Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
Arpil 26, 1962
NUMBER 50, PAGE 2,10a

John T. Lewis And Birmingham, Alabama

John D. Barnes, Coffeeville, Alabama

To say Birmingham, Alabama, is to say John T. Lewis, and to say John T. Lewis is to say Birmingham, Alabama, for the two are so closely associated it is impossible for disciples to say one without saying the other one.

When John T. Lewis came to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1907, he found a very small group of disciples, meeting in the upper-loft of a three-story grocery store, to break bread. Now, after more than fifty-five years there is a nice church building, filled with Christians, in every nook and cranny of the city, and many out of the city, and even more in the county. In fact, it is hard to go to any place in Alabama without coming under the influence of this great man. Many who have never met John T. Lewis, and "Mrs. Lewis," as he affectionately calls his beloved Wife, have a nice place to worship, because of the untiring efforts of these two great people. This could not have been possible without the relentless labors of these two. They did what others had failed to do, simply because they were Brother and Sister John T. Lewis. Just as God called the apostle Paul to preach Christ and Him crucified to the Corinthians, just so He called John T. Lewis to preach the crucified Christ to the Birminghamians, because "no man could do the things he did except God be with him." Sometimes younger preachers fail to appreciate the ground-work that was laid by the faithful soldiers of the cross of yesteryear, and sometimes fail to express appreciation for the sacrifices, trials, hardships and deprivation they experienced in laying the ground-work. Every would-be "great" preacher among us has tried desperately to find some fault with the really great preachers of past generations. To this fault-finding, John T. Lewis heads the list. Every Tom, Dick, Harry, and every preacher of the "peanut variety" has criticized this great man and the work he has done; but John T. Lewis, like the "gold tried with fire" has shone brighter than ever before. He knew "whom he had believed" and he also knew whom he served, and cared less for the insults thrown his way, than "old dobbin" did for sweet milk. He would answer his critics in such a way that they went back to the place from which they came and never bothered him again. This fact alone makes him a great man.

Among his early converts in Alabama, was one Robert L. Barnes, called "Uncle Dave" by those who knew him. Uncle Dave was a farmer, and eked out a living the only way he knew how, working with his hands in the dirt. Brother Lewis came to his section of the country to "pitch his tent." He met Uncle Dave, moved into his house, "joined himself" to him and worked in the cotton fields, picking more cotton than Uncle Dave and fulfilled his preaching appointments in the evening. He told Uncle Dave that since he had helped him in his work, it was only fair for him to help him in his work. Uncle Dave attended the meeting and was amazed with the preaching of this great preacher and told him that he was just as good a preacher as he was a cotton picker, and that he thought he ought to obey the gospel. Brother John T. Lewis baptized my father that very day, for the remission of his sins. I am only telling this to let you see the kind of man Lewis was. He was not afraid to work with his hands in the hardest work all day long and then preach the gospel at night. He, like the apostle Paul, "became all things to all men that he might by all means save some."

After Uncle Dave moved his family, John T. Lewis was very closely associated with this family. He baptized every child that Uncle Dave had, and half-raised me. He taught me what little I know about God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and instilled in me, at an early age, the desire to preach the gospel. He conducted Bible classes in our home, winter and summer, for several years. He would teach a Bible class somewhere every night of the week, and just wherever the opportunity presented itself. He preached in barns, brush arbors, under tents and out in the open fields. He would walk all over the city to fulfill an appointment. In the days when car fare was five cents, he would walk because he did not have five cents. He walked so much that he was known as the "walking preacher."

So firmly did Brother Lewis establish the church in Birmingham, that it is one of the few cities that has not allowed error to creep in the church. I do not mean that the effort has not been made, for time and again, preachers among us, with every strange doctrine, have come to the city, and with a blast of the trumpet that could be heard all over the state, tried to destroy the truth and split the church. But, quick as a flash, John T. Lewis would nip it in the bud, and these preachers would leave Birmingham, sadder but much wiser.

One, Cecil Abercrombie, came to Birmingham, and declared that his spirit was stirred within him, as was Paul's in Athens, when he saw the city wholly given to "idolatry," and he was going to set the city straight. He purchased time on the radio station and sent forth his mighty blast on his trumpet. But John T. Lewis, with the "sword of the spirit" sent him running, and so far as I know he hasn't stopped running yet. The truth was unscathed, and the church of our Lord in Birmingham, Alabama, was made stronger than ever.

Now, the "promotional-minded" brethren, are trying very hard to get their foot in the door. But, due to the uncompromising preaching of the word of God, and the courage of Lewis, and others like him, they have made little progress. And because of their failure, they have "branded" John T. Lewis as a hater of orphans, and anti-cooperation, and not interested in preaching the gospel abroad. When the truth of the matter is known, it will be seen that Lewis has raised more orphans, cooperated with more weak and struggling churches and helped more gospel preachers than the whole kit and caboodle of them put together! And he has done it according to the New Testament Pattern!

The church at Ensley, Alabama, at the suggestion of brother Lewis, sent liberally to me and mine in 1945-46, while we were living in Pennsylvania, and time and again, I have gone to him for help, and have received it. He has helped more people than all of "our benevolent societies" that are cursing the church of our Lord today. Bro. Lewis has been described, by those who would split the church, as some kind of wrinkled up old prune, with a twist in his imagination, and a warp in his brain. But John T. Lewis is one of the kindest and best men that God ever let live. He is the kind of man that I would like to be. He is John T. Lewis, gospel preacher.

What the church of our Lord needs today, more than anything else, is more preachers like John T. Lewis, who know the truth, and know what it costs to preach it as a life and death proposition. May God speed the day, when his tribe will increase.

To brother and sister Lewis, may I say: I am glad that I know you, and I am glad that I have been influenced by your godly lives. My life has been made better by my association with you. May God bless you both as you "look for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God."