My Grandpa and African-American Evangelism

May 22, 2008 — 5 Comments

My mom called this morning and we talked about her recent visit to the college my Grandfather, Tibbs Maxey, started in Louisville. It’s called the College of the Scriptures and Grandpa started it in 1945 to train black men and women for ministry.

It’s still in existence today, but moving to a new location because they recently lost their campus when a local railroad company claimed their property under the pretense of eminent domain.

My Mom and her sisters when to the College to sort through my Grandpa’s files before the move. Mom saw several alumni of the College who she knew when they were young students many decades ago. She was excited to hear that they are still faithfully serving the Lord today–many in churches my Grandpa helped to start.

My Grandparents started a lot of black churches in their lifetime. It was such a vibrant and fluid process that we lost count over the years, but thankfully many of those churches are still extant and thriving today. One of the most successful churches my grandfather planted, Washington Shores Church of Christ is in my hometown, Orlando, Florida.

Grandpa didn’t work with an African-American church-planting organization, because there wasn’t one back then. Sadly, during that time many churches seemed completely apathetic to the spiritual needs of black people in America. God laid a passion on my Grandpa’s heart to reach black people for Christ during a time of intense prejudice and racial tension.

Grandpa experienced a lot of resistance when he approached churches with his vision to start the College of the Scriptures and plant black churches. He wrote many books in his lifetime. One of his books, One Wide River, details the struggles he encountered in his calling to cross-cultural evangelism.

An article last year in Christian Standard by Ray Kelley reminded me that many of the struggles my Grandfather faced in reaching African-Americans are still around today.

Mr. Kelley starts his article with some background information before making 5 observations about our efforts to reach minorities:

In a February 1992 Restoration Herald article, I discussed a basic philosophy concerning racial integration. A minister in Arizona had asked for specific methods he could implement to help integrate his congregation. My response presented the reality that it is very difficult for a congregation to integrate if its local community is not diverse.

Generally speaking, a congregation should reflect the racial makeup of the community in which it ministers.

It would be easy to apply this basic concept to our brotherhood and attempt to justify the lack of minorities in our local congregations. The rationale goes something like this: historically, our congregations have always been located in predominantly white communities; therefore, we have not reached minority groups.

Of course, there are major flaws in this logic.

First, the original all-white areas where our congregations were built more than 100 years ago are now very diverse or predominantly minority. A good example is Fredrick Price’s thriving congregation in Los Angeles that was once an independent Christian church.

Second, we have moved away from minorities for well over 100 years (W. A. Moore addressed his concern with churches leaving the city in a 1917 Christian Standard article).

Third, our major church-planting efforts continue to be in predominantly white suburbs.

Fourth, the United States is our field of evangelism, and more than 12.5 percent of that field is African-American; yet, we have not made strategic efforts to reach that population.

Fifth, those efforts to plant minority churches are generally underfunded, understaffed, and quickly terminated.

I encourage you to read the rest of this article: African-American Evangelism: Where are we and where are we going?

Are we really doing all we can to reach ALL people for Jesus?

Does your congregation the racial makeup of the community in which it ministers?

If not, what are you going to do about it?

What are we going to do about it?


5 responses to My Grandpa and African-American Evangelism

    Marilyn Maxey Lewis July 26, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Thanks for sharing this part of my dad’s life. the ideas do not change. We still have a lilly white concept of the church and not an inter reacial one – Vision is still something to really pray about We need to really integrate the church



    I’ve been looking for your family! As a child I knew Merle & Louis Williamson, and remember a visit from Isobel Bryan who was truly elegant. The Bryan children were dear, lifelong friends of my grandfather, John Brent Williams of Fulton, MO. It was his father, Wallace who started Walter on his career in journalism. A frequent visitor was Bryan Williamson of Kansas City who was deeply grateful that our family kept watched over Auntie Merle & Uncle Louie after they moved to Clark Street in Mexico, MO.

    Anna Patricia Williams Jaech


      It’s so good to hear from you. I know my Aunt Marilyn (Maxey) Lewis would be excited to connect with you. She is also our family historian. If you are interested in contacting her, let me know and I’ll connect you two.

    Joanne Williams Neubert May 29, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    My mother was Elaine Harley Williams and Went to CBS with Isabel Maxey Dittmore and was a lifelong friend of the Maxey family I remember the Summer Marilyn and Linda stayed for several weeks at our farm in Geneva, OH I think it was chaotic for my mother with 5 girls at the time. Isabel stayed with us on numerous occasion. Wonderful to connect. Joanne Williams Neubert

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