In most years, messengers to the annual Southern Baptist Convention find themselves drawn to exhibit areas by LifeWay Christian Store bargains, opportunities to spot familiar faces from years gone by and information from Baptist entities and church-related vendors.
In most years, messengers to the annual Southern
Baptist Convention find themselves drawn to exhibit areas by LifeWay
Christian Store bargains, opportunities to spot familiar faces from
years gone by and information from Baptist entities and church-related
But the exhibit hall at the 2005 convention in
Nashville, Tenn., included yet another kind of “draw” by Southern
Baptist artist Joe McKeever who drew numerous caricatures of messengers
and their families as part of the Baptist Press exhibit for the SBC
McKeever serves as director of missions for the
Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans and draws cartoons regularly
featured in Baptist Press, state Baptist newspapers and a variety of
The lines were constant for a chance to sit across
from McKeever as he used broad-tipped black markers to sketch
quick portraits in a matter of minutes – one after another.
“So (that) I can sit here for hours and do this,
I’ve been walking on the levee by the Mississippi River every morning
for 45 minutes during my prayer time, holding a water bottle in one
hand and flexing my other hand like this,” said McKeever, alternately
making a fist and, then, spreading his fingers in spider-like fashion.
As McKeever quickly produced one personal portrait
after another, his subjects responded with smiles and delight.
“Yeah, it’s me,” said 3-year-old Will Upchurch, whose father, Terry, is a pastor in Natchez, Miss.
Upchurch’s mother smiled as she gazed at the
portrait. “I love it,” she said. “It’s beautiful. It looks just like
During studies at New Orleans Baptist Theological
Seminary, Terry Upchurch attended First Baptist Church of Kenner, where
McKeever was pastor from 1990 to 2004 and utilized artistry in a
variety of ways. “I remember him drawing on overhead cells on Wednesday
nights at the church,” Upchurch said. “Those were the best Bible
Virginia Baptist pastor Stewart McCarter, his wife,
Janice, and their three children waited patiently as McKeever drew each
in turn. “They’re great, they’re perfect,” Stewart McCarter said of the
drawings. “We may use mine for publication in our church newsletter
next to my regular column.”
Janice McCarter said she plans on framing all five
sketches. “These are exceptionally well-done, and it took years off
me,” she said with a grin.
McKeever said he became interested in drawing as a preschooler when his mother encouraged him to do so.
Decades later, when serving as pastor at First
Baptist Church of Columbus, Miss., members of the Baptist Student Union
from the Mississippi University for Women asked McKeever to help them
in a fund-raising event by sketching people for $1 per drawing in one
In subsequent years, McKeever discovered his
drawings were useful in various ministry-related activities, such as
revivals. “Before each service begins and after the services conclude,
I draw people who attend,” McKeever said.
The person sketched keeps the original drawing after
a copy is made for posting on a wall in the fellowship hall.
“Often, by the time the week is over, we’ll have
filled up a wall with a couple hundred of them,” McKeever noted.
“People will bring their family members and friends to the revival for
me to draw.”
His use of drawings during revival services drew
praise from Al Hood, an associational director of missions in Double
Springs, Ala., where McKeever grew up.
“When I first moved to Double Springs in 2000, Joe
was conducting a revival at Meek Baptist Church,” Hood said. “The
parents were excited about the children’s pictures being posted. They
pretty well had a packed house every night.”
McKeever uses the drawings as witnessing tools in
other contexts, such as at fall festivals, in Vacation Bible Schools
and even during visits to shopping malls where he seats himself at a
table in the food court with drawing tools in hand.
As mall customers notice his quick artistry and ask
for their own portraits, McKeever sketches on a high-quality slick
piece of white paper – blank on one side for the drawing but with the
plan of salvation on the other.
“Want to know Jesus personally and live forever? You can,” his innovative evangelistic tract implores.
McKeever’s ties to the Double Springs area continue
to the present. His mother attends a local Freewill Baptist church
there and carefully clips his many cartoons published regularly by the
area Daily Mountain Eagle newspaper.
“My wife (Margaret) says I’m the oldest person in
the world whose mother still puts his artwork on the refrigerator,”
McKeever said. (BP)
(A variety of McKeever’s cartoons, drawings and writings are featured online at www.joemckeever.com)