Friday, April 22, 2011

"Sister Lillie"

Newton Falls, Ohio is a pretty small place to make much of a mark on the world, although it does have neighbors like Canton and Akron. Lillie McCutcheon helped her mother, then took oversight of a small congregation begun by her mother in this northeast Ohio town. She shepherded it for four decades, leaving a flock numbering several hundreds. Revered as “Sister Lillie” this successful pastor, evangelist, radio minister and author has now graduated to the beyond, but she lives on in the memory of a multitude.

Many remember her as the author of The Symbols speak--a consistent seller at Reformation Publishers. The unseen Spirit of Lilly broods over the Pastors Fellowship as it meets annually in Winchester, Kentucky. This regional meeting will gather again in a few days--May 2-3, much as it did the past thirty-five years.

I tend to think most people remember her for her reincarnation of F. G. Smith’s writings on the biblical book of Revelation. Although now held by only a minority within the church, this seems how most now remember her.

On the other hand, I recall male preachers in past decades poking fun as they callously mimicked her high-pitched female voice (lady preachers were not at all respected in some quarters). One instance came after she challenged the view of a respected Ohio leader, saying, “Why Brother _, I am surprised at you …”

I have not forgotten those men making great sport of her behind her back (involving at least one close friend of mine). The time came, however, when Sister Lillie gained maturity and earned much respect within the national church.

She led her church in successful growth that made her flock a leader in the Movement. Over time, she succeeded as a community spokesperson, a radio-TV personality, and a highly successful pastor, evangelist, counselor, author and doctrinal interpreter (theologian ?). In time, she became a national figure. By her success, the magnetism of her personality, the force of her powerful intellect, and her public appeal as a powerful lecturer who seldom, if ever, used notes, she earned respect.

I watched her up-close some years ago and saw her giftedness while serving as a Camp Meeting Evangelist, and again as she counseled a troubled lady from my congregation. I see another aspect that is frequently mentioned yet scarcely recognized.

Perhaps we know her best, not for those years of service, or her gifts as a leader and author, but perhaps by the quality of her influence on people she touched as she passed by. People touched by her grew into potential leaders, they attended our educational institutions, and they serve among us.

Barry Callen had a distinguished career at Anderson University and School of Theology. Barry is perhaps our most prolific author and interpreter of Church of God life. The Norm Patton’s went to school in California, and after a successful venture in Santa Cruz they came back to successfully lead our Global Missions program before returning again to the pastorate. I admired Norm’s preaching skill!

Robert (Bob) Moss developed a small church in Cody, Wyoming, then moved back east and led St. Joseph, MI to become the state’s largest congregation. After serving with Indiana Ministries, Bob now is investing heavily at Salem, in Dayton, Ohio.

There was a young farm girl back in Newton Falls that came to Christ through Sister Lillie. She went to Bible College and launched into pastoral ministry, just like her mentor--Jeannette Flynn. Jeannette launched a successful career with Gerald Marvel, then served as Senior Pastor at Walla Walla, WA, before giving fifteen years to our national agencies,

Jeannette recently relocated to the Church of God in Florida. An extra responsibility she will carry is the editorship of the magazine Truth Matters--newest publication of Pastor’s Fellowship. Working from her Florida base with her associates, computer technicians, and writers, Jeannette compiled a practical introductory issue, that could powerfully impact the church. Emphasizing truth, it promises potential breadth that could prove prophetic in power.

Barry Callen; the Norman Pattons’; Bob Moss; Jeannette Flynn; each touched by Sister Lillie. Most of us would be happy to introduce any one of them into the church. They are but four--perhaps the best known--of many touched by the shadow of Lillie McCutcheon in smalltown Newton Falls, Ohio.

If there were no more than these four, these would be sufficient cause to pay tribute to Lillie McCutcheon. I have long since moved beyond her interpretation of The Symbols Speak, but I recognize the powerful impact of one of God’s anointed when I see the impact of these four people in the church; all of whom I count it an honor to number among my friends.

God give us more such pastors who can impact lives as they pass by.
From Warner’s World,
I am


Anonymous said...

Sister Lillie touched my family, too. My father is a Church of God pastor and many times over the years, she stayed with our family while preaching revivals and preaching at Craigsville Campmeeting. I loved to listen to her speak, whether at our kitchen table or from the pulpit. She was a treasure.

I have two very special memories of Sister Lillie. The first was during Craigsille Campmeeting in the early 1970's. After church one night, my parents and Sister Lillie went to the cafeteria to prep some food for the next day's meals. Beans and cornbread were on the menu. Sister Lillie had never "looked beans". I can remember my dad teaching her to sort through the beans to make sure no rocks or sticks were mixed in. Sister Lillie was fascinated that there was so much that needed to be removed before soaking and cooking the beans. I can still see her sitting at the table with my parents "looking the beans".

My other vivid memory of Sister Lillie was at Anderson Campmeeting sometime in the 1970's. Although I wasn't supposed to be there, my father took me with him to the minister's meeting that occured during campmeeting. That particular year there was some discussion over whether the Bible was indeed the "infallible" Word of God. Needless to say, Sister Lillie and many of the pastor's were very upset that this even had to be discussed. I remember Sister Lillie rising to speak in front of that huge crowd of ministers. She began by saying something to the effect of, "My dear brothers and sisters, there is the Easter Lily, the Calla Lily, and the Water Lily. But, today my friends, you are about to hear from a Tiger Lily." I was in awe of her command of that audience. Not one person moved a muscle for her entire speech detailing her belief in the infallibility of the entire Bible, and let me tell you, she laid it all on the line. And, by the way, the motion to recognize the Bible as the infallible Word of God passed overwhelmingly.

I often think about Sister Lillie and the impact she had on our family, and on me in particular. I will always cherish my memories of her.

Wayne said...

She was not just a "paper Tiger" either ... :-) Well said, Anonymous...

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Sister Lillies church in Newton Falls and my mother goes there still today. I enjoyed reading about jer and her mother Sister Sowers whom i also remember. I learned more of the scripture going to church under her.. even as a small child asking question after question I remember her presence. She always took time to answer me. I was so shocked when I moved to the south and found that people thought women shluldnt preach. Obviously they hadn't heard her strength at the pulpit. I am now an ordained preacher and often think of her dedicated study of the Word. An amazing lady for the kingdom. Thank you for writing of her.

Anonymous said...

I have a wonderful story of Sister Lillie. She was the evangelist at Berlin Center, OH back in the 80's. The tabernacle was full and since it was the middle of summer, all the windows were wide open. As she was preaching with such power and poise, a fly flew into her mouth. She started spitting and sputtering until she ejected it. She straightened her skirt, gained her composure and said her in most lady like voice, "He was a stranger, and I took him in". The audience roared in laughter. Only Sister Lillie could come through such an ordeal like that with grace and retain the audience.

Wayne said...

thank you anonymous; that certainly sounds like Lillie ... poised and powerful.