...An Example to Follow
There is a long list of people who have influenced me, both musically and spiritually.
I REMEMBER is a way I can share the stories of these people. One of the most
influential was the honorable Rev. Vesphew Benton (Vep) Ellis.
I first became acquainted with him through his songs, then as a musician and singer.
Later I got to know him as a minister, pastor and evangelist. He excelled at all.
The unusual thing is that I wasn't around him that much to hear him preach, teach or
sing, but there was just something about the man that drew me to him. We never had
a conversation as to what direction I should pursue in life, and he never suggested anything to me except by the
life he was living and the direction he was going.
From the beginning, I saw a man who could have had the biggest Gospel music career of his day, but he chose
another direction. May that is what got my attention and spoke to me so forcefully. He evidently found a better
purpose in life.
It was evident that he was called to minister. It was also very evident that being a husband to his beloved Pat was
a top priority. So was being a father to David, Vep Jr., Richard, Ward and Julia. The music in his life was in the
proper place. Frank Stamps once quoted Vep Ellis, "I had rather be known as a preacher who sings than a singer
who preaches." And that is how he is remembered today.
What is also known is that he is considered one of the most prolific songwriters in Gospel music history. Among
Vep's best-known compositions were such classics as "Let Me Touch Him," "Am I a Soldier of the Cross?"
"Expect a Miracle," "The Love of God", "My God Can Do Anything" and "Do You Know My Jesus?" His songs have
been recorded by a who's who in the Gospel, country and pop industries. In all, he penned and published more
than 500 songs.
In addition, he ministered nearly 50 years before passing away in 1988 at the age of 71. Along the way he
recorded five albums and numerous singles. He also served for several years as music director for Oral Roberts
Ministries, music director of the Tennessee Music and Printing Company and pastor of the large and successful
Harvest Temple Church of God in Largo, Florida.
During one of my last times with him, a visit that lasted for hours, he told me a story that happened early in his life
when he was offered a job with the Columbia Broadcasting Network. His talent had come to the attention of a top
CBS executive, and he was called in for an interview. He was told that if the exec spent 15 minutes with him, he
would be "in." The interview lasted 45 minutes, and Vep was offered a spot on the network.
"Everything was going great," Vep said, "until towards the end of the interview, I was told that if I took the CBS
offer, I would have to keep Jesus out of my songs. That was it for me. I stood up, walked to the door, turned and
said to the executive, `Sir, if you ever see me again, I will be with Jesus. Goodbye!"
That's the sort of man he was. Not taking a stand for his Lord Jesus was unthinkable.
When I think of this remarkable man whose music and ministry continues to have an impact around the world
today, I am reminded of what the apostle Paul said to his followers: "Those things, which ye have both learned,
and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you" (Philippians 4:9).
Without speaking a word, Vep Ellis had a way of trailblazing. Something about him said, "Henry, this is the way to
go. Follow me as we both follow Jesus."
I did, and I'm so grateful for the precious man of God who loved Jesus enough to live his life as an example to so
many, including me.
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