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March 14, 2000

Most of us know the story of John Bisagno, at least a portion of it. John did most of his growing up in Perry, played in the high school band and later became a hot item as a jazz trumpeter touring the country. At one point in his life he had a spiritual conversion experience, then became a traveling evangelist with great success in leading others to the Lord. Then came a tenure as pastor of the Del City Southern Baptist church from 1965-69, followed by a call to serve as pastor of a "mega church," the First Baptist church of Houston. He continues to be one of the most sought-after speakers for Baptist meetings all over the U.S.

Recently John spoke to 6,000 Oklahoma Baptists in the Myriad Arena at Oklahoma City, challenging them to pursue a proposal to renovate the Falls Creek assembly area in southern Oklahoma. His speech was the focal point of the 1999 Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma at a meeting in the capital city. Messengers (delegates) to the meeting overwhelmingly voted to construct a $16.66 million worship center on the 300-acre grounds. With only a smattering of opposition, messengers to the 94th annual meeting approved the new tabernacle, along with other improvements to the 82-year-old camp, which will cost a total of $34 million. John has a personal interest in Falls Creek. He says it was during a session there that he was saved and felt called to preach.

An article in a recent issue of the Baptist Messenger, Oklahoma Baptists' weekly newspaper, describes John's address to the delegates and includes some interesting background notes on the speaker. It also relates that Falls Creek is host each year to the world's largest youth camp.

John Bisagno is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University. In his address to the state Baptist convention he announced that if the Falls Creek project was approved, he would spend much of his time raising money to fund it. He told his own story, revealing how he went from being a jazz musician to a song leader for youth revivals to a preaching evangelist and then to pastor of two of the denomination's largest churches. It all started, he said, when he was invited to Falls Creek as a 19-year-old.

"Fifteen minutes after I got on the grounds," John said, according to an article in the newspaper, "I had organized a jazz band, but by Tuesday night the Holy Spirit began to touch my heart. By Thursday I was under conviction and when preacher Charlie Taylor said he wanted just one person who means business, I gave my life to Jesus and was called to the ministry the same night." He added that what happened to him at Falls Creek needs to be done in the heart of every young person in America.

John's parents were Jay and Clair Reece Bisagno. The family operated Bisagno's Hatchery at 607 Elm street. Their home was at 707 Ivanhoe. After Jay's death, Mrs. Bisagno operated a beauty salon, known as Clair Reece's, at her home. John had an older sister, Betty, who became an advertising solicitor for The Perry Daily Journal while a student at Oklahoma State University. She eventually married one of the musical stars of an Oklahoma City television station (WKY TV) and the two of them wound up in Florida. Mr. and Mrs. Bisagno and Betty are now deceased, but John continues as a dynamic and beloved Baptist preacher who fills speaking engagements all over the U.S.