by Matt Crouch
Our hearts have been heavy over the past few days as we remember our good friend Jay Jones, who went home to be with the Lord early Thursday morning. After my dear parents, TBN founders Paul and Jan Crouch, Jay was the longest serving member of TBN’s staff, and like my mom and dad, a true patriarch of Christian television.
Jay served the TBN family for the past forty-five years, and, in fact, used to joke that he was here before there even was a TBN. That’s because he first connected with my parents as they were in the early stages of pioneering “100 percent Christian television” at Pastor Ray Schoch’s church in Los Angeles. For those of you not familiar with TBN’s story, it was while serving at Pastor Schoch’s church that my parents were led by God to step out in faith and start TBN.
It wasn’t long after TBN went on the air on May 28, 1973, that Jay came on board. Here’s how it happened: Jay and his wonderful wife, Maralee, were in a singing group with legendary gospel songwriter Audrey Meier, and were guests on TBN’s brand new Praise the Lord program. Help was scarce in those early days, and TBN had a terrific need for a qualified person in its fledgling prayer department. My parents took notice of Jay, and before long my dad offered him a job as a prayer partner.
At the time, Jay had a steady job as a successful grocery store manager, and leaving it to join a small TV ministry took a tremendous step of faith. But once Jay made that decision he didn’t look back, and served faithfully in several different departments at TBN. Jay went from being a prayer partner to becoming the head of the prayer partner department, then worked in the programming and Praise the Lord departments, as well as in TBN’s media services office. His last assignment was as director of TBN’s Living Legacy department.
Jay was also an on-air host and was frequently seen interviewing guests on Praise the Lord and Behind the Scenes, and even hosted his own TBN talk show called Joy.
As TBN expanded across the U.S. with new television stations, Jay traveled around the country bringing live Praise the Lord programs to TBN’s growing audience. For many years Jay and Maralee were the day-time hosts of TBN’s live twice-a-year Praise-a-Thon, where viewers were blessed by Jay’s outgoing, exuberant personality, as well as his passion for taking the gospel of Jesus to the nation and the world.
As I reflected over the past few days on Jay’s home-going, I was reminded of a significant chapter in my own life in which he was involved. It happened a few more years ago than I would like to admit, when Jay and I were in Tulsa together taping a special for TBN. While I can’t remember what the program was, or much of anything else about that trip, what I do recall is that on the evening of the taping Jay was with my mom when they met a young lady by the name of Laurie Orndorff. A little later that evening I met that same beautiful young lady for the very first time — and Laurie and I have been making beautiful memories together ever since (thanks Jay!).
I last spoke with Jay just a few days before his passing, as he was part of the studio audience during a Praise taping Laurie and I were doing here in Los Angeles. Before the taping began I spied Jay in the audience and we took part in a little good-natured banter from across the studio. Ironically, in the course of that brief exchange Jay reminded me that he had “died” twice over the past several years — meaning that God had miraculously spared him after he suffered a pair of major heart attacks. Being longtime friends, I kidded Jay that the “third time is a charm,” and that when he got to heaven to say hi to my mom and dad for me. Little did we know as we joked together in that brief moment that within a few short days Jay would be going home.
For those who don’t know Christ as Savior, death can be a truly terrifying event. But for those of us who have trusted in Jesus to take away our sins, we know that to be absent from this mortal body is to be present for eternity with the Lord. That is the hope Jay embraced as he made his own final journey into the presence of the Lord He loved and served so well for so many years.
If I had one more opportunity to speak with Jay, here’s what I would say: Thanks, Jay, for your life of sacrifice, service, and blessing to my parents, to the TBN family, and to the body of Christ. Thanks for being a crucial part of the millions of souls who have come into the kingdom of God over the past forty-five years through TBN’s global outreach. I know that as you take your place in the presence of the Lord, you’re hearing the glorious words we all long to hear someday: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter in to the joys of your Lord.”
Jay, the third time was, indeed, the “charm” for you. Well done, my friend!