Reflecting on the life of Eugene Lawton
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this:…
“He was a true pillar in theAfrican-American Churches of Christ, but had a reputation that crossed allcultures,” said Kevin Bethea, minister of the East Baltimore church. “Brother Foutz was a church planter and aproducer of many young preachers.”
At Foutz’s April 22 memorial service,Jack Evans, president of Southwestern Christian Collegein Terrell, Texas, called him “a great preacher withsound doctrine.”
Roosevelt Wells, an evangelist in New York City, said Foutz had gone from “labor to reward,”and William F. Washington of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.,said that the greatest tribute the church could show Foutz would be to “standfirm against the devil.”
Foutz stood firm in his faith until hisApril 13 death. He preached in congregations in 34 states and was a popularspeaker at Christian college lectureships, from Texasto California to Michigan.
“We are here to celebrate the life of agreat preacher, a great church builder and a great defender of the faith,”evangelist Eugene Lawton of Newark, N.J., said during the funeral. “Agreat giant has fallen. His death represents the end of an era in theMid-Atlantic area.”
Foutz served on the board of directorsof Southwestern Christian, the historically black college that sponsors theannual National Church Lectureship.
Born Feb. 1, 1933, in Mexia,Texas, he was the son of George and AlmaFoutz, who later moved the family to Dallas.Foutz was raised as a Catholic and attended CatholicUniversity, a Jesuit school in New Orleans.
He later moved back to Dallasand was baptized at the Ninth Street Church of Christ in Dallas. He preached for two years at Churchesof Christ in Texas, before he and his wifemoved to Baltimore,where over the next 48 years they built one of the largest ministries in thecountry.
Foutz began his Baltimore ministry at the Gilmore Street church, using filmstripsand Bible correspondence courses to share the gospel. In the first15 years, thecongregation grew to nearly 400 members and outgrew several locations.
Starting in 1974, he had a radio showcalled “The Morning Bible Study.” A bus ministry and other efforts also helpedfuel the church’s growth. The Central church planted additional congregationsin Wilmington, Del.;Annapolis, Md.;York, Pa.; and Cambridge, Md.
After Foutz suffered a stroke lastOctober, the congregation chose assistant minister Clinton Miles to succeedhim. Even though the church doesn’t have deacons or elders, members said thetransition has been smooth.
“Brother Foutz encouraged us to bedoers of the word,” Miles said during an interview with a group of men who leadthe church. “He always said that the most important thing that we need to do isto be soul winners.”
Members and leaders atCentral said the best way to celebrate his life would be to continue his legacy of loveand outreach.
“He had compassion for every man,”longtime member Perrin Tinsley said. “He didn’t look at what a person did ortheir occupation. He looked at the content of their character. He told all ofus: ‘You are important and you have a purpose in live to save souls.’”
Central member Lillas Beckford recalledthat before she became a Christian, her daughter visited Foutz’s office andvoiced concern that her mother had not yet obeyed the gospel.
“His response was, ‘Is that right,sister? Just keep her coming and she will obey,’” Beckford recalled. “That isexactly what happened shortly.”
Beckford said Foutz always stressed theimportant of “having a relationship with God, reminding us that we are buriedwith Christ.”
“I cannot recall Brother Foutz ending asermon without expressing that the most important thing that one can do is togive their life to Christ,” she said.
Hamil R. Harris, a reporterfor The Washington Post, is a deaconat the University Park church, Hyattsville, Md.
May 8, 2006
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