For decades, pastor and cartoonist Joe McKeever has visited churches to share the message of Christ. Often, he will meet and greet, take the time to draw portraits, and talk about Jesus while he’s sketching. At some sittings, Joe will do literally dozens of portraits, sometimes dedicating two hours to be sure no one is left out. “I just sit in the corner and draw people.”
Early on, Joe realized he needed to do hand and finger exercises to keep from aching – his right hand did the art, while his left hand had a ‘death grip’ on the sketch pad. “The thing I have a problem with is my brain. Cause see, you’re concentrating on this person. They get up and move. You’re concentrating. They move. Concentrating. And after about a couple of hours of this, your brain says ‘hey, man, could we take a rest?,” he laughs.
Joe’s life verse is Job 4:4, “Your words have stood men on their feet.”
Besides his in-person church work, Joe has been doing cartoons and editorial cartoons for years. It’s very likely you’ve seen some of his professional work on sites like Baptist Press. And Joe is aware that his cartoon work gets ‘borrowed’ quite a bit by other media sources and just regular folks on social media. And that doesn’t bother him one bit. As a matter of fact, that fits into his guidance from God, who told him, “I’m to encourage people with these.” If people re-post his cartoons, all the better.
At age 82, Joe and his wife, Bertha, still drive to churches that invite him. When we talked with Joe, he was getting ready for a three-hour drive to encourage folks at a church, and – of course – create some sketches.
Most people would consider the age 82 some years past what retirement age would be, so why does Joe keep working? “Because that’s what God called me to be.” As a pastor with more than 40 years’ experience, a masters and a doctorate, Joe often gets private email questions from pastors about situations they’re up against and Joe offers his wisdom. He admits sometimes the questions keep him up at night as he prays for the pastors and churches in question. “Anything I can do to help them, man, I want to do it.” Joe formally retired as an SBC pastor in 2009, but is anything but retired these days.
The Alabama native, now residing in Mississippi, does cartoons that salute faith, question the status quo, challenge stereotypes, and he pokes some occasional fun at pastors and church leaders – with the best intent in mind. But Joe confesses, “And the truth is, when people go to a cartoon, they generally let their guard down and they just see this as a fun thing…so often, you can sneak something in” to make a point.
Above and beyond all the cartoons, Joe values the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We asked Joe what he might say to someone who came across his artwork, but does not have a relationship with Jesus. “Friend, if you don’t know the Lord Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are living beneath your privilege. There’s just so much more out there for you. And it’s amazing he has made himself available to you. He says, ‘I stand at your door and knock’ and it’s up to you if you open the door.”
In our complete interview podcast just below, you will learn about the promise Joe made to God consisting of three specific things. And you’ll sense his sincerity and heart to help and encourage others.
We thought it would be good to share this from Joe’s web site, to give you a deeper look into the heart of this fascinating leader:
They live in Ridgeland, MS, a suburb of Jackson. Their deck looks over a pond where Canada geese, mallards, and the occasional great blue heron congregate. Joe says his back deck is Heaven’s front porch.