3. McGrady: The Soul Winner

A biography of Rev. Paul McGrady, pastor, evangelist and professor of evangelism. These seven chapters (including the Foreword/Preface) contain the story of his life and one of his sermons. Mr. Evangelism was originally published by Pedestal Press of Kansas City

In a little over three years at Nashville Third Church of the Nazarene, McGrady was transformed from McGrady the preacher into McGrady the soul winner. When he left there to move across town to another pastorate, he had already become "Mr. Evangelism."

Looking for ways to win the lost men in the community around Third Church, McGrady tried the Nazarene denominational approach to visitation evangelism, but he wasn't satisfied with it. One initial question to be used was: "Do you know of a boy or girl who is not in Sunday school?" McGrady didn't like it because he wanted something to win non-church people to faith in Jesus -- not just to find them and invite them to a church service.

A Tennessee District tour on visitation evangelism came for a weekend to Nashville Third Church. The principal speaker was Eva Gardner from Carthage, MO. The weekend she spent at the enthusiastic young preacher's church turned his world upside down. She went with the McGradys calling on prospects that Paul had already been working with. Mrs. Gardner taught Paul to:

  1. Look them in the eyes
  2. Get their attention
  3. Talk about nothing but Jesus Christ. Exalt Him.
  4. Press for a decision.

To Jean McGrady, Mrs. Gardner taught the necessity of keeping the children quiet and other people in the room occupied while Christ was being presented to one particular person.

The desire of the parsonage couple to do more than preach in a church on Sundays now found a channel in personal soul winning. The auburn-haired preacher became a human torch for God. "The Roman Road to Salvation" became his method: It uses four verses from the Epistle to the Romans. The first two passages (3:23 and 6:23) show a person's lost condition and the penalty for sin. The last two (5:8; 10:9-10) note Christ's redeeming work for us and how to claim salvation for oneself.

In the spring of 1953, Paul McGrady went back to school, this time to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where he was pastoring. Two years later Paul McGrady, now 31, received his B.D. from Vanderbilt. He attended for another year, working toward a doctorate, but he finally realized he was going to have to either start pastoring full-time or go to school full-time. He just couldn't afford graduate school expenses on a preacher's salary. At his death, Paul had paid little more than the interest on his student loan at Vanderbilt. To Jean McGrady's surprise, the business office canceled all of Paul's student debt.

While Paul McGrady was still attending Vanderbilt, his parents moved from their farm in the Pennsylvania/Maryland area to a 75-acre farm in South Carolina. They had planned to just retire there, but Paul McGrady had become interested in Tennessee Walking Horses. So, Paul and his father began buying Tennessee Walkers, shipping them to South Carolina for his parents to raise and sell. The farm, 40 miles from the Atlantic coast, often held as many as 35 Tennessee Walking Horses. It was never much of a money-making business, but it became a very enjoyable hobby for Paul and his parents.

In August of 1956, Paul McGrady ventured into camping evangelism as chaplain of the Tennessee District boys' camp. Camp meetings across the nation would eventually fill his summer calendar. As an evangelist, he began to walk up and down the auditorium aisles during altar calls, inviting people to come and pray. Using his broad smile, a warm handshake, and natural diplomacy, his invitations brought hundreds streaming down aisles. He always asked them, "I'm not embarrassing you, am I?" The spring before his death he told one of his classes, "In all of the times I've asked that question, only one person has ever said, `Yes.'"

His mother became ill. Without even a tissue analysis, the doctors' diagnosis was cancer in an advanced stage. Paul rushed from Tennessee to the South Carolina hospital. His mother was devoted to the church and was a great booster of Paul.

Seeking strength in that moment, McGrady did something that he did only occasionally thereafter in times of great stress. He let his Bible fall open and began reading, searching for a definite promise from God's Word. The pages fell open to the Psalms. He read the first page and went on to the second one. That second one contained the words of Psalm 91, which deals with the state of the godly. The last verse read, "With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation."

It was promise enough for Paul! His mother lived 15 more years. And it was her healing that gave him faith for his own a few years later in Kansas City.

Rev. Otto Stucki, then superintendent of the Mississippi District, came to Nashville Third Church for a revival campaign. He took one look at the congregation and said, "You have plenty of children and older adults, Paul, but few young couples.

"Get the young couples in," Stucki told McGrady.

That started McGrady's young-couple approach to building churches. He later told Kay, one of his nieces, "Young couples are more receptive to the gospel than teen-agers." He would tell his students at the college that if they could survive in a small, new church for six months and win one young couple a month to Christ and to the church, the church would then be able to pay them a good full-time salary.

He began using Jean to teach the young couples' class in his pastorates and they worked as a team. Since the Cradle Roll was also a part of the plan to find and win young couples, she also worked that program along with her class. Rather than seeking only the children, the parsonage couple went after family units in their evangelism. Average attendance at Third Church skyrocketed from 180 to 250.

After serving Nashville Third for three and a half years, Paul McGrady moved across town to the Inglewood Church. The shift of churches within the same city naturally caused some problems and McGrady vowed he'd never do it again. He didn't ... for he was to pastor only one more church and that one in Kansas City. Inglewood Church was located in a higher economic section of Nashville than Third Church. Evangelistic results came more slowly since the area was so well churched. However, he managed to increase average attendance from 130 to 160. It was to be his smallest percentage gain of any pastorate -- yet not once did he come to a district assembly without being able to report a gain in average attendance.

One of the most outstanding conversions of his ministry came at Inglewood Church in the person of James E. Killoran, who is now a Nazarene pastor. Jim tells of his first Sunday morning at Inglewood:

"Paul stepped to the pulpit and preached a burning message from his heart. It was no book report or political summary. `Sin is man's greatest problem. People must find forgiveness for their sins. Jesus Christ died so that people can have forgiveness.' That was it! Simple but true.

There was a ring of reality in his voice and his right foot seemed to have trouble staying on the floor.

"Then as suddenly as he started, he stopped. `You can be a Christian. You can receive God's salvation now!'

"God came. I stepped out to the altar. I really prayed. God saved me.

"Then I heard a loud `Praise the Lord!' from the great lungs of the man who had just led me to Jesus Christ. His right foot seemed to want to stay in the air and his right fist circled over his head. His smile was bigger than ever now as great tears fell from his friendly eyes.

"It was only later when I visited the church one weekday and heard him pray that I understood those tears. They had cost him long hours alone with God before he had knocked on my door and I entered the church that Sunday morning. He had earned those tears and that shout" (Herald of Holiness, Nov. 29, 1967).

In September of 1957, Paul McGrady was asked by General Superintendent G. B. Williamson to help find a good Tennessee Walking Horse for his son John, who was 13 years old at the time. By now McGrady had become an expert trader in Tennessee Walkers. He selected a horse named Scatman for Dr. Williamson. It sealed the bond of friendship between the two men -- for Scatman was exactly what Williamson had been looking for.

But the evangelistic pastor named Paul McGrady was becoming known among the top Nazarene leadership for more than horse-trading. In November of 1957, he received a letter from the president of Northwest Nazarene College in Nampa, Idaho:

"Dear Brother McGrady: In a recent conversation with Dr. Powers about my concern for the maintenance of high faculty standards, he mentioned your name and suggested that I write to you to see specifically what your field of study is and whether or not you would be interested in joining our faculty. Dr. Powers tells me that you are well on the way toward completion of your doctorate and that he had contacted you about opening a school for us in Australia or New Zealand, but that you had not felt free to accept the position....

"May I hear from you at your earliest convenience?

"Kindest personal regards. Yours in Christ."

The letter was signed by President John E. Riley.

McGrady didn't go to Idaho to teach -- but it may have begun to open the way five years later to his going to what is now Southern Nazarene University.

Another person whom Paul was able to lead to Christ was his oldest brother, Harold. He and his family lived in Nashville and had attended Inglewood Church some but with no definite decision for Christ. Harold became very sick and had to have radical surgery for ulcers. Paul went to the hospital to pray and minister to his brother before the operation and was able to aid Harold in accepting the Lord Jesus as his Saviour. Today he and several members of his family are devout, loyal members of the Church of the Nazarene.

What kind of preacher was he now? Mrs. C. H. Hurd, a member of his Inglewood congregation, wrote, "His sermons were interspersed with pithy sayings of great Christians from the early Church Fathers to those of the present day. He knew church history and gave us the benefit of his knowledge. He was always learning and inspired us to study and learn. He loved people and he loved life. Today my Bible means much more to me because of Brother McGrady's teaching."

During his days at Vanderbilt, McGrady had evidently been questioning some things about his faith and belief, for in May of 1959, G. B. Williamson wrote to him: "It is most gratifying to know that you have come out of your inner conflicts with your feet on solid foundations. If wisdom is in not being sure of anything, then certainly there are many wise people in the world, but I rejoice in the Christian faith that reaches out into the realm of the spiritual and the eternal and gives one confidence both for the life that now is and that which is to come. Your personal testimony as to your present state of mind and the fruitfulness of your ministry is an unspeakable joy to me ...

"Congratulations upon the arrival of the young stud as offspring to your beautiful mare, Snowball. I would like to see the mother and colt, and I am hoping that you may have the opportunity to bring Snowball and the little stud to Kansas City before too long. I do not know what the developments are there. However, Jack Lee has accepted an appointment to the church in Newport, Kentucky. Maybe there will be a call for you, and in that case, the Williamsons would be delighted."

There was a call for him and in the summer of 1959 he followed Jack Lee at St. Paul's Church in Kansas City. The district superintendent, Jarrette Aycock, wrote, "What I've wanted for eight years is about to happen. You are coming."

Reporting on the new St. Paul's pastor, the Kansas City Star said, "In his churches, he has emphasized personal visitation and work with young people."

Thus, even with the emphasis he had developed of building a church around families, McGrady still reserved a special place for the youth of the church. This special place was soon to lead him to teach young people in a church college. "He was always a big hit with the young people," one of his members wrote Mrs. McGrady after the wreck. "He would frequently get a group of young people together after church. They would pile into his car and drive somewhere to get something to eat. Then he'd take them home. They all loved this and looked forward to it so much." He also delighted in taking youth out camping -- opportunities he used to draw them closer to God.

Though he was still a pastor, Paul McGrady was becoming more and more of an evangelist. People were being saved in almost every service at St. Paul's in Kansas City. Following the Nazarene General Assembly in the summer of 1960, new Herald of Holiness editor W. T. Purkiser asked McGrady to contribute articles to the magazine on the new Nazarene quadrennial theme, "Evangelism First." But Paul was too busy to write.

In fact, following Paul's tragic death, seminary and Trevecca classmate Roy Nix wrote to Jean: "It would surprise me if Paul left a single manuscript or even a single complete, detailed outline. For such devout impetuosity and tempestuousness as Paul's seldom goes with patient penmanship. He was a man of action rather than diction. Dynamic rather than academic."

Congregations and even college classes caught something of his enthusiastic spirit when, at the emotional peak of a message, he would flash the McGrady kick -- his right foot shooting out beside the pulpit and his right fist circling over his head.

In April of 1960, a son, Paul Jr., was born to the McGradys. Paul McGrady loved his family very much, and as Paul, Jr., grew up he would spend hours with his father, playing rough, riding horses, going fishing, and traveling across the country in camps and revivals. Paul Jr. loved it all and his father became his idol. This love for his own children extended to other children. Paul McGrady thought kids were the greatest things in the world -- he didn't think they were bad or filled with meanness. To keep them quiet in church, he developed a technique of taking potential troublemakers aside and making them feel responsible for seeing that peace and quiet prevailed. St. Paul's had only one small class of junior boys and girls. Unable to spark growth through other efforts, Pastor McGrady began teaching that one small class. Captivated by his enthusiasm, the boys and girls helped him build a huge department. When the one class alone mushroomed to nearly 40 children every Sunday, he let it be broken down into four smaller classes. He loved children, and they knew it. His compassion for lost people knew no age limits. He wanted boys and girls also to accept Christ.

While he was pastoring in Kansas City, what is now Southern Nazarene University asked him to bring their annual Aycock lectures, which were sponsored by his district superintendent, Jarrette Aycock. When he returned home after the week, his wife told him he was acting like he'd been to heaven. The doors were beginning to open to a new way of service for Paul McGrady.

But the strain of pastoring and being a part-time evangelist (one summer he was one of the speakers at his own district's camp meeting) was taking its toll. The doctors put him on tranquilizers. But it didn't bring full relief. He went to the hospital for a complete checkup. X-rays revealed ulcers in his stomach which probably would require surgery. Even with an operation, he would still have to live on a limited schedule.

Released from the hospital for the weekend, he was cautioned by doctors not to preach that Sunday. But he did anyway, and after the sermon he called for the church board to come forward. An ordained elder in his congregation, Malcolm Shelton, anointed McGrady and prayed for God to heal him. Back at the hospital the first of the week, McGrady underwent some final tests to determine whether surgery would be necessary. "To the doctor's amazement," said Mr. Shelton, "the tests showed nothing. There were no abnormalities in his stomach."

Dr. Ira Cox, a Nazarene medical missionary to India, was in Kansas City on home assignment, McGrady called him to ask if it would be doubting or questioning God to have the stomach X-rayed. Dr. Cox replied, "No, Paul, I think God can stand the test-tube test."

And He did, for the subsequent X-rays showed nothing. God had completely healed Paul McGrady!

"He referred to it quite often. It became sort of a major event in his thinking," Mr. Shelton said.

In two of his pastorates, he used Elwood Munger, the visitation evangelist. With Munger's help, McGrady grasped the importance of a prospect list. To him, a growing prospect list meant a growing church. He began using a Mormon-type approach to invading a neighborhood: two people, one to talk, the other to take notes or keep distracting influences away. Average attendance at St. Paul's went from 200 to 260.

One of his assistant pastors at St. Paul's was Martin Arni, a Nazarene Theological Seminary student. Arni says of McGrady:

"He was Mr. Optimist. There was nothing that God and he could not accomplish. He was Mr. Enthusiasm. He made the Lord's work exciting. It was evident that Jesus Christ had a monopoly on his life. He could not tolerate a lack of progress in spiritual endeavors. He had a personal touch with people that brought out their best. He used the tool of praise to inspire greater service and effectiveness. With his hearty handshake and magnanimous smile, he let you know he was interested in you. He studied people and was a good judge of human nature. He preached as if each sermon were his last. He was a convinced Christian and he convinced others. Paul was not a liberal nor a radical. By avoiding extremes, he enlarged the scope of his ministry. He was idealist enough to have a good imagination and practical enough to avoid becoming an armchair theologian. He gave of himself in such a degree that he was many times physically exhausted from such a rigorous schedule." . . . [

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A soul-winning pastor becomes a college professor

Next chapterA school dropout winds up working on his doctorate while becoming an effective soul-winner. Then, a college in Oklahoma asks him to teach. Will moving into the classroom move him away from front-line evangelism? . . . [ more ]
-- Howard Culbertson

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