Glimpses Of Brother John T. Lewis
In the Gospel Advocate of January 13, 1910 there appeared the following note from John T. Lewis. "For several years a few brethren living in and around Birmingham have met to worship in the 'third loft' of a grocery store on the corner of Nineteenth Street and Fourth Avenue. Two years ago, last November, I went to labor with them. Some of the brethren were very uneasy, at first, for fear that I would not be supported and while I am only a man, and perhaps like the loaves and fishes as well as the ordinary man, yet I have never allowed my love for them to drive me from the post of duty; so I lost no sleep over the matter myself.
"During that winter I saw Brother T.J. Bryan (now dead) of Attalla, and secured from him the use of a large tent owned by the Attalla congregation. I used this tent in the Birmingham district for six months in 1908.
"In September the brethren bought a nice lot on Charles Street, in West End, one block from the Powderly car line. The lot cost one thousand dollars. The following help was received: Through Brother J.M. Barnes $132; B.L. Boyd $40; congregation at Lewisburg, Tennessee $25; Sister David, Owassa, Alabama $25; S.F. Morrow, Nashville, Tennessee $10; congregation at Roberson Fork, Tennessee $7; congregation at Stewart Creek, Tennessee $5.50 congregation at Almaville, Tennessee $1; Mrs. G.S. Johnson $1; Total $246. This left $754 for the brethren to pay which they did.
"A nice house for worship has just been finished on this lot, and we are waiting for the seats, which promised to be delivered by January 10. The house and seats cost $2,250. The following help was received on the house: From David Lipscomb $200 Sister Lipscomb $10; H.G. Lipscomb $50; B.L. Boyd $110; S.F. Morrow $75; John T. Lewis $25; R.S. Brown $10; J.A. Pettus $10; E.A. Elam $5; C.A. Moore $5; E.E. Sewell $5; R.V. Cawthorn $5; J.Paul Slayden $5; John T. Glenn $7,50; L.G. Sewell$5; McQuiddy Printing Co. $5; Miss Effie Anderson $5; Sister Anderson $5; congregation at Laverne, Tennessee $4.35; M.C. Wilson $3; C.C. Derryberry $2.50; Miss Jessie Wells $2; G.R. Bethurum $2; E.C. Cullum $2; L.C. Peebles $2; G.W. Lewis and wife $2; S.W. Bell $1.15; W.H. Nelson $1; H. Leo Boles $1; A.J. Lewis $1; H.I. North $1; R.R. Cunningham $1; H.H. Gentry $1; J.T. McQuiddy $1; Sister R.N. Moody $1; Womack brothers $1; D.W. Shepherd $1; Sister Hamilton $1; Mrs. G.S. Johnson $1; E.E. Shoulders $1; Janie Shields $1; Elizabeth Baxter $2; Annie Delk $1; Annie Galloway $1; Frank Craig .50; Kermit Harsh 40 cents; Waton Chambers 30 cents; Sister A.H. Jordan 25 cents. Total $653. The brethren raised $597, making $1250, leaving a balance of one thousand dollars to be paid on the house. This they borrowed. I mentioned the fact that some of the brethren were afraid that they were not able to support me only to show that brethren can do more sometimes than they think they can. They have not only supported me but, as you can see from the above, have paid thirteen hundred and fifty dollars on their house and lot — and this, too, within two years. The brethren are very grateful for the help they have received, but that which gives them the most pleasure is their own efforts, and the ones that feel the best are the ones that came more nearly making a sacrifice in what they gave."
In the "personal" column of the Gospel Advocate February 3, 1910, Brother J.W. Shepherd wrote, "Brother John T. Lewis is convalescing and hopes to return to Birmingham, Alabama, his field of labor at an early date." Brother Lewis did not "return to Birmingham" until the fall of 1910. A note in the Gospel Advocate in June 1910 stated, "Brother John T. Lewis left this city last Monday for Meaford, Ontario, Canada where he will spend the summer. Brother Lewis is now improving, and we hope he will be able to enter into regular work again. He is badly needed in Birmingham, Alabama, where he is doing a fine work."
Brother Lewis spent the summer of 1910 in New Brunswick "roughing it," sleeping in a tent and feasting on wild game. He recovered so completely that he never had a recurrence of the trouble. In the fall of 1910 he returned to Birmingham where he was "badly needed."
The Woodlawn Congregation Was The Second Loyal Group To Be Started In The City. The Following Quotation Is From A Brief History Of The Woodlawn Congregation's Beginning By Brother Raymond Crumbliss: "A Group Of Christians After The New Testament Order Began 'Keeping House For The Lord' In Woodlawn Early In 1914. In The Fall Of 1913 The West End Congregation, The Then Only Faithful Group Of Brethren In The City, Obtained The Building On 60Th Street Between First Avenue North And First Avenue South, From Which A Congregation Of Presbyterians Were Moving. The Purchase Price Of The House And Lot Was $2250. During The Winter Months The Sum Of $1100 Was Spent On Repairs And Remodeling, And Over Several Months $318 Dollars Was Paid In Interest Charges On Money Borrowed To Finance This Beginning In Woodlawn. Thus The Church Came Into Possession Of Physical Property In The District At A Total Cost Of $3668. During An Extended Period After Its Beginning The Contributions Of The New Congregation Averaged About $40 Per Month...
"Brother John T. Lewis was preaching at West End at that time and he assisted the work of repairing and remodeling, not only with moral support, but with manual labor as well. Among other tasks he climbed a ladder with loads of brick and mortar for the erection of the chimneys at the rear of the auditorium, although a negro bricklayer actually laid the bricks. On one occasion while Brother Lewis and other of the brethren were busy at work installing new steps at the entrance a passing Presbyterian preacher volunteered considerable advice as to how best to do the work. After listening to his advice for a little while, Brother Lewis gave him some advice, on which the passing preacher retired! An elder (Presbyterian) who had heard the exchanges, apologized for the advice-giving preacher by saying, 'You know, Brother Lewis, our preachers associate with the women-folk so much that they haven't any practical sense'."
David Lipscomb and John T. Lewis At the time Brother Lewis went to Birmingham, to labor with the few brethren there, Brother Lipscomb had ten years longer to remain on earth. Brother Lipscomb's influence had a profound and lasting effect upon Brother Lewis. He encouraged Brother Lewis to go to Birmingham. He gave $200 to help build the "house for worship" on a "nice lot" on Charles street in West End. This generosity was also characteristic of John T. Lewis. Any time a faithful group of brethren undertook to build a meeting house, they could expect a generous contribution from Brother Lewis.
It has been frequently reported that Brother Lewis was impressed by Brother Lipscomb with the wisdom of congregations "swarming" and starting other congregations, rather than building up numerically large central congregations. This was Brother Lewis' practice in Birmingham, and the many congregations in that city which have not been swept into denominationalism by the digression of the latter half of the 20th century, are evidence in proof of the wisdom of the course. There are likely more "conservative" congregations in Birmingham today than in any other city in the world.
H. Leo Boles, a schoolmate of John T. Lewis, wrote concerning David Lipscomb: "He took a firm stand against the organization of human societies for the preaching of the gospel, and he as ably contended for the simple worship without the use of instrumental music, as taught in the New Testament." Brother Lewis, like his teacher, stood firm for truth and in opposition to error. Brother Lipscomb stood firm against the human schemes for evangelization, and the human additions to worship of the apostasy of 100 years ago. Brother Lewis and those of his generation carried that fight on and by their efforts contributed to the great advance of truth during the first half of the 20th century, and when in the early part of the second half of the 20th century, another mighty tide of digression swept most of the churches of Christ from their "rugged congregational independence," Brother Lewis, unlike many of his contemporaries, refused to compromise or retreat. Brother Lewis had been in the thick of the battle for truth for nearly one-half century when the big push for the "sponsoring church" type centralization in evangelization and the powerful thrusts by the advocates of the social gospel concept got under way. This turning away from the truth was met unflinchingly by this old soldier of the cross. He not only encouraged younger preachers to contend for the faith but set the example for them by wading into the thick of the fray. If a majority of Brother Lewis' generation had been as little influenced by personal considerations as was he, what a difference there would be in the state of the church today!
Brother and Sister Lewis studied the Scriptures daily. When Brother Lewis was away from home, he would read at their regular hour of study the same passages which Sister Lewis was reading at home at that time.
Brother Lewis was loved and respected by all ages. He was careful to notice children and little children responded with respect and love. Many of those little children who are now forty, fifty and sixty years old, are heavily indebted to Brother Lewis for the principle which he taught them when they were "little children."
This writer is convinced that Brother John T. Lewis and his fine, Christian wife truly sought first God's kingdom and righteousness.
— Austin, Texas