Fiercely introvertish. Super shy. That’s who I am still. That’s Duke Jeyaraj even now. But my God chose me – and when I get to heaven I will certainly ask him why – to preach His Word. 31 years ago as a 16 year old, I preached God’s Word from a stage for the first time as a class XII student of Ida Scudder School, Vellore, on this very day – 9th August. This journey has been marvelous and I fall down at His feet and worship Him acknowledging my nothingness. To each one of you who have ‘endured’ my sermons all these years I am most grateful.
Some of my preaching heroes are in heaven now. One of them is Rev. S. A. Sundarraj of Vellore-6 Assemblies of God. Once I paid a courtesy visit to him. He was in the church. He was the one who recommended me to Southern Asia Bible College for the M. Div. course. His face lit up as he saw me. He then asked me this question: “Will you preach the message in our church, this Sunday?” I was flattered. I was floored. Me, to preach in the church I went to week after week as a little boy? Me, to preach in the church where I was baptized in water? Me, to preach in the presence of my pastor?
When the day came – a Sunday in the month of May 2011 – Rev. S. A. Sundarraj introduced me to the congregation. He said, ‘Duke and me have a lot in common. We can start with anything we see or anything we have read in the newspaper and preach a message from that!’ And I went to preach a message that Sunday that was titled, Bible Lessons for Today’s Believers From India’s World Cup Win with Dorai Jasper annan interpreting into Tamil. The message can be heard here:
One of the joys that I have had in all these years of preaching is this: I have preached in meetings organised by others. By others I mean churches. By others, I mean parachurch organisations. By others I mean loosely-administered corporate company fellowships. By others I mean College Administrations or School Administrations. This way I have crossed many different boundaries and barriers. The kingdom of God has been built.
Another surprise that I have had in these 31 years of preaching is this: though I do not preach to get invited again, there are places I wanted again. Though I tell people what they should hear and not what they want to hear, in some cases, they want me back. For example, after I preached in a youth camp in Germany in 1998, the pastor wanted me back in 1999. I have been invited again to speak in a top medical college in their annual camp. Why do I say this? When you are faithful in executing God’s call upon you as a preacher, you will not become ‘jobless’! I am a witness!
Thank you for all your sacrificial support to my preaching over all these decades! I am ever so grateful!
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).
Duke Jeyaraj narrates an incident that took place in August 2011
While returning after a fruitful time of ministry in Nadiad (where I preached to 150 youth in a Methodist Church over 100 years old) in Gujarat to the Ahmedabad airport, I kissed the face of death.
To catch a 6:10 AM flight, I was travelling in a Maruti 800 in a National Highway seated in the second row right behind the driver. The driver was going at about 80 kms per hour. The time was about 4:45 AM. With my eyes closed, I was praying and praising God for the bunch of young people who came forward and gave their lives (after the first message titled, Five Solemn Facts About Salvation from the book of Galatians), their bodies to Christ (after the second message that called for sexual purity after an practical Bible exposition) in the meetings, the day before. Suddenly, the car ran over a dug-up patch in the poorly lit High Way and uncontrollably swerved to the right, wobbled violently, even as the driver desperately tried to control the vehicle in vain, only to rammed into the road divider. I guess the axle of the car had broken after the car hit the dug-up patch. For a moment, this is how my thoughts went: “Lord, I am coming home!” As a preacher who often talks and writes about sudden death, being in a situation where I could have died suddenly was an unforgettable experience – my first experience of this sort. I was ready to die. But the Lord’s time for me had not come. The front two wheels of the car I was in were up on the road divider and the car was slanted at 45 degrees. If the car had crossed the road divider and rolled over to the other side, a speeding vehicle from the other side of the High Way could have hit us. If the car had stopped on the same side of the road without going up the Road Divider, vehicles coming from behind could have hit us. But God prevented both from happening so graciously. Nothing happened to me, miraculously. Even my knees did not hit the front seat’s back! God protection upon me was so complete! You have been praying for me and the Lord according to sovereign plan and will protected me! I am grateful! The young man, the secretary of the Methodist Youth Fellowship of that part of Gujarat, who sat next to the driver had injuries to his leg. Nothing major, thankfully. The driver and the young missionary who sat next to me in the back seat, did not have any injury too. Within minutes of this happening, another car slowed down. The two young men in the car, helped us get our car which was now stuck on the road divider. They helped us start our car again before leaving. I thanked them profusely and gave them a Gospel tract. But the car we were in, did not run too long after that. So, I had to catch an auto to go to the Ahmedabad airport. I was late for my direct flight to Hyderabad by a few minutes and consequently missed it. But the organisers were very kind to organise another ticket for me to fly back to Hyderabad via Mumbai safely the same day. God is good!
Note: You can listen to the three messages I preached during this trip here: