Not A Bible Belt Evangelist

At 75 years of age, Michael Gott preaches at a pace of 400 sermons per year. During his 50-year ministry as an evangelist he believes that he very likely has preached more sermons than any other living Southern Baptist. “I now have preached more than 22,000 sermons – many times as much as five times per day. For over 50 years I have averaged approximately 1 ½ sermons per day.” But he would desire that everyone understands that he would run from any spotlight placed on himself. Instead he quickly says, “It has been a great chapter; a great story of God’s goodness and grace.”

As a young man, Michael’s father was sitting in a coffee shop in Beaumont, Texas when a gentleman walked over to him and introduced himself. He basically said, “My name is Conrad Hilton and I will begin building and opening hotels. I am looking for young men that I can train as chefs. Would you be interested?” Michael’s father became one of the first two chefs for the Hilton Hotel chain. He was the chef at the first Hilton, which was in Lubbock, Texas, where Michael was born. (Ironically, Michael’s wife, Jan, was born five years later at the same hospital and delivered by the same doctor as Michael.)

The family moved back to the Houston area because his father became the chef at the Shamrock Hilton in downtown Houston. They lived in the, then small town of Livingston, Texas. His dad would stay in Houston for five of the seven days each week and would only be home for two days at a time. Michael says that he basically had an absentee father during those days.

When the San Diego Hilton opened, Michael’s father turned down the opportunity to transfer as chef there and resigned to go into the dairy business, which ran into challenging times and he eventually sold everything off to pay his debts. He submitted his prestigious resume to a very exclusive country club in Houston and became their executive chef. Mr. Gott would provide meals for five United States Presidents, up through Richard Nixon.

Michael says of his high school years, “I was a rebel before I became a Christian; not in the sense of doing bad things, but I was a rebel because I didn’t care anything about education.” But he would eventually graduate from Baylor University and even spend two great years of study at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

At the age of seventeen and almost finished with high school, Michael accepted Christ and immediately believed that he was called by God to preach. “I preached my first sermon the night I made my public profession of faith,” Michael says. The pastor said, “Michael we have accepted you into our church. Do you have a word for us?” Never being the shy type, Michael took this opportunity to preach a ten-minute sermon. “It was just natural for me,” he remembers.

From the very beginning he had the deep desire to communicate the good news of the Gospel of Christ. After his second and third sermons, numerous people from the congregation would approach him and say, “God has chosen you to be an evangelist.” He didn’t recognize it personally, but many ordinary people in the pews confirmed this to him. Shortly after he announced his call to preach, he began receiving invitations to preach revivals. So, not only the ordinary church members, but pastors also began affirming this to him.

A pastor in Lubbock called Michael to come and preach a revival there. Here he would meet his wife and life ministry partner, Jan. He was 20 years old and she was 15 years old. When they first met he was impressed that he should marry her. Of course, she had a boyfriend – she was a cheerleader. But, this boyfriend would later prove to be an asset to their marriage.

The first time Jan and Michael met, Jan asked him, “What do you believe God’s will is for your life?” Michael’s immediate response was, “God has called me to be an evangelist and I believe He wants me to be an international evangelist.” Michael remembers, “Here is a 20-year-old saying this to a 15-year-old cheerleader whom he had met for the first time.” He says that in their minds, from the moment they were married they both believed they would be involved in international evangelism.

At the end of that first revival he preached in Lubbock, the church presented Michael with a love offering check. He endorsed it and gave it to Jan’s boyfriend and asked him to open a savings account for him at a savings and loan in Lubbock. He added to it over the next five years, at which time he drew the money from that account to buy Jan’s wedding ring. So, from his first revival came the funds, deposited by her boyfriend, that would unite this ministry couple for a lifetime of international evangelism. God has His ways!

As he began to pursue his education, Michael was given some wise counsel from friends, encouraging him to attend a junior college before applying at Baylor University. His first two years were at Jacksonville College in Jacksonville, Texas. Then at Baylor his ministry calling and heart’s desire for international evangelism would begin to come into focus and take direction.

Dr. Kyle M. Yates, professor of religion at Baylor, took a special interest in Michael. Intrigued by Dr. Yates’ personal library, Michael was encouraged to read many of the books, especially those written by Scottish preachers. Finally, Dr. Yates told Michael that he believed he should attend the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He then proceeded to convince the Baylor University staff, resulting in Dr. Ray Summers, head of the Religion Department, and Baylor President Abner McCall writing letters of recommendation to Edinburgh. Michael was awarded a two-year scholarship to the University of Edinburgh, where he studied under the famous Scottish preacher, James Stuart Stewart.

During these two years, Michael’s desire to preach in Europe deepened dramatically. “Edinburgh gave me the understanding of what it would be like to be a true international evangelist. It was in my heart from the beginning.” Michael is forever grateful to Baylor University as he says, “I owe a great debt to Baylor University for all of the things that have happened in my life.”

After a year of study at Edinburgh, Michael came home to preach in summer youth revivals. He and Jan had written letters but had never had a date together. “Only after she said yes to my marriage proposal, did I kiss her for the first time.” His unique marriage proposal went like this, “Would you consider going back to Scotland with me?” Michael says, “She understood that to mean marriage.” They were married on September 23, a very special date in the family. Jan’s parents were married on September 23, and Amy, Jan and Michael’s daughter, was born on September 23.

They spent the next year at Edinburgh and after Amy was born, they made a forty-day trip to nine of the fifteen republics in the Soviet Union. They realized this was God’s plan for their lives – preaching the Gospel in many different countries.

Michael says, “Most Southern Baptist evangelists are ‘Bible Belt Evangelists,’ preaching in churches in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas and Louisiana.”  But from the very beginning, Michael has thought differently about his ministry. “I always thought of myself preaching in Scotland, Germany, Finland, Holland and Eastern Europe when the opportunity opened.” (At that time Eastern Europe was closed to evangelistic efforts.)

Michael emphasizes, “I’m not a typical Southern Baptist evangelist. I am not a ‘Bible Belt Evangelist.’ God called me to minister in this world and there are very few countries in Europe that I haven’t preached in.”

Michael fought an intensive struggle against cancer in 2014/2015. The original x-ray pictures revealed cancer through his throat and torso. He entered a four-month chemotherapy treatment and his worldwide prayer team began doing what they do and asked God to heal him. Three weeks into the treatments the doctors were totally amazed because the x-rays now showed that the cancer was gone. The treatment continued, but the doctors had no answer to the obvious miracle.

Michael says, “I can’t say that I am cured of cancer. I can say that God has supernaturally extended my life. God has blessed and we are today scheduled through 2018 and into 2019. If God extends my life, it will be something that will come to an amazing crescendo that only God could do.”

Today Michael continues to preach at a fevered pace. He preaches alongside interpreters that are in their thirties, averaging 1 ½ sermons each day. Many times, the interpreters tire and must be replaced by another, replying, “I don’t know how he does it. I can’t keep my voice and my strength.” One person just can’t keep up to Michael’s pace.

Michael gives all the glory to God, “I believe it is supernatural and it is the fulfilling of the task God chose for me to accomplish.” He remarked, “I am a 35-year-old evangelist in a 75-year-old body!”

In my next post, I want to expand on Michael’s career and explain his unique relationship and ministry with the Singing Men of Texas.

Michael Gott is a lover of Jesus and a lover and servant of people. Thank you, Michael, for determining to fulfill the task God gave you. I know you would not be happy doing anything less.