Roy E. Cogdill: Fifty Years a Gospel Preacher

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

Elsewhere in this issue you will find an article by Brother Roy E. Cogdill entitled "Fifty Years as a Gospel Preacher." This article has prompted me to want to say some additional things about this significant event. Brother Cogdill does not know that I have written this article. Had he known of my intention to write it, knowing him as I think I do, he would have requested that this article not appear. But since I am privileged to edit Truth Magazine, I think I will just exercise my editorial prerogative, and say some additional things that are upon my heart as I write this morning of November 28, 1972.

One of the most beautiful thoughts expressed in the New Testament, at least to me, is that expressed by Paul in Eph. 3:8, 9: "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God . . . " Please notice that Paul says that gospel preaching is a "grace." A "grace" is an unmerited favor; a privilege not deserved. In view of the comment made by Brother Cogdill indicating his great joy in gospel preaching, I take it that he too considers gospel preaching an undeserved favor.

What I want to say is not considered biographical at all. I do not propose to give a summary of his life. Instead, there are just some personal observations upon my heart that I thought would be echoed by many of the readers of Truth Magazine. Few men live long enough to get the privilege of serving the Master gospel preaching for half a century.

Certainly then, this accomplishment by Brother Cogdill is a rare one, and a significant milestone has been reached.

Though I never cared much for poetry or English literature, the words of Thomas F. Healy do come to mind: "Dont strew me with roses after I am dead. When Death claims the light of my brow, no flowers of life will cheer me: instead you may give me my roses now! " At the time of Brother Cogdills home-going, I am sure that many commendatory comments will be made by various brethren through many different media. But I thought some things to be said were in order now. Though Roy Cogdill still appears to be robust and strong for one his age (just past 65 years), he also shares with us all the mortality of man. By whatever rude one might wish to measure, certainly Brother Cogdill is now going toward the setting of the sun.

He and I, in recent years, have done considerable traveling together. Counting our 1970 trip to the Philippines, and more recently the trip to the Bible Lands, we have nearly traveled around the world together. We have traveled many thousands of miles together in this country. I know Roy Cogdill loves to preach! I have seen him speak to large audiences, and I have seen him expend the same amount of effort when speaking to just a few persons. He can hardly turn down an invitation to preach, no matter what the circumstances or what the previous conditions have been.

A few months ago, he and I had occasion to make a trip to Austin, Texas. We were both very tired, having traveled about a thousand miles. We arrived late Wednesday, and knew that our brethren would be meeting somewhere in that city that night. Knowing how brethren customarily invite a visiting preacher to speak, and knowing how extremely tired we both were, I suggested that he and I enter into a "pact," and that neither of us accept an invitation to preach, to which he agreed. We were both entirely too weary to preach. As usual, the brethren there (hospitable people that they are) invited one of us to speak. Before I could explain how exceedingly weary we were, Roy said: "You know, I have never preached in Austin in my life, and would like to have the opportunity to do so!" He had forgotten all about our previous agreement. So now he has preached in Austin, and I have not. I felt badly about a man twenty-five years my senior, and being equally as tired as was I, preaching while I sat back and listened. The man simply loves to preach the glad tidings.

Often when brethren only know a man through his writings, they do not know him at all. One brother said of me, "He only has two sermons: one on giving and the other on institutionalism." Those who have not been privileged to know Roy Cogdill intimately probably have very little idea what he really is like, as a person. I would like to tell you a little about him, in case some of our readers have not had the good fortune to know him well.

Inherent Ability

God very richly endowed Brother Cogdill with preaching qualities, and for which we all ought to thank God. He has a powerful, resonant voice which has been a great blessing to him as he has preached this half a century. Frankly, I doubt if any brother anywhere has spent more time preaching the gospel than has Roy Cogdill. Those who know him well know that not only does he speak frequently, but he frequently does not finish very soon. Thus I would guess that no man among us has spent more total hours proclaiming Christ in the last fifty years than has Roy Cogdill.

Not only was Brother Cogdill blessed richly with speaking capability, but he also

meticulously, carefully, and thoroughly has cultivated these God-given preaching traits. I

know that the appraisal of preaching abilities is, quite subjective. Others may detest the qualities that one person really likes. However, if someone were to ask me, "Who, in your opinion, has been the most competent preacher among faithful churches of Christ within the past generation?" it would take me only an instant to reply, "Roy E. Cogdill." Without any doubt, in my opinion, he has been the ablest pulpiteer among us within the last generation. Furthermore, I think that brethren across this great nation would agree with me, nearly unanimously.

Had Brother Cogdill been one who loved the praises of men more than the praises of God (Jno. 12:42, 43) there is no question in my mind that he could have been "at the top" among preachers among the liberal churches of Christ. I realize that God judges preachers in terms of faithfulness, rather than in terms of innate ability, but Roy Cogdill has been both faithful and able (2 Tim. 2:2). Bible based convictions caused him to cast his lot among the minority. But where Roy Cogdill stands on any issue is not determined by "counting noses."

Apparently Roy has been also blessed with astrong physical constitution. Throughout a long life, he has borne a heavy workload, without faltering. When he and I made a very tiring trip to the Philippines in 1970, I confess that he nearly wore me out completely, though I am twenty-five years younger than is he. This strong, internal constitution (physically, mentally, and emotionally) has been a blessing to him in his fifty years of hard work.


One author said, "It is not the brains that matter most, but that which guides them-the character, the heart, generous qualities, progressive ideas." Another said, "Mans character is his fate." Ones character really tells what he is. Perhaps the most pervasive character trait of Roy Cogdill is his conviction. He loves truth (2 Thess. 2:10-12). He has sought to follow the wisdom of Solomon who said: "Buy the truth, and sell it not" (Prov. 23:23). Roy Cogdill has been willing to pay whatever is the price of truth. Nor in his life has he shown any disposition to "sell" truth, once he has come to possess it. Standing upon Gods truth, Roy is not scared of the Devil himself. With truth, he has not hesitated to cast down the strongholds and evil imaginations of men (2 Cor. 10: 4). He has shown himself willing to set himself against "every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God."

Another outstanding attribute that has characterized him, as I have known him, has been steadfastness. In a few instances he has discovered that his practice did not agree with the truth that he preached. On such occasions, he has reformed his practice rather than his preaching. Convinced that he stands solidly upon truth, there is no "looking back" with Roy Cogdill (Lk. 9:62; Col. 1:23; 1 Cor. 15:58). When convinced he is right, there is no "spirit of fearfulness" in him (2 Tim. 1:7; Rev. 21:8). Though Roy has reached sixty-five (a time when many retire), let no one think that he has laid down his armor. The scripture requires faithfulness, even unto the point of death (Rev. 2: 10). I sincerely believe that he is like those of whom it is said in Rev. 12: 11: "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death." His has been a deep and an abiding commitment to the "word of his power" (Heb. 1: 3). Frequently old men undo in their last years all the good they have done throughout a long life. I frequently have prayed that I might not live so long as to do that, and in like manner, I pray for Brother Cogdill. His has been a steadfast fight, and may it be so, unto the very end of his days.

A side of Roy Cogdill, which many have never seen, is his tenderness. Outwardly he has given a "strong as nails"; impression, but inwardly there is a very tender heart. Several times I have seen him break-down or choke-up when he came to speak of the sacrifice of Christ for us, or of the price we must pay in order to be faithful to Him. Yes, like us all, I have also seen him weep. He loves his wife and children with an unfeigned love. Though some who have fought him have stigmatized him and depicted him as an "orphan hater," some of us happen to know that he has lovingly cared for four children that he did not beget. He loves his close friends with the tender love of a little child, and they return a similar love to him.

The stands that Roy Cogdill has been forced by conviction to take upon many issues have caused him to have the bitterest reproach poured out upon him. But I have never heard of his worst enemy even hinting at any impurity or immorality in his life. Surely he has conducted himself above reproach in life, or his enemies would have sought out any bit of dirt with which they could stain his character. A man is known not only by the kinds of friends that he has, but also by the kinds of enemies he has. Brother Cogdills enemies have been caused by stands which conviction of truth has caused him to make.

Roy has not sought prominence, but his ability, conviction, and duty have thrust it upon him. In the eyes of those who seek to siphon funds from church treasuries to support nearly every kind of human institution imaginable, Roy Cogdill probably is the epitome of their opposition. So involved has Brother Cogdill been in the institutional controversy, I have thought that at some point in the future it might be useful to write a history of this conflict and division within the Body of Christ, using the biographical data of Roys life as a skeleton around which to write this history.

Several years ago, when I was a student at Florida College, I often thought, as I read the Gospel Guardian, "Those fellows have the truth, but why do they have to be so rough in propagating it." After getting kicked in the shins a few times myself, and after being on the receiving end of the maliciousness of those who were digressing from the truth, I later began to think, "I wonder how Cogdill, Tant, Adams, Blackmon, et al, received all the abuse, misrepresentation, and vituperation which they received, and still maintained such a good attitude toward those who mistreated them." Brother Cogdill, throughout his public life, has detested a fight, but when false teaching arose within or without the Body, be gave error no quarter.

Sacrificial Work

No man among us has committed himself more unreservedly to the Cause of Christ than has Roy Cogdill. As was true of Paul, so also has it been true of Roy. He was willing to "spend and be spent" (2 Cor. 12:15). Many years ago, Roy and his wife lived for about two years in a trailer in Canada as he sought to plant the Cause of Christ in many parts of our neighboring country. I would venture a guess and state that Roy Cogdill has spent one-third of his married life away from home and family, and that takes sacrificial dedication ... I know, for I am even now undergoing some of the same kinds of experiences. One year, not too long ago, I happen to know that Brother Cogdill held twenty-eight gospel meetings and two debates, and after travel expenses were paid, he realized the grand total of $4200 for that years work.

Roy has probably been in greater demand for gospel meeting work than any other man, at least in my lifetime. He has spent many thousands of dollars of his own hard-earned money in order to keep religious publications going. So far as I know, he has never begrudged a cent that he spent in such work. Whatever he is or has always been available for usage when the Cause of Christ was involved.

Besides the deprivations of home-life and personal expenditures, Brother Cogdill also many years ago deliberately gave up a thriving law practice to preach the gospel. Not too many people know it, but Brother Cogdill for many years has had a law degree. His old law-partner, who still lives in Dallas, is now a millionaire, probably several times over.

His Influence

Only eternity will be able to determine the influence for truth and righteousness which the life of Roy Cogdill has wrought. I have known him well, for more than thirty years. He knew my parents before I entered this world. Brother Cogdill has often befriended young gospel preachers. Especially has this been true in my case. He assisted me in a multitude of ways from the time I was a teenage-boy preacher. On one occasion, about twenty years ago, I was responsible for a certain church canceling a scheduled gospel meeting with Brother Cogdill, because I thought he had done wrong in regard to a certain church incident. My action in that regard later resulted in a severe detrimental effect upon the church where the meeting was scheduled. Brother Cogdill probably overlooked my action in that matter as the rash action of a young preacher, for he certainly has never held it against me. In fact, if he ever once has mentioned the matter, I have forgotten his doing so.

In my judgment, Roy Cogdill has been the most effective man among faithful churches of Christ, for at least the last twenty-five years. He probably, even now, is the most widely known preacher in the brotherhood. Several years ago, when we were seeking a new name for the (organization that is now called the Cogdill Foundation, James Needham and I suggested "Cogdill Foundation," because it would differentiate the Foundation from the Gospel Guardian journal (the Foundation then was named the Gospel Guardian Foundation), and because everyone knew where Roy Cogdill stood. His name associated with the publishing Foundation would inform anyone interested in knowing the principles for which the Cogdill Foundation would stand.

The influence of Brother Cogdill has been strongly felt within every local church with which he has worked. If any church with which he has worked has ever split while he was working with it, it is unknown to me. His activities have helped congregations with which he has worked to grow. Indeed, it might be said of him, "His work speaks for itself."

Brother Cogdill has made a tremendous contribution to the brethren through the teaching done in his published tracts, as well as through periodical articles. Three of his religious debates have been published. About forty thousand copies of his Walking by Faith book have been sold. Nearly two hundred thousand of his New Testament Church class study books have been put into use. This last mentioned book has already been through nearly twenty printing editions. It has been translated into several other languages, and has then been used in several foreign countries. His influence for truth and righteousness has been felt nation-wide. Like the worthy woman of Proverbs 31:28, many shall arise to call him

"blessed," for they have been blessed by his teaching efforts. There is no way for us to know how many will be in heaven because of his efforts, or how many churches were saved from digression by his faithful teaching.


Paul thanked "him that enabled me" (1 Tim. 1: 12), even as I am sure Brother Cogdill has done. Paul also thanked God for faithful brethren (Rom. 1:8), and certainly we should do this in the instance of Roy E. Cogdill. Generations yet unborn will be salubriously affected by his life and work.

Being now well past 65, Brother Cogdill recently has curtailed his travel and preaching somewhat, but only because he has four or five books he would like to finish before he crosses over the tide. We all wish for him many years of continued fruitful service to God.

I think it would be most appropriate if brethren who have benefited from his labors would write him a letter of appreciation, and of congratulations upon having been given the "grace" to serve God these past fifty years. His address is 1522 Peterson Lane, Henderson, Texas 75652. Meanwhile, I am grateful to God that this brothers life has touched mine.

January 11, 1973