millions of viewers on Sunday mornings. Two years later, in 1981, Reverend Swaggart added a thirty-minute daily television program called A Study In The Word, which still airs today.

The sudden growth from television presented the next step in world evangelism: translating the broadcast so the programming could be seen—and heard—in the native languages of other countries. This was another groundbreaking effort that no other Christian network at that time had attempted, but with the help of excellent interpreters, the programming was soon translated into the following languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Italian, Dutch, Persian (Farsi), Swahili, Xhosa (Zulu), Arabic, Thai, Chinese (Mandarin for Taiwan), and Afrikaans.
The Crusades
Throughout the 1980s, Reverend Swaggart’s television programming transmitted to more than three thousand television stations and innumerable cable systems each week. He and his crusade team averaged fifteen meetings per year in major cities across the United States and in more than forty different countries including: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Liberia, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Russia, and South Africa. In some of these countries, the coliseums and stadiums seated up to 100,000 people, and when Reverend Swaggart ministered, they were packed to capacity. These huge services, which later aired on television, resulted in possibly the greatest harvest of souls in history.
Jimmy Swaggart Ministries reached beyond preaching to the masses. In traveling to countries around the world, the evangelist visited poverty-stricken areas and saw the desperate need for local churches and schools. Soon after airing the telecast in Central America, South America, and Haiti, JSM started to fund and build in these countries—Bible schools, churches, and one hundred forty-four local schools (including teacher salaries). Each school could take in five hundred to one thousand children up to grade six, and was able to feed the children and staff one hot meal every day at noon. For many, this was the only meal they received each day. Throughout its history, Jimmy Swaggart Ministries has also teamed with countless missionaries in their service to the Lord around the globe, including Mark Buntain and his work in Calcutta, India.
The Ministry Complex
Jimmy Swaggart Ministries is located in historic Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with facilities that spread across one hundred acres. In 1984, Family Worship Center—the ministry’s home church and where Reverend Swaggart serves as senior pastor—opened its doors for the first time. The architectural design of the church is circular in plan with lively acoustics and a gentle slope toward the altar that makes it ideal for those in the congregation to experience the music and ministry in a powerful way. That same year, The Jimmy Swaggart Bible College welcomed students to its brand-new campus where they would receive Bible-based instruction to become pastors, teachers, evangelists, missionaries, and church administrators.

Jimmy Swaggart Ministering at Family Worship Center
The SonLife Broadcasting Network
In 2010, after fifty-five years of full-time ministry, Reverend Swaggart launched the SonLife Broadcasting Network (SBN), owned and operated by Jimmy Swaggart Ministries. All programming generated for the twenty-four hour Christian network originates from the platform of Family Worship Center and the ministry’s onsite television studios. In addition to broadcasting live church services, regularly scheduled SBN programs include: A Study in the Word, the ministry’s flagship program; The Message of the Cross, a panel hosted by Reverend Swaggart; Frances & Friends, a two-hour panel hosted by Frances Swaggart that invites viewers to call in; Generation of the Cross, hosted by Gabriel Swaggart; Insight, a news program with a biblical perspective, The Story Behind the Song, hosted by Donnie Swaggart; and Jimmy Swaggart Crusade Classics.

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