The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) celebrates the life and ministry of Billy Melvin, who died February 1, 2018, at age 88. Melvin served as the NAE executive director for 28 years, retiring in 1995.
“Billy Melvin led and loved the National Association of Evangelicals during the rapid expansion of evangelicalism in America,” said Leith Anderson, NAE president. “He blessed and encouraged me as the once youngest member of the NAE board, in our travel together across developing countries of Africa, and more recently as a supporter of the NAE after his retirement.”
Melvin joined the NAE as executive director in 1967 after serving as executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists for eight years. Prior to his post at the denomination’s headquarters, he pastored several Free Will Baptist churches and served as a chaplain in the Civil Air Patrol.
While Melvin was NAE executive director, the organization expanded on several fronts, including the 1979 construction of the Evangelical Center, which sought to support the local church’s mission of preaching and teaching the gospel, in Wheaton, Illinois; the expansion of the Office of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C.; and a concerted effort to enlist new denominations in the NAE. During Melvin’s tenure, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush spoke to NAE audiences, and the NAE celebrated several legislative victories. Melvin sought to elevate the status and role of denominations in the NAE. Between 1981 and 1990, 15 denominations joined the NAE.
Harold Smith, president and CEO of Christianity Today, served as the NAE director of information and editor of United Evangelical Action magazine while Melvin was executive director. Smith said, “Billy helped this then fresh-out-of-school young man see and more fully engage the ‘big tent’ of evangelicalism. He modeled for me the movement’s language of gospel conviction lived out in Christ-centered love. And with all that, God used him to set me on an unlikely course that would eventually lead me to Christianity Today. Thank you, Billy. And to God be the glory!”
Melvin authored “Randall House Minister’s Manual” and numerous articles directed to pastors. His service to the evangelical community was recognized by several organizations. He received honorary doctorate degrees from Azusa Pacific University (1968), Taylor University (1984) and Huntington College (1995), and was awarded the Legion of Honor from Taylor University in 1993. He also served on the board of the American Bible Society for many years.
Melvin studied theology at the Free Will Baptist Bible College (now Welch College), completed his undergraduate education at Taylor University, attended Asbury Theological Seminary, and completed his M.Div. at Union Theological Seminary.
Melvin is survived by his two children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He is reunited with his wife and ministry partner of 65 years, Marcia Darlene (Eby), who went to be with the Lord on August 19, 2016.
Memorial services will be held in Englewood, Florida, and Nashville, Tennessee. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, February 17, at 11:00 a.m., in the sanctuary of Saving Grace Bible Church, at 2550 Englewood Road, Englewood, Florida (formerly Good Shepherd Church). In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to World Relief, Free Will Baptist International Missions, or the donor’s choice of charity.