BMA of Arkansas trailblazer James Ray Raines was my friend for over 50 years. I met him when I was just a boy preacher of 18 and he was a seasoned preacher of 27.
Bro. Raines was born in DeWitt in 1937. He was an Arkansan through and through. He answered the call to ministry in 1953 at the age of 16. During his 67-year ministry, James Ray Raines met every criteria for a true trailblazer of the BMA of Arkansas. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Central Baptist College in 1960 while in his sixth year as pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Fordyce. Despite being a young pastor, it was evident that he was greatly blessed by the Lord who had gifted him abundantly.
Early on in his ministry, he was a much-in-demand evangelist/revivalist and that continued into his latter years. It would be difficult to accurately count how many churches invited him to preach revivals ¾ not just once, but again and again. In addition, he was camp evangelist for many consecutive years in Tennessee. The full result of his evangelism will only be known in Heaven by the many souls who were saved under his preaching.
When Bro. Raines was pastor of First Baptist Church in Gurdon, and I was pastor of Brister Baptist Church in Emerson, our friendship began to strengthen. We would often travel to various meeting together — talking about Scripture, church events and the work of the association. At South Arkansas Baptist Camp, we would get up early and eat breakfast together. He also honored me with invitations to teach Concentric Circles of Concern and preach a revival when he served as pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Camden. I truly treasure those memories!
Yes, he was a pastor and evangelist, but he was also a great leader in the BMA of Arkansas and BMA of America. He served the state association six times as recording clerk, four times as vice-moderator and twice as moderator. For many years he served the BMA of America as a recording secretary.
In 1984, he returned to his alma mater, not as a student, but as president of Central Baptist College. Under his leadership, Old Main was demolished and the 50,000 sq. ft. Harold E. Cooper Complex was erected.
Bro. Raines resigned as president in 1990 to return to the pastorate, serving the Lynch View Baptist Church, now known as North View, in North Little Rock for 25 years and then as Pastor Emeritus from 2015 until his death this year.
While pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Camden, Bro. Raines suffered a severe heart attack. Although he recovered and continued his multi-faceted ministry, his health was definitely affected.
This man who gave his all to be a minister to thousands battled poor health the past several years. I said earlier that he was my friend and that encouragement he gave me in my younger days never ceased. In his last months, he would call me every two weeks to encourage me, especially in my role as president of the BMA of Arkansas, trying to prepare for the annual session during a pandemic or to compliment me about an article I had in the Baptist Trumpet. But that was James Ray Raines and I treasure the memories of those calls.
The man from DeWitt was used of the Lord in cities and towns across the state — impacting the eternity of thousands through his strong, enthusiastic and persuasive preaching.
James Ray Raines, a BMA of Arkansas trailblazer, received his heavenly promotion while hospitalized on Oct. 22, 2020. Although he is no longer with us, the trail he blazed is easy to see. Young preachers, it would be good to follow it because it was blazed by a preacher who followed Christ.