2. McGrady: The Preacher

This ebook by Howard Culbertson is a biography of Paul McGrady, pastor, evangelist and professor of evangelism. These seven chapters (including the Foreword/Preface) contain the story of his life as well as one of his sermons. Mr. Evangelism was originally published by Pedestal Press of Kansas City

"Six months before you were born I knew that God would one day make of you a soul-winning minister," Paul McGrady's mother told him near the end of her life. Prior to Paul's birth on June 29, 1925, on a farm near Delta, PA, she had prayed that he would become a preacher and, most of all, a missionary. To that end she named him after two of history's greatest missionaries: Paul the Apostle and Adoniram Judson, the first American foreign missionary.

Paul McGrady never went overseas, but his ministry produced thousands of new Christians, hundred of enthusiastic soul winners, and scores of preachers and missionaries.

photo of Paul McGrady sitting on a horse

Together with his brothers Marvin, Harold, Leonard, and Arnold and sisters Hazel and Ruth, Paul grew up on the farm. There he learned to love animals and they were to become his lifelong friends. Paul's father bought him his first horse, Scotty, which he rode to school. While still in grade school he went into the pig business. Then one day at a horse auction he bought "an old bag of bones" for $5. When the auctioneer laughed at the McGrady boy and said the horse's back would cut him in two, Paul got a bag of straw for a saddle. By careful feeding and care, he was able eventually to sell the horse for a nice profit.

"By the time he was 12, he had as much livestock as I did," Pop McGrady recalled. "He had good judgment about stock. He was a natural horseman."

He attended hundreds of horse auctions to look, buy, and trade. "Sometimes," his wife laughed, "I think he loved horses more than us."

Paul McGrady might have been a cattle raiser except for one experience. While cherry-picking in a field one day with his family, he saw his mother about to be gored by a charging bull. A bloodcurdling scream from Paul, as he topped a fence, stopped the charging animal just before it reached his mother.

Even as a boy, McGrady was quick to catch the positive side of a situation. One day he and another boy were having an argument in the one-room Bangor, Pennsylvania, schoolhouse. The exasperated teacher finally shouted, "All right, you two just go outside and fight it out!"

Outside they went. But to the teacher's chagrin, they shook ands, took their sleds, and were off down the snow-covered hills.

It must have been one of the few arguments Paul McGrady ever had. For Paul made room for all people in his heart, friendship, and thinking. Whenever gossip about someone began to float around, Paul was always sure to say, "Well, he has a lot of good traits." He felt credit should be given if it was due.

As a farm boy, Paul didn't have much leisure time. At the age of 12 he was managing the small farm while his father worked in nearby towns. His father was a good man and Paul was always anxious to please him. However, Pop McGrady wasn't converted until years later when Paul was raising his own family.

One afternoon Paul and a friend were playing with fire in a neighbor's field. The wind fanned the tiny flame into a roaring fire. Frantic efforts to put it out failed.

But their consciences wouldn't let them leave the farmer's field afire. So running in a circle, they came up to the farmstead, found the farmer, and asked him about the smoke in his field. While the three were putting out the fire, the two boys muttered along with the irate farmer, "Now who could have set this?"

It is no wonder that his mother once remarked, "If I have any patience, it's because of Paul."

Even with the mixture of mischief and managing a farm, McGrady found time to study. For in the seventh and eighth grades he won the Peach Bottom County spelling bee contests. In the spring of 1938, 12-year-old Paul McGrady graduated from the eighth grade and began full-time work on the farm. This about broke his mother's heart, for she felt that Paul would preach and knew he needed to finish high school.

In describing his spiritual condition as a farm boy, Paul McGrady later said, "As a teen-age boy, I had tried to be a Christian and failed and tried and failed 20 or 30 times until as a miserable backslider I felt there was no longer any use to try."

Then in the spring of 1942 his mother began praying and fasting that her son might become spiritually established. After her 10-day fast, 17-year-old Paul McGrady was definitely saved. Before the summer ended he was sanctified wholly in the hills of southeastern Pennsylvania. At the Nazarene camp in Northeast Maryland, the same summer he answered a call to preach.

At that time he, with his dad's help, was negotiating to buy a $10,000 farm. But he felt the Holy Spirit leading him to a Bible school in Nashville, TN -- 1,000 miles from home. Since he didn't have a high school diploma, he had to take the special ministerial Bible course at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville. To pay his school bill, Paul McGrady milked the college's cows. When a small Nazarene church near Nashville needed a preacher, they called Dr. A. B. Mackey, Trevecca president, and he recommended Paul McGrady.

"I don't know what kind of preacher he is, but he certainly can milk cows," Mackey told the Dale's Chapel congregation. The church thought that was good enough and called the young student for $5 a week (if it didn't rain). Transportation was by bus or hitchhiking.

Speaking at a home prayer meeting in Nashville one night, Paul used Joshua's words: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15)

Among those present was a Trevecca student from Tuscaloosa, Ala., Jean Goins. That "me and my house" seemed to include her. "It was love at first sight," she said. "Naturally, Paul had to have some help in getting a date, for he was too timid, bashful, or shy to make the approach himself."

With the help of his buddies, Paul started daring Jean in the spring of 1943. They were engaged in June and married in January, 1944. Jean was to become part of the drive behind Paul McGrady. She began to urge him to get all the education he could. It was a challenge he accepted. After two years in the Bible school he transferred into the high school academy at Trevecca. In September, 1944, he was licensed as a minister on the Tennessee District.

President Mackey tried to instill self-confidence in the young preacher. The McGrady smile and the outstretched big, powerful hand became trademarks. "That's great!" became an encouragement to his friends and admirers. In 1945 he received a certificate of excellence in "attitude" from Trevecca. One of his classmates, George Privett, recalls: "Paul was an aggressive champion in things spiritual. I shall always remember his fine, exuberant style and irrepressible laughter."

McGrady began preaching on a three-point circuit of little Nazarene churches near Nashville: Oak Grove, Jason Chapel, and Pine Hill. However, the parsonage they provided was out in the country. So he decided to drop out of the high school academy at Trevecca and go to nearby McEwen High, a public school. He didn't have any transportation, so he arranged to drive the school bus. His wife, Jean, was now teaching on a permit while attending college herself. To furnish Jean a way to her one-room school, Paul bought her a horse. That didn't prove too satisfactory, so they bought their first car, an old Dodge. This was soon traded to Paul's parents for a Model-A Ford that they drove all the way from Pennsylvania to Tennessee.

Paul's childhood fear of the dark had become a permanent part of his personality. While at the country parsonage, he would never go to the well for a bucket of water unless Jean went along and carried a lantern. Even to the summer of 1967, Jean would keep a light on in the house if he were coming in from a speaking engagement, to say to him, "We are here, Honey. Welcome home!"

Although Paul McGrady was not always the fiery evangelist and personal soul winner, "he always had a vision and preached with great compassion," said his wife. It was so even in his first pastorates, for he saw in his circuit more than three tiny congregations he could serve while in school. So he gave up two of them and set out to make Pine Hill a full-time church. Average attendance went from a dozen to nearly 60. However, it wasn't until a few years later that he was to become a great soul winner. For here at Pine Hill his wife told him that, while he had acquired the knack of making friends easily, he seemed unable to win them to Christ.

Thus Paul McGrady began his lifelong habit of looking for new ideas and concepts in winning men to the Savior that he loved so much.

In 1948, while he was pastoring the Pine Hill congregation, he graduated from McEwen High School. Originally, his senior class had voted to ask the town's Roman Catholic priest to be their baccalaureate speaker. But when the priest insisted that baccalaureate be held in the Catholic church, Paul's 31 classmates balked and instead asked him -- their fellow classmate -- to deliver the baccalaureate address.

Mrs. Evie Mae Ross, senior class sponsor, helped him write the sermon. He memorized it -- one of the few messages he ever gave word for word from memory. That cap-and-gowned speaker was a favorite of Mrs. Ross. She said she had never known anything but "don'ts" about the Nazarenes until she met Paul. Small wonder that, by the time Paul McGrady left, the Pine Hill congregation was five times its original size. The baccalaureate message Bible text seemed to fit optimistic Paul McGrady: "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things." (Philippians 4:8).

Following high school graduation in the spring of 1948, the McGradys moved back to Nashville near Trevecca Nazarene University. Because Paul McGrady had completed his high school education, the Trevecca dean's office now gave him college-hour credit for the courses he had taken in the Bible certificate course when he had arrived four years earlier. He began pastoring Ridgevale Church on the edge of Nashville. Yearly average attendance went from 30 to 50 while he was pastor.

Listeners in later years would note that McGrady's preaching contained many quotes from the Bible. This memorization began at TNU. One of his teachers, Sadie Agnew Johnson, required her students to memorize scripture passages daily and recite them for grades. The habit stayed with Paul, and that made his sermons came alive with biblical quotations.

Two of the most influential persons in McGrady's life while he was a Trevecca student were A. K. Bracken, pastor of the Nashville College Church of the Nazarene; and H. H. Wise, pastor of Nashville First Church. Wise also taught practics at Trevecca. Students at what is now Southern Nazarene University, where McGrady eventually became professor of practics and evangelism, were to hear many quotes from Wise's sermons and class lectures.

"Boys, if you make a beaten path to their door, they'll come to your door," Wise told his classes. McGrady grasped that seed and made a thousand blossoms from it. Even when he became an evangelist, McGrady never forgot Wise's caution, "If you preach a sermon again, it must be reborn!" Most of Paul McGrady's sermons were preached scores of times -- but they seemed ever fresh. That memorized graduation sermon seemed far off as his permanent sermon notes became scraps of paper and he let up-to-date illustrations and audience-centered references energize his messages.

In the 1949 Tennessee district assembly, Dr. G. B. Williamson ordained the 24-year-old college student. The new general superintendent was to become one of McGrady's close friends. Dr. Williamson was a horse lover as well as a fellow Nazarene minister. That made a double bond! For to Paul anybody that loved horses was a great person. He thought that a person who couldn't get along with horses was "pretty dumb." It was Paul who bought Williamson his first horse, "Scatman.

Although he hadn't completed requirements for his college degree, McGrady felt the Holy Spirit leading him to Nazarene Theological Seminary. So in the summer of 1950 he worked 25 hours a week as a carpenter in Nashville, took all the classes permitted at TNU, and preached in four revival meetings while trying to pastor his own church. He was becoming known as an evangelistic preacher. The last of August he set off for Kansas City in his 1938 Chevy towing an old, 32-foot house trailer he and his wife had been living in at Trevecca. College friends muttered behind his back, "I wouldn't start across town in that rattle trap."

The young soldier of the Cross had only $25 in his pocket, but even with hardly any brakes or tire tread, he rolled 600 miles, spending only $11.83. As they approached Kansas City that evening, Mrs. McGrady says, "The sunset had never before looked so beautiful."

In addition to his classes at seminary, Paul also took some courses at the University of Kansas City and the Junior College of Kansas City. Together with these courses, he transferred nine seminary hours back to Trevecca. So in June of 1951 the 27-year-old minister received his A.B. degree. Mrs. Ross, his high school class sponsor, hadn't forgotten the positive Nazarene and she sent him a book for a graduation present. The book, Something to Live By, had been given to her by her father. On the flyleaf she had written to McGrady, "A charge to keep you have -- a God to glorify and never-dying souls to save."

The Canaan Hill Nazarene congregation near Kansas City called the new seminarian to be their pastor. Salary? Fifteen dollars per week, plus farm products. The enthusiastic young preacher was offered larger, interdenominational churches, but he stayed with the Nazarenes at Canaan Hill. The lessons of surviving on small salaries were not forgotten by McGrady, and he often told his preacher students at Bethany, "Where God guides, He provides."

Canaan Hill's average attendance jumped 30 percent -- from 32 to 44. One of these was a new addition to the McGrady family: Miriam. Only part of the increase in attendance came from people from other denominations coming to hear him preach. Paul McGrady had a way of making friends with non-church people -- he included all in his circle of friendship. The groundwork for a personal soul winner was being laid. He was becoming more evangelistic as a preacher, too. If there were sinners present on Sunday morning, he preached salvation to them and would give an altar call. He also began preaching in an average of two revivals a year outside of his own local church.

Still trying to find ways to win more people, Paul mcGrady began talking with successful pastors in other denominations. He studied Baptist Sunday school evangelism a lot feeling they had discovered some effective principles and methods. McGrady really didn't care whose idea it was. If it worked, Paul McGrady was willing to give it a try. So he kept at it, trying to win a lost world almost single-handedly.

While at seminary in Kansas City, he became close friends with Jarrette Aycock, Nazarene district superintendent and evangelist. Aycock took Paul under his wing and helped spread the name of the fiery, evangelistic preacher. He especially liked his habit of paying his budgets in full and raising even larger amounts than his church had been assigned.

In August of 1952, McGrady returned to Nashville to pastor Third Church of the Nazarene there. For the first time he was able to pastor full time. (But it didn't last long, for the spring found him back in graduate school.) Third Church was in a run-down, racially mixed neighborhood. Some of the members wanted to move out to newer suburbs. But McGrady felt the ministry of the church was needed in that area. He was developing his sense of identification with the common people of the world.

The young minister's vision for Third Church paid off. For it was here at Nashville Third Church that Paul McGrady became the real evangelist and soul winner. But that story is for another chapter. . . . [ more ]

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A dynamic pastor becomes an effective soul winner

arrow pointing right Paul McGrady searches for ways to become an effective fisherman for the Lord . . . and he finds them! . . . [ more ]

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