CARTERSVILLE — He looks good. He says he feels good. He is still serving as pastor of a church. He is preparing new sermons every week. He just drove his car 450 miles round-trip to see his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was born on November 22, 1926.
That is a succinct description of 90-year-old Maurice Crowder.
Crowder was born in Saluda, SC, but his family moved to Batesburg-Leesville, SC when he was a child. He lived there until midway through his senior year in high school, when the family moved to Charleston. He enrolled in Charleston High School, an all-boys’ school, and graduated from there months later.
However, Crowder was saved as a 12-year-old boy at First Baptist Church of Leesburg. He recalled, “My mother was the spiritual leader in our family. She took me to see our pastor and he explained to me how to become a Christian by trusting Christ as my personal Savior.
“In fact, my first paying job was at the church in Leesburg,” Crowder explained. “Before I was a teenager I was given the responsibility of getting there early on Sunday morning to open the doors, ring the church bell, and start the fire in the potbelly stove.
“The New Testament talks about the gathered church and the scattered church. Well, our church gathered around the stove in the winter and scattered to the windows in the summer.
“ I got paid fifty cents a week – not by the church, but by a man in the church. Every Sunday after the worship service he would reach in his pocket and pull out a half-dollar coin and give it to me.”
Running from a call
In high school Crowder worked for an auto auction, but also found time to play football. He stated, “I was not that good a player. I was an end and guard and sat on the end of the bench and guarded the water bucket” (Gatorade didn’t come along until 1965).
After high school Crowder worked at the shipyard in Charleston. He attempted to join the U.S. Navy, but was rejected because of his eyesight. He then joined the Merchant Marine, but was not happy with his decision and finally joined the U.S. Army near the end of World War II.
He was in Brazil when Germany surrendered and back in the states when Japan surrendered. After the war he enrolled in a local business school to study accounting, but sensed God calling him into the ministry.
Crowder admitted, “I ran from God’s call to preach and got careless about my church attendance. It was during that time that I met a businessman who invited me to go with him to Dorchester Waylyn Baptist Church. I really liked what I experienced there and returned the next Sunday.
“That Sunday night my mother tried to get me to go back to church, but I wanted to go to a movie. I got on the city bus to go to the theater, but it seemed like the wheels were saying, ‘Go back to church! Go back to church!’”
“When the bus got to the end of the line I paid the fare and headed back toward the church. I got active in the life of the congregation and realized more and more that God was dealing with me. He kept the hounds of heaven on me to make sure I didn’t get away.”
60 years, four months, 14 days
“One night the pastor’s wife asked me to stay after our group met and told me she and the pastor had been praying God would call me to preach the Gospel. That is when I decided to quit running from God’s call. Her conversation with me was at the beginning of a week of revival and it was that week in April of 1948 I surrendered to God’s call.”
Crowder knew he needed to prepare for the ministry, so he enrolled in North Greenville Junior College. On the first day of chapel he remembered, “There was a pretty girl, a voice major, by the name of Mary Rector who sang that morning. I was told she was almost engaged to be married, but I dared to invite her to the welcome banquet. She accepted my invitation and we got married the following August.”
Maurice and Mary were married until she died on Christmas Day 2010. On the day Maurice was interviewed for this article he was asked how long they were married and promptly replied, “60 years, four months, and 14 days.”
Upon graduating from North Greenville, the Crowders went to Furman University and by 1952 were on their way to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX. There, Maurice not only continued his education but also served as minister of youth at Arlington Heights Baptist Church.
Following his seminary education Crowder returned to South Carolina and served as associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Fort Mill for five years. He was then given the opportunity to become pastor of Plum Branch Baptist Church in Plum Branch, SC, a small church near Clark Hill Lake and not far from the Georgia state line.
Staring down a church kingpin
It was at Plum Branch that Crowder was warned about a man widely regarded as the kingpin of the church. Prior to the presidential election in 1960 Crowder was urged by some of the members to address the potential inherent problems of electing a Catholic (JFK) as president.
Crowder agreed to do so and one week before he preached the sermon announced his intention to do so. The next morning he got a call from the “kingpin” to meet him at his store. After a pleasant conversation, the “kingpin” looked Crowder in the eyes and said, “You will not preach what you announced that you were going to preach next Sunday.”
Crowder said the Holy Spirit empowered him to stand up and look the “kingpin” in the eyes and say, “Your son was on the pastor search committee that called me to this church and I told them that I would come under the condition that nobody could tell me what I could preach and what I could not preach.”
Crowder said, ‘That man became my best friend and biggest supporter in that church. In fact, he asked me to preach his funeral and it so happened that his funeral was the last one I preached in that church.”
After Plum Branch, Crowder pastored East Athens Baptist Church (5 years), Millen Baptist Church (14 years), and First Baptist Church McCaysville (10 years) before retiring in 1993. Since retiring he has preached multiple interims, one lasting over seven years. He has also served three times as an interim director of missions.
Currently, Crowder is pastor of Big Horse Creek Baptist Church on Buttermilk Road very near Millen, where he has his home.
Brass knuckle sermons
His advice to young preachers? “Stick to the Bible and preach what it says. We need to get back to ‘brass knuckles’ sermons. We are not hearing the same kind of preaching I heard when I first started out.
“I don’t think we are doing as good a job of training our workers as we did at one time. We need to bring back those old study course books.
“And they say we are losing our young people. It is because parents are not stressing the importance of the church to their children. Anything and everything takes precedence over the things of God. We are losing them because we never had them. Parents have an obligation to see that their children are in church.”
Maurice has one son, Alan, who has two children, Kari and Matthew, who have provided the Big Horse Creek pastor with seven great grandchildren. He considers himself blessed, but one thing is sure: he has been a blessing to multitudes of people during almost seven decades of faithful and fruitful service.