Witnessing And Caring

“You don’t have to tell me, brother,” said a Nashville taxi driver once to a fare who was describing his destination. “That’s where I go to get the man who looks like he needs a haircut and always talks to me about my soul.”

The man the taxi driver meant is a 71-year-old bachelor, Harry Denman, who is the retiring general secretary of the Board of Evangelism of The Methodist Church and the designated recipient of the 1965 Upper Room Citation. The editor of The Upper Room,The world’s most widely used devotional guide (circulation over three million, published in thirty-six languages), The Upper Room will mark its thirtieth anniversary this year. Dr. J. Manning Potts, approached Denman a few weeks ago and told him that he had been selected. Denman’s characteristic reaction was: “I am unworthy of it. It ought not to be given to me.”

Despite his reluctance, Dr. Denman’s name will be added to a distinguished list of recipients of the citation, including John Mott, Ralph Sockman, Frank Laubach, G. Bromley Oxnam, and Billy Graham. Graham has called Denman “the greatest practitioner of personal evangelism in America.” Potts calls him “the most loved” lay evangelist.

“All I’ve done is what all of us are supposed to do as Christians,” Denman says.

His official title and his D.D. and Litt.D. degrees are not likely to convey an adequate picture of the man. For years he has refused to draw his salary (the board pays his living expenses) and has lived under a virtual rule of poverty. After one speaking engagement, the host church offered to have him fitted for an expensive suit in lieu of the money he refused.

“I couldn’t take a suit,” he said. “What do I need with a suit? I already have one suit.”

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