Vol. 8, No. 10
~ Page 14 ~
I just finished reading a great old book entitled Gospel Lessons and Life History by the late renowned E.G. Sewell. He was probably not known to many in the Ohio Valley since he spent the most of his life in the middle and east Tennessee areas. For forty years or more, he was a close friend and confidant to brother David Lipscomb, as well as co-editor of the Gospel Advocate. Though brother Sewell did attend Burritt College in Spencer, TN for two and a half years and one ten month term at brother Tolbert Fanning's Franklin College, he was for the most part a self-taught man. His courses in these two colleges were in mathematics, Greek and Hebrew, as well as a course in Latin as I recall. He learned to read the Bible in what he called, "their native languages." In that respect he was, even by today's standards (he died in 1924), quite a scholar! Brother Sewell was preeminently a man of the Book. He pored over his Bible closely every day of his adult life, from age nineteen onward, and did his best to apply everything he learned to his own life first. Reading his own sketch of his life sent me to my meager library to learn more about him and I found other material in several books. Unfortunately, I did not find all that I would like to know about this great soldier of the cross, but I did find a comment made about his leadership as an elder in the church that I think is worthy of our consideration. Brother Sewell evidently had a keen insight into human nature and was, if his admirers are telling the truth, a true Shepherd among the flock of God.
Though in teaching and writing, brother Sewell was straightforward, even to the point of being blunt, some of his detractors complained, he was as gentle and loving as it is possible for a man to be in this old wicked world. One observer said that he was never out-of-sorts, and he never became angry or disdainful of anyone. Even his enemies agreed with that. Brother H. Leo Boles commented that though brother Sewell and brother David Lipscomb would disagree on the interpretation of some Scripture and warmly argue their positions for hours, they did so without ever revealing the slightest hint of acrimony between them. One of the good brethren who followed him when he left the Woodland Street Church in Nashville after the introduction of the "society" into the congregation said that he never heard brother Sewell make a disparaging remark about those who forced the society in and Bible believing brethren out. The brother went on to remark that all brother Sewell had to say about those people he said to them and then discussed it no further. When he recorded the history of this division, he did give a rather full history of it citing the dirty tricks and behind-the-scenes maneuvering of those who were determined to bring the "society" (Missionary Society) into the church. His revelation of the deeds of these "Christians" is astounding!
I wish to attempt to fairly paraphrase two or three paragraphs into a few sentences and then make the point to this article. It was said by one of the men who depended on brother Sewell for leadership that he was one of the kindest, gentlest, loving men he ever met. If a fellow did not want to follow his leadership in a matter in which the congregation was engaged, brother Sewell would take his Bible, sit down with the man, usually privately, and gently--lovingly show him from the Word of God what the elders were asking the church to do. He said that brother Sewell could lead with such kindness, gentleness and love that one who had formerly had doubts or questions would not only go along with brother Sewell in doing the work of Christ, he did so rejoicing. Brother Sewell did not in any way abuse any of his flock, but led them into green pastures and beside the still waters. What a beautiful leader to eternal life this man must have been. It was also commented that if one refused to follow the leadership of brother Sewell, there was no anger, animosity or unkind treatment in any way. Brethren, there is a difference between leadership and "enforcership" is there not? Even God leads, he never pushes or bullies!
Now, of the things of which I have spoken, this is the sum. Preachers are leaders. They may have untold influence over people because they so frequently stand before them speaking the "wonderful words of life," if they do that in the right way. If we, or any other leader, cannot lead with kindness, love, gentleness, we should stop trying and allow someone else do it who can. Leadership is never a reason to forget Ephesians 4:32.