By Mike Willis
On 5 April 1986, brother and sister Irven Lee celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary. In an age in which marriage is held in such low esteem, their commitment to each other in marriage stands out in stark contrast. Not only have brother and sister Lee had a commitment to one another, both have made a deep and abiding commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Brother Lee has been preaching the glorious gospel for fifty-five years, being ably assisted by his godly wife.
Brother and sister Lee’s family commends their life of devotion to God. They have two daughters, both of whom married preachers. Judy is married to Wayne Moore who teaches school and preaches at the New Georgia congregation in Anderson, Alabama. Their daughter Sandra is married to Bob Waldron who preaches for the Westview congregation in Hanceville, Alabama. Sandra has written one of the books in the revised literature of Walking With God and she and her husband have written a book on Bible history and geography which is enjoying a good circulation and use as an adult Bible study book.
The Knollwood congregation in Dayton, Ohio invited brother Lee to speak on “Good Homes In A Wicked World” while Ron Halbrook and I were working there. He spoke to the entire congregation in the evenings and sister Lee spoke to the ladies during the mornings. In one sermon he was emphasizing the need for spankings in correcting children. What he said impressed me enough that I think I can repeat it nearly verbatim.
Mrs. Lee does not like for me to use this illustration. The Scriptures teach that a man will not harm his own flesh. (At this point, he raised his right leg and struck it about four times with the palm of his hand.) That did not. do any serious damage to my leg. Do you think that you are going to seriously harm your child physically by doing the same thing to his back side?
I am confident that this kind of common sense and biblical approach in the family has created an atmosphere in which God-fearing children and grandchildren could be produced.
Preaching God’s Word
Brother Lee could have worked with many of the large congregations across America. However, he has not generally chosen to do so. In a recent conversation, he said something to the effect that he was only asked to preach in little congregations which had recently divided, or in congregations which were just beginning. While I am confident he has been asked to preach at many large congregations, brother Lee has spent his energies in working with small, struggling congregations, many of which had a long history of problems.
His energy humbles me. I come home from Lord’s day worn out. Brother Lee preached for more than one congregation on many Lord’s days, journeying in the afternoon to preach with some small group needing his help. Even now, he drives several miles, from Athens to Arab, Alabama in order to preach each Lord’s day.
Here is a summary of his work in preaching as recounted for us by his daughter Sandra Waldron:
1934-1936 – Attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Taught part time at David Lipscomb High School. Drove to small congregations around Poole and Dixon, Kentucky, taking other young preachers with him to speak at various places.
1936-1941 – Valdosta, Georgia. Principle of Dasher Bible School. Preached at Dasher congregation two years, then began working to establish new congregations or helping little, sick congregations in the area.
1941-1942 – Trenton, Florida Preached at Trenton and at little or new places in North Florida.
1942-1947 – Athens, Alabama. President of Athens Bible School as it began. Supported by Market Street congregation to work with new or sick congregations in Limestone County.
1947-1951 – Florence, Alabama. President of Mars Hill Bible School as it began. Preached at Killen congregation and helped begin new works.
1951-1953 – Chattanooga, Tennessee. Intending to be president of the Chattanooga Bible School that was beginning, but withdrew before it began because the board members wanted to accept funds from churches. Preached at East Ridge congregation and helped start new works.
1953-1957 – Athens, Decatur, and Trinity, Alabama. Taught at Athens Bible School, served as Acting-President one year. Preached at small places around Athens; moved to work with Grant Street congregation, was soon fired over the institutional problems; supported by Somerville Road congregation to work with small congregations in Morgan County – particularly the one at Trinity just out of Decatur.
1957-1963 – Russellville, Alabama. Preached at Washington Avenue and helped start new works.
1963-1968 – Jasper, Alabama. Preached at North Jasper congregation as it was beginning, and helped start new works in Walker County.
1968-1981 – Hartselle, Alabama. Preached at the Westview congregation and helped start works in the area. He had his heart attack in May 1974, followed by heart surgery in the fall, and then pneumonia. By the spring of 1975, he was preaching again and even going to meetings. In the spring of 1977, his son-in-law Bob Waldron moved to Westview to take his place so he could retire. Instead, he began working with the little Midway congregation out of Florence, Alabama and began accepting more and more meetings every year. One year (1979), he held 44 meetings. He and sister Lee would be gone 6 to 8 weeks at a time, going from Florida to West Virginia to Ohio.
1981-1986 – Athens, Alabama. lie moved to Athens and began preaching for the Jennings Chapel congregation. Finally, he retired again. He is living in Athens, driving to Arab (about an hour’s drive) each weekend to work with the small group there. In addition, he holds about one meeting per month – and spends the rest of the time grieving that he no longer has the health to do more work!
During his lifetime, brother Lee has taught school for twenty years in various Bible schools, fourteen of which he served as president or principal of the school. In his preaching, he has helped establish thirty new congregations. He has been one to take true joy in going into tiny, sick congregations that every one else had given up on and reviving them. He preached on the radio daily for many years. He has averaged twelve or more meetings every year since he began preaching, no matter how busy he was with other jobs. Sister Waldron wrote,
He has marveled at young preachers who say they have never been asked to hold meetings, because he has held so many of his in tents, under the shade of some trees, or in some empty building in some community that he found that did not already have a congregation of the Lord’s people. Or he has gone to some sick little group that has not had a meeting in ten years and announced that he is starting a meeting next Monday night. Of course, practically all such meetings were without pay – or if he were paid, he put the entire amount back in the collection the next Sunday to help the little church’s finances. I do not believe there has ever been a more unselfish man in the Lord’s work.
How many fathers have this kind of respect from their children?
Spreading The Gospel Through The Printed Page
Brother and sister Lee have been partners in spreading the gospel via the printed page. Sister Lee has written two popular children’s Bible story books entitled Mrs. Lee’s Stories About Jesus and Mrs. Lee’s Stories About God’s First People. She wrote two books for ladies Bible classes entitled Old Testament Women and New Testament Women. In addition to that, she wrote eight books of the beginner section of Use Your Bible Workbooks.
Brother Lee has written Preaching in a Changing World, Good Homes In A Wicked World, and God Hath Spoken. Recently he published another paperback entitled Things That Make For Peace. In addition to that, he has written several good tracts, including “Preparation For Marriage” and “A Friendly Letter on Benevolence,” and booklets, including “Do All Roads Lead To Heaven?” and “Money: Earning and Spending It.” He has been a frequent contributor to various periodicals, including editing Sword of Peace in the early 1960s, and has been a staff writer for Guardian of Truth since 1979.
Brother Lee is known for his calm-spoken manner. Let me hasten to add, however, that one should not confuse this with spinelessness. He is willing to directly confront an issue, doing so in such a manner that his love for the souls of men is evident. I recently heard him preach on a controversial list of subjects in one sermon. He spoke on using tobacco, social drinking, dancing, immodest dress, the need for forbearance on personal issues (such as wearing the covering), and other lively issues. Though he pressed his points, I did not sense that anyone present was angered by his pointed message. He has the unique ability to preach without making enemies through his manner of presentation.
Some people might mistaken brother Lee’s mild manner for softness. When the Grant Street congregation in Decatur, Alabama was going liberal, brother Lee was trying to prevent their apostasy. Shortly after that, brother Lee was in a meeting at Kansas City, Missouri with the O.C. Birdwell, Jr. family. Sister Frances Birdwell said, “Brother Lee, they are saying that you got sarcastic at Grant Street.” Brother Lee replied, “Brother Lee did get sarcastic at Grant Street.” Like the Savior, brother Lee recognized that there is a time for strong language.
As the Lee’s reach and pass the milestone of their fiftieth wedding anniversary and fifty-years in gospel preaching, I am confident that some of their friends would like to send them their warmest greetings. You may address them at P.O. Box 214, Athens, AL 35611.
May God send us more Christians such as brother and sister Irven Lee!
Guardian of Truth XXX: 9, pp. 272, 274
May 1, 1986