Some two-thousand-years ago, out of a hot-dusty desert to the broad banks of the river Jordan, came John the Baptist preaching the acceptable year of the Lord. He came forth with a message of repentance and a divine mission to point to the Christ, the Son of the living God. Though John had a poor and humble beginning, his message was used mightily by God to bring men to accept the Saviour of all mankind.
Then jumping forward in time to the year of 1933, in a north-side-Chicago neighborhood, a handful of God’s chosen servants also had an appointment with destiny. Like John, they too had received an unction by the Holy Spirit. None of these concerned Christians who were gathered together in earnest prayer and discussion that day were big business tycoons, railroad barons, or descendants of wealthy families. They were not meeting to put together another giant-financial conglomerate in Chicago.
It was a typical-wintry Chicago day on this eventful Friday in March. A raw-bone-chilling wind was blowing great drops of rain as it whistled down LaSalle Street. Stormy Lake Michigan tossed and churned just a few hundred yards east of the Walter Will’s residence at 1426 LaSalle Street. However, weather was not the topic of the discussion that had brought together Rev. O.L. Ford, Rev. S.M. Smith, Rev. Robert Adkins and Mr. and Mrs. Walter Wills. Even though it was chilly outside, the hearts of these godly souls were warmed by the witness of the Holy Spirit assuring them that their meeting had a great purpose and divine destiny.
Please keep in mind that at this particular time ministers had to align themselves with a denomination in order to receive their ministerial credentials, regardless of where they felt the Holy Spirit was leading them to go. Women were barred from receiving ordination and were unwelcome in many ministerial circles.
Remember too, this meeting was at a time when not-being affiliated with a mainline church meant many pulpits were closed and off limits to independent preachers. However, these visionary, missionary and pioneering spirits who were meeting together felt that recognition and dignity ought to be accorded men and women who were called to minister the Word of God even though they were not ministers in a denomination.
After much time in devoted prayer and heart-searching discussion, these pioneer preachers felt that God was directing them to birth an independent ministry that would be far reaching. The vision God had given them would launch not-only-one independent ministry, but thousands of independent ministries around the world!
No one on LaSalle Street, nor in all of Chicago or on the earth, knew what was happening in the Heavenlies as these men of God began to earnestly bombard Heaven for the beginning of the fulfillment of the independent ministry God had laid on their hearts. Only the Lord knew of all the ministers around the world who would one day launch into their God-called ministries because of this meeting.
As these men prayed and planned, an association began to emerge that would have absolutely no church denominational restrictions. This alliance of independent ministers and congregations would be held together by bonds of love and fellowship instead of creeds and bylaws.
E.M.A.’s First Office
Chicago - 1933
They foresaw a Christian fellowship of preachers and their congregations endeavoring to keep the unity of the faith, believing that in essentials we must have unity, in nonessentials liberty, and in all things charity.
They recognized that this was to be an association of congregations and ministers where only God’s Word would be the rule governing conduct, and no one’s own personal convictions would be imposed upon another.
As they further sought God’s will concerning this, they realized the first step they were to take that day was to provide an association for independent, autonomous clergymen. Therefore, a nonprofit association was created to recognize and assist the nonaffiliated, independent preachers in responding to God’s calling for their lives. Finally, God-called men and women with full privileges afforded them by ordination could go forth to carry out the Great Commission. Now they could enjoy the fruits of a certified ministry regardless of where they labored in the Lord’s vineyard.
The founders of this ministry felt, after much prayer and carefully deliberation, that God was leading them to establish an association of like-minded ministers and congregations. Multiple messengers’ of God’s Word would be united from the four corners of the world in joint evangelistic ministry and brotherhood by the Spirit through this association. They would answer one calling, unite for one purpose and be bound together to move towards one goal. This goal being to bring souls to the knowledge and saving grace of our Lord and Saviour and bring glory to His name! Therefore, the name of this new independent ministry would be... Evangelistic Messengers Association.
The ministers who were present at this gathering knew for certain the Holy Spirit had been leading them every step of the way in founding Evangelistic Messengers Association. All the participants agreed that from this Chicago gathering would come untold honors for Christ and innumerable blessings for countless thousands in all the many places wherever the seed of the evangelistic message would be planted. The Evangelistic Messengers Association was not brought forth to honor one man nor a group of men, but to honor and point to our Heavenly Father and to do His bidding.
Sincere men and women of God from across the United States began sending in applications requesting to join Evangelistic Messengers Association. Their letters were postmarked from Minnesota, Idaho, Texas, Arizona, Washington and many other states. All of these servants-of-God wanted to become associated with other faithful preachers whom God was also leading to become part of this independent ministry. Names of faithful, nondenominational pulpiteers came from Mexico, Canada, Haiti, Greece, the Philippines, Australia and other isles of the sea requesting to join this band of believers.
Down through the years, this independent ministerial outreach has continued to strengthen and grow. God was leading the ministry of E.M.A. into deep and lasting bonds of fellowship with other ministers in towns and cities not recognized by most people.
Since the Holy Spirit directed the meeting in 1933, there have been thousands of men and women carefully evaluated, and with prayer, ordained and licensed to preach and minister anywhere and everywhere throughout the world.
Rev. O.L. Ford and Rev. S.M. Smith
Co-founders of E.M.A.
Many of these old timers dared to march forward and onward to blaze an independent trail as they preached the unadultered, uncompromisiing Word of God. Their brush arbors have long since fallen to the ground. Many of their church buildings are in decay and many of the saints who listened to their preaching have also passed from this life’s scene.
E.M.A.’s first ordained ministers: Rev. O.L. Ford, S.M. Smith, Robert Adkins and many others have since gone home to their reward.
Though these first “evangelistic messengers” may at times, seem to be almost forgotten, the work these E.M.A. pioneers began shall never be lessened or diminished by the march of time! Today, sons and daughters, and even grandchildren of these early members of “the association,” are spreading this same Gospel as ordained ministers of E.M.A..
Today’s president and pastor of E.M.A. is Dr. J. David Ford, the son of Rev. O. L. Ford. Before David’s birth, his father prophesied that there would be a son born into his and his wife Dorothy’s household. He stated further that this son would carry on the ministry of E.M.A. where he, the father, would leave off. A baby boy was born into the Ford family in 1948, and as O.L. Ford had prophesied, David began preaching at the early age of five. When David turned 39, in 1987, he grasped the the torch of “independent” ministry that was passed to him and he has never let go!
Dr. Ford is still carrying on the work of E.M.A. in the same Spirit as his father and the other early founders. The labor of these faithful servants continues to produce more fruit” through the ministry of E.M.A. with the dawning of each new day.
Dr. J. David Ford today
Now you know the rest of the story... of how the oldest independent ministerial association in the world became a reality in 1933. Just as E.M.A. was a real answer to the prayers of many ministers in 1933 so it is today. E.M.A. is a ministry that has endured the test of time and continues to flourish across the US and in many countries around the world.
If God is leading you into an “independent ministry,” E.M.A. stand ready to assist you.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact Brother Ford at: (972) 349-1137 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.