Hugh’s News & Views (Great Gospel Preachers . . . Pt. 5)

GREAT GOSPEL PREACHERS OF THE PAST

(Part 5: John H. Banister and C. E. McGaughey)

John H. Banister (1910-1995). John Hugh Banister was born in Thalia, TX on April 20, 1910 and baptized into Christ by Horace W. Busby in 1922. He married Marybel Miller on September 22, 1933 and they were the parents of three children. Brother Banister was trained at Harding College in Searcy, AR, and went on to become one of the great preachers of the preceding century. A volume of his sermons is included in J. D. Thomas’ 1960 series “Great Preachers of Today.” Jimmy Allen once referred to John Banister as “the silver tongued orator of Dallas.” John served local churches in Nacona, TX; Memphis, TX; Elk City, OK; the Mayfair church in Oklahoma City, OK; and the Skillman Avenue church in Dallas, TX. He served the latter congregation for a total of 23 years (1948 – 1971), and it was in Dallas that brother Banister perhaps became best known throughout the brotherhood of Christ. He led the congregation from its previous Sears and Summit location to a magnificent structure on Skillman Street. Though the thoroughfare was a “Street,” the congregation took the name “Skillman Avenue,” later referred to simply as “Skillman.” The church reached its zenith during John’s ministry. For many years he conducted both a live Sunday morning radio program and a live Sunday morning television program. With all of the additional teaching, preaching, counseling, and visiting responsibilities of a preacher working with a large congregation, brother Banister was a busy man. The Skillman building had a seating capacity of 1400, including a 400 seat balcony. Because of the tremendous growth at Skillman during the Banister years, a new congregation—Prestoncrest—was formed in northwest Dallas in 1972. Brother Banister was in great demand for gospel meetings, as well as lectureships at Christian colleges. For many years he served on the Board of Abilene Christian College. In 1951, he delivered the first annual series of Lectures on Preaching at Abilene Christian College. In 1963, he was the speaker on the Far East Fellowship in Tokyo, Japan, and also spoke in Manila and Hong Kong. On the same trip he conducted a gospel meeting in Honolulu. Brother Banister was a man of great devotion, spending much time in Bible study and prayer. Freida Milholland, long time secretary to a series of Skillman preachers from brother Banister to me, loved to tell the story of the secretaries waiting on bulletin publishing day for John to get his material to them. One morning Freida tapped lightly on John’s study door and asked if he had his bulletin material ready, and reminded him that the deadline was approaching. John responded, “Freida, I am reading my Bible; when I finish, I will get the bulletin material to you.” John produced several Bible study guides that he used in teaching his adult classes at Skillman. I have a copy of his two-part study of The Life of Christ (26 lessons). John Banister was a Bible student and a Bible preacher! He was a prolific writer of gospel tracts, and for many years displays of his tracts (as well as others) were featured in various strategic locations throughout the Skillman building. Following his retirement from the Skillman pulpit, brother Banister spent several years in full-time meeting work. When I moved to Skillman in 1983, he was pretty much retired, though still holding a few meetings. He became a good friend and was a great encouragement to me and my work. He and I worked together in many funerals during my twelve years at Skillman, and I do not know the times that I heard him say, “We are going down the valley one by one.” John passed from this life on April 29, 1995 at the age of 85. His funeral was conducted by Hulen Jackson on May 2 at Skillman. He is buried in the Waresville Cemetery in Utopia, TX, in the Texas “Hill Country,” the home of his wife. I regret very much that I was out of town at the time of his passing and unable to attend his funeral service. He was a great man and a great preacher.

C. E. McGaughey (1905-1977). I never heard C. E. McGaughey preach but one sermon, but that one sermon convinced me that he was one of the truly great gospel preachers of the 20th century. Caswell Ellis McGaughey was born into a Methodist family in Montgomery, TX on July 18, 1905. His mother was a Lipscomb before her marriage, and it is said that she was related to David Lipscomb. In 1917 the McGaughey family, including Ellis, was converted to New Testament Christianity by F. B. Shepherd. He preached his first sermon while still in high school and later attended Abilene Christian College where he met Pauline McCanlies who he married in 1926. They became the parents of two sons—Paul Ellis and Don Hugh—both of whom became gospel preachers. For one year, he and Pauline taught a two-room school near Post, TX. Later, they moved to Kirkland, TX where he did his first full-time church work. From Kirkland they moved to Elk City, OK where he preached for six years, conducted an effective radio program, and preached in numerous gospel meetings. He later did local work in Springfield, MO; Oklahoma City (two different congregations at different times); Washington, D. C. (during which time the building at 16th and Decatur was erected); and Houston, TX. From 1951 to 1953 and again from 1962 until the end of his life he engaged in full-time gospel meeting work, with the exception of two years during which he preached for the Kennaumoku Church of Christ in Honolulu, HI. His evangelistic work took him into all parts of the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, and Ireland. In a meeting in Belfast, North Ireland in 1948 he baptized 74 people. According to Loyd L. Smith (Gospel Preachers of Yesteryear [1986]), during brother McGaughey’s lifetime he conducted more than 1,200 gospel meetings, preached more than 20,000 times, and saw more than 17,000 people respond to the gospel invitation under his preaching. He delivered lectures on preaching at Abilene Christian College, Harding College, Freed-Hardeman College, and Lubbock Christian College. In addition to being an excellent pulpiteer, brother McGaughey excelled in one-on-one evangelism, feeling that it was a matter of “snatching souls from the burning.” A fellow preacher said of him: “No man can tell another man that he is going to hell without Jesus, and do it with more loving concern that this is so, than C.E. McGaughey.” About 1960 he developed a malignancy which was successfully kept under control for many years during which time brother McGaughey did some of his greatest preaching. But in 1976 it returned and the doctors were powerless to stop it. When his son, Paul, left his side for the last time while he was fully conscious, he called him back and had him read Jude 24-25: “Now unto him that is able to guard you from stumbling, and to set you before the presence of his glory without blemish in exceeding joy, to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and power, before all time, and now, and for evermore.” He passed from this life on July 12, 1977, six days short of his 72nd birthday. Funeral services were conducted the following day by Morris Thurman, Howard Norton, and James O. Baird. He is buried in Arlington Memorial Park Cemetery, north of downtown Oklahoma City, OK. And, oh, that one sermon I heard C. E. McGaughey preach? It was either 1962 or 1963 when I was living in Jackson, TN and preaching for the Allen and Edgewood (now North Jackson) church. Brother McGaughey came to Jackson to preach in a meeting for the Central Church of Christ and I went to hear him one night, possibly the very last night of the meeting. He preached a moving and powerful sermon titled “If I Am Lost.” I shall never forget that sermon! Among other matters, he stressed that if he was lost he would be “lost forever.” In elaborating on this point, he said, “When we have roasted and toasted and scorched and sizzled and singed in hell for 10,000 years, we will not have anything to look forward to but another 10,000 years of the same thing, then another 10,000 years, then another, and another, and so on throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity.” I am sure that those were his words for I never would have been able to come up with them on my own. But his final point was that if one is lost that person “will miss heaven, and that will be the greatest loss of all.” I left the service with the sermon outlined, with a resolve to live in such a way as to not be lost myself, and with a renewed determination to preach in such a way as to help others to be saved rather than lost. Over the past 50 plus years, I have preached brother McGaughey’s sermon many times, not in the way that only he could preach it, but in the way that I preach it. Truly, he was a great gospel preacher of the past!

Hugh Fulford

January 29, 2019

Note: There will be no “Hugh’s News & Views” next week due to attending the annual Freed-Hardeman University Bible Lectureship in Henderson, TN.

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