By Darrin Rodgers
On Dec. 10, 2008, Dr. Gary B. McGee, longtime Assemblies of
God educator, died at age 63. His life of service and the grace he demonstrated
during an extended illness powerfully reflected his commitment to Christ. His
loss is a reminder of a difficult truth — even choice servants of God
Few Assemblies of God educators have attained the breadth of
influence achieved by McGee. His extensive college and seminary teaching
experience spanned five decades (1967-2008). He taught a generation of leaders
and laypersons in the Assemblies of God through his many years at Central Bible
College and the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Mo. He
was a prolific author, and he helped to build bridges through his leadership in
numerous professional and interchurch organizations.
McGee authored seven books, edited and contributed to three
books, and wrote more than 185 published articles. He was a frequent
contributor to denominational publications, including Today’s Pentecostal
Evangel, Assemblies of God Heritage, Advance, Enrichment, and Paraclete. He is
probably best known for his two-volume history of Assemblies of God World
Missions, This Gospel Shall Be Preached, for his biographical approach to
Assemblies of God history, People of the Spirit, and for coediting the
award-winning Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. He completed
his last book, Miracles, Missions, and American Pentecostalism, just weeks
before his death.
McGee traveled extensively and also taught at Bible colleges
around the world. He emerged as one of the most highly respected and loved
educators in the Assemblies of God, as well as one of the most articulate
voices concerning the history of Pentecostal missions. His family and friends
knew him as a man of sterling character, good humor, humility, spiritual
sensitivity, and personal warmth. According to fellow historian Grant Wacker,
McGee “was always ready for a joke as well as a prayer.”
Gary McGee’s family came into the Pentecostal movement after
his maternal grandmother accepted Christ in an Aimee Semple McPherson
evangelistic campaign in Canton, Ohio, in 1921. The family became faithful
members of Bethel Temple Assembly of God in Canton.
McGee began teaching at AGTS upon completion of his
doctorate in 1984. He was already a veteran Bible college instructor, having
begun his ministry at Open Bible College (Des Moines, Iowa) after graduating
from Central Bible College in Springfield in 1967. He was named Distinguished
Professor of Church History and Pentecostal Studies in 2006. McGee was the
second AGTS professor to be awarded the “Distinguished” title, following Dr.
Stanley Horton. In March 2008, the Society for Pentecostal Studies conferred on
him the Lifetime Achievement Award.
McGee demonstrated how a holy man — a man of God
— can die well. During the last 10 years of his life he suffered from
cancer and arthritis, but he did not complain. Instead, he joyfully focused on
other peoples’ needs and labored to complete the tasks he believed the Lord had
given to him.
“Watching the grace and beauty you have displayed in the
midst of your suffering over the years has taught me more than any book on the
subject,” wrote former student Jennifer Strickland Hall.
And McGee did, by the way, write a book on that subject: How Sweet the Sound: God’s Grace for Suffering Christians.
Just before his final hospitalization, he finished the
manuscript for his last book. Gary McGee completed his life’s assignments well,
and he placed his life in the hands of God.
DARRIN RODGERS is director of the Assemblies of God archives
at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
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