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Old Time Religion

Old-Time Religion

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Some may consider Assemblies of God evangelist Timothy Franklin Collins old-fashioned, a throwback, an anachronism. Indeed, his business card explains that he is available to preach at events largely from a bygone era: revivals, crusades, camp meetings, and Southern gospel concerts.

The same business card also explains that his preaching is solidly biblical, consistently evangelistic, intensely passionate, and unabashedly Pentecostal — traits surely out of step with a culture awash with anything-goes morality.

But Collins, 64, is finding an audience today just as he has since the age of 7, when he preached his first sermon at an Assemblies of God church near his native Phenix City, Alabama. At the age of 10, he preached a spontaneous weeklong revival at a Pentecostal church in Columbus, Georgia.

“The Holy Spirit enabled me to preach from one Sunday to the next Sunday,” recalls Collins, 64. “I only had three sermons in my repertoire: heaven’s real, hell’s hot, and Jesus is coming back.”

The family didn’t have a television set when he grew up, so Collins spent a lot of time reading the Bible and other books. Plus he heard his father, AG pastor W.E. Collins, deliver a lot of sermons.

“From the moment I could talk I was preaching,” says Collins, a storyteller with a wry sense of humor. “I preached to a lot of dogs and cats and empty pews before I preached to a congregation.”

He makes no apologies for being an old-line Pentecostal evangelist who preaches about the reality of sinfulness and the need for the good news.

Collins believes the Lord called him to preach while still in the womb. So did his mother, Elvie, who told him she heard the audible voice of God telling her to name him Timothy as a link to the apostle Paul’s missionary companion.

The summer before his senior year in high school, Collins got a taste of the itinerant life, traveling primarily as a singer for the Sam Anderson evangelistic team. Collins, a featured singer, traveled on a Greyhound bus from city to city across the South. After graduating from high school, Collins worked as an evangelist, but only part time.

“My dad, like most country preachers, was bivocational,” Collins remembers. “So I figured I would go in the Air Force to earn a living.” While based in Dover, Delaware, then near Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Collins preached evangelistic meetings on the side.

He remained on active duty in the Air Force for eight years, earning a community college associate’s degree in avionics and electronics technology along the way. Then he says he felt compelled by the Lord to enter full-time ministry.

Collins transferred to the Air National Guard, with his superiors allowing him to drill on the occasional Friday and Saturday so he could preach on Sunday.

He pastored a pair of AG congregations in Alabama for nearly a combined 10 years, then spent a decade leading Central Assembly of God in Independence, Missouri, ending in 2005.

Then, he says, the Lord called him to be a full-time traveling evangelist. In the early days, Collins often preached a weeklong series of meetings.

“There is some value in having several days to preach,” says Collins, who completed his studies for credentials through the AG’s Global University. “I can develop a rapport with people and they trust me to pray with them.”

Of course during much of 2020-21 during the COVID-19 pandemic, Collins found his once-full schedule fairly empty. Until churches began holding services regularly again, he bided his time as a handyman doing carpentry and electrical work. He developed an online venue for preaching.

These days, Collins is holding services again, but more often than not, he has only a Sunday morning and evening to preach.

“The template may have changed, there may not be weeklong revivals anymore, but evangelists need to bring some outside DNA,” Collins says.

“The reality is we do need to hear the evangelist’s voice,” says John R. Martz, pastor of Blue Springs Assembly in Missouri the past quarter century. “We need someone to come in and declare, This is what God’s Word says.”

Martz, 59, says an evangelist who is here today and gone tomorrow can bring a convicting message easier than the pastor who is in the pulpit week in and week out.

“An evangelist will challenge people and draw their hearts back toward repentance and back to God,” Martz says. “A pastor saying the same message might sound self-serving.” Martz has Collins preach annually at Blue Springs Assembly — which Collins attends when he’s not on the road.

Collins typically preaches twice a year at Belton Assembly of God in Missouri, according to Don D. Butterfield, who has been senior pastor for 26 years.

“Tim has a unique way of bringing across the Word of God clearly,” says Butterfield, 64. “He breaks down the Word of God so people can grasp the truth.”

Collins married his wife, Debora Kay, when both were just 19. The couple met at church. They have three grown children: Nicolas, C.J., and Rachel.

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