On August 9, 2021, the Lord helped to complete 30 years of preaching. I am grateful today. I am grateful to God and to many people.
My maternal grandmother, Suganthi Jesudosson, told me this when I used to visit her home in Rajapalayam in South Tamil Nadu as a little boy (about 10): “Duke, I want to see you preaching!”
Shameen Prashantham, my class-mate in Ida Scudder was the one who was first asked to preach from the Stage in the Captains’ led School assembly on 9 August 1991. I would not have become the Lincoln House captain but for the surprise choice my English teacher, Emma Koshy ma’am made. Shameen got a first glimpse of me speaking to a small group when Jean Jebagnanam ma’am asked me to share in a fellowship held in a classroom during lunch. Shameen prepared me for 9 August 1991 as he gave me valuable feedback in a practice session before I got to speak to the 500 people on that day. One of the students fainted, too shocked by that raw, straight-from-the-Bible, passionate message on Who Will Go To Hell. Another class-mate would write in my school autograph book that he was “Zapped” when he heard me preach! A Jimmy Swaggart video tape message ‘Hell is no Joke’, was the inspiration for that message (No Youtube those days). My uncle Gnanasekaran was the first to get me a Jimmy Swaggart sermon tape. My parents did not even know that I would be preaching in the School assembly that day. They heard it from others that I had preached. My thinking went like this: “I will just preach this one time. I am sure I am going to be a failure in preaching. So, why bother my parents with this information?” But God had other ideas. His ways are higher. His thoughts are higher.
My voice is not striking like Amitabh Bachchan’s. It is a tad squeaky and sometimes unclear. But God, in his mercy, and in sovereign wisdom, still uses me as a preacher. I kiss His feet. I thank Him for enabling-grace. This is His doing and we rub our eyes, we can hardly believe it!
Dr. Mrs. Lilian Stanley’s mom, Mrs. Hepsi Padian, invited me to preach in Tanjore in a prayer meeting she organised in her home in the year 1992 (I was 17). It was the first time someone would pay for my travel and have me preach. Little did I know then, that I would have travelled to 20 different Indian States and 7 different Nations with the organisers paying for my travel and have me preach to various audiences – all in a span of 30 years!
In those years, Uncle Silas Maultkumar who worked in Christian Medical College and Hospital would take me to the Boys hostels of Christian Institutions in and around Vellore. And he would ask me to preach in English to those boys in rapidly-organised meetings. Our mode of transport was the town bus. And he would interpret into Tamil. He would tell me in jest: “We don’t need to do a skit, Duke. You preaching in English and me translating into Tamil itself looks like a skit!”
I must mention more names here as I hit the rewind button on my three-decade preaching journey. Uncle R. Stanley – I remember him coaching me four distinct times with regard to my preaching. After I preached in Tanjore as a 17 year old he told me to look up the ministry of Billy Graham (“He is possibly the best human example we have now!”). And I started to do that. I read the Billy Graham book, World Aflame, in my third year of B. Tech Agri Engg in Allahabad. Inspired by the many examples that Billy Graham cited in that book I learnt to wrap Bible Truth around contemporary events of interest. Uncle R. Stanley also coached me to preach in Halo 1998 in Sitteri Hills. When I preached in Halo 1998, a young men youth camp, I spoke to 1000 youth for the first ever time. Uncle Stanley gave me feedback on the eight messages I prepared to preach to an audience of Sri Lankan Tamil Youth in Germany, the year being 1998 (I was 23). He once drove me to TEL Hills near Vellore and gave me more tips and prayed for me (before I left for Germany on 09 April 1998). One line from his prayer still remains green in my memory: “When there are so many other better orators than us, Lord, you still chose us to preach your Word. Thank you!” Once when I told him, “Uncle, I get nervous before I preach!” he responded this way: “That is actually good. You will trust God more! Never come to a point where you think you can preach without God’s help or His enabling presence!”
Rev. S. A. Sundarraj, of the Vellore AG Church was my local church pastor then. He was a former DMK party Stage speaker. His Sunday Morning fiery, no-words-minced messages made me go, “I want to preach like my pastor, one day!”
Rev. Dr. Jacob Cherian taught me five courses in Southern Asia Bible College, Bangalore as I did my M. Div. from 1998-2001. He taught me to interpret the Bible and glean out fresh, hot-from-the-oven Bible Truth. He challenged me to preach from every book of the Bible and by God’s grace I have already done this (go to youtube and search ‘Duke Jeyaraj along with a Bible book name)!
Dr. David Balasingh was my preaching professor in Southern Asia Bible College. He gave me 70% which was the lowest marks I ever got in any exam when I was there (because I overshot time). But through that experience I learnt to manage time while preaching.
From Sir Ivan Satyavrata who was the President of Southern Asia Bible College when I was there I learnt to give altar calls after my messages. I would give altar calls not just for salvation messages and mission challenges but even for messages on Bible Meditation, Temptation, and whatnot. It has been my joy to see many respond all over. Two girls who responded to my ‘no sex before marriage’ altar call in 2001 when I preached in their school talked about how these altar call responses they chose to make helped them to overcome sexual tempation when they connected with me, years later! These scenes ensured that I did not have to take an early retirement from preaching.
I must thank all the partners of Grabbing the Google Generation from Gehenna Mission here. They were kind enough to keep sending sacrificial financial support wrapped with copious prayer support. And that is one reason why I am able to be a full-time preacher and writer. I thank God for each one of you – an overwhelming majority of whom, if not all, are Indians! Some of the young people who heard me preach in their schools (in 2000-2001), still support me financially long after! Some of the IT Professionals who heard me make a gospel presentation in their corporate campus (in 2008), a month after I quit my HSBC Global Resourcing job, still support me long after! God bless each one of you!
Sunny Karumanchi, Vikas Yadav, Ashish Paul, Naveen Vamsi, Prof Sheeba, Lijo – these are names of our ministry’s video editing volunteers. Florussel Satya was one of the first video volunteers. She came armed with her video recorder as I preached to students from the African continent in a small church in 2006. Uncle E. L. Ephraim edited my message in Blesso 2005 – an unforgettable missionary challenge for youth, one of my best ever messages, and that is on Youtube. If you have never seen me, or have met me, yet have seen my sermons, you must thank these precious people! They are the ones who take time out to create short/long message clips which get uploaded onto YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Above all, I want to thank God for my family. When I prepare a message, that area of the house becomes invariably messy. The newspapers are left open. Sometimes I work with three laptop/computer screens open, researching furiously. I am lost in thought during lunch or dinner because I am thinking of the message I need to soon deliver. Some of my best coined-words sermon outlines have come when I am eating with my family. That is not the way to be. But they still put up with me and giving all possible support. I don’t yes for a preaching invitation, without Evan’s approval. Dale has video recorded many of sermons. Datasha is most fierce critic among the Google Generation. God bless Evan, Dale and Datasha.
On the anniversary of my 30th anniversary of Preaching, I was preaching. I preached in a local church – a total of three sermons. I gave an altar call to a group of 70 youth in Kottivakkam AG Church in Chennai’s ECR. I preached to them from a story in the Bible that involved a Javelin-murder. I preached to them from the life of Prince Absalom even as they were still going gaga over Neeraj Chopra who won the Javelin Gold medal for India in the Tokyo Olympics. Nearly all of them rededicated their lives to Jesus. They raised their hands, stood up, knelt down, prayed and recommitted. It was a holy moment. I will keep preaching this as long as I breath in my nostrils, or till the return of Jesus, whichever comes early.
(Go to http://www.youtube.com/visitduke if you wish to hear Duke Jeyaraj’s messages. WhatsApp us at 91-8886040605 if you want to be included for meeting where Duke Jeyaraj will be speaker).