Preacher, Author, Writer, Publisher, Businessman
By Noble Patterson
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Editor's Note: Few men have influenced the church more in our lifetime than Leroy Brownlow. I came across his biography this week, and thought there were spiritual lessons to learn from one who being dead yet speaketh (Hebrews 11:4).
What about the mission work? With Leroy's encouragement the Polytechnic church supported, without help from others, several preachers in various mission fields, supporting each missionary nearly as much as they did their own local preacher. Also, they built or bought church buildings in those areas. Some were in large cities like Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Milwaukee. Their missionaries, Harvey Childress and Guy Southern, pioneered the work in Minnesota.
The Polytechnic church on a dead-end street with a minimum staff became at one time the third largest church of Christ in the nation, and perhaps could have become the largest if it had chosen to do so rather than establish other congregations in the surrounding neighborhoods. Polytechnic gave 200 members, two elders, and 16 teachers and assistant teachers to start the Meadowbrook congregation. Remarkably, the very next year under the preaching of Leroy Brownlow, Polytechnic had a higher average attendance than the year before! They gave 200 members to start Eastland Street. They helped to start Vickery Boulevard all over again after the former group moved to Mitchell Boulevard. They assisted in establishing the Flamingo Road and Linwood congregations. They also bought and paid for the prime location and set aside $160,000 to start the Brentwood church, now Bridgewood.
Here was a congregation that was free of the selfish, competitive spirit; rather it was interested in the growth of all congregations and in the Lord's work everywhere. This is further evident in that Polytechnic took the lead in running the directory ad in the Fort Worth Star Telegram that included all the congregations, whether they contributed monetarily or not.
Leroy believed it wise to advertise our strength and numbers. Furthermore, it was a gesture of helpfulness to give the smallest churches as much publicity as the largest ones. Consequently, Polytechnic withdrew its own weekly, private ad. Their unselfishness and strong commitment to help all congregations was truly a great Christian example. Leroy and the Polytechnic elders led the church to be forceful in the defense of the gospel. When Dr. J. Frank Norris, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Fort Worth, which had the largest Sunday school in the world, began to broadcast daily on radio a challenge for the churches of Christ to send forth a man to meet him in debate, it was Leroy Brownlow and the Polytechnic church who took the lead in accepting his challenge and in silencing him on the matter. They chose Foy E. Wallace, Jr., to meet him, and Dr. Norris refused to meet Wallace. He backed down (perhaps Norris recalled the defeat he suffered in the Wallace-Norris debate in 1934). Nobody questioned the soundness of this church or their preacher. When the anti-cooperation movement came into the Fort Worth area, Brownlow and the Polytechnic church stood firmly on the ground they had occupied for years, which was cooperation. Most of the preachers, at first, were influenced by the movement, but later came back to stand with Polytechnic.
Under the leadership of Leroy Brownlow, the Polytechnic church was very aggressive and set the good example and pattern in many areas. For instance, it was:
The first church in the area to have off-street parking.
The first church west of the Mississippi River to have a mail-out bulletin or paper.
The first church in the Fort Worth area to have a full-time secretary.
The first church of Christ in the world to be on television.
So far as I know, the first church to have busing. In 1944 they rented a bus, with its driver, from the Fort Worth Transit System and ran it for about six weeks, but gave it up because the people did not want to ride it. They were ahead of the times.