One pastor’s vision, one redeemed prisoner, multitudes won
By John W. Kennedy
Maury Davis is a fast-talking high-energy, no-nonsense,
Texas native who today is senior pastor of the largest Assemblies of God church
The success Davis has achieved in middle age seems
incomprehensible in light of his early life. His alcoholic father left the
family after Maury turned 5. Maury started drinking alcohol and using illegal
drugs at age 13, and partying became his chief pursuit as a teenager.
Under the influence of drugs and alcohol, Davis murdered a
woman in 1975. Davis, at 18, found himself in Dallas County Jail charged with
A court-appointed psychiatrist labeled Davis an incurable
homicidal maniac who would continue killing the rest of his life. The district
attorney refused to plea bargain and pushed for a life sentence. Davis received
a 20-year term.
Dennis Brewer Sr., the criminal defense attorney Davis’
mother and stepfather hired, recently had become a born-again Christian at
Calvary Church in Irving, Texas. While consulting with Davis in his cell,
Brewer repeatedly asked him if he wanted to pray. Davis had never prayed or
even been to church in his life.
Fellow inmate Tommy Joe Wilson also told Davis about the
Lord and invited him to read the Bible with him. Davis learned that the apostle
Paul wrote much of the New Testament while in prison. At Wilson’s invitation,
Davis committed his life to Christ as his Savior.
The killing had occurred only a few blocks from Calvary
Church. At the request of Brewer, Senior Pastor J. Don George came to visit
Davis after his arrest.
“Following a few visits, it became apparent that Maury had a
passion for the Lord,” George told Today’s Pentecostal Evangel. “It became a
spiritual responsibility and a delight to begin teaching him the ways of God.”
Nine months after being locked up, Davis says he sensed the
Holy Spirit’s calling to preach the gospel. George arranged for him to take
Berean School of the Bible courses.
“A disciple needs to understand the importance of learning
God’s Word,” George says. “I knew if I could communicate a plan of consistent
Bible study to Maury Davis, God’s Word would do the rest.”
So George continued to visit Davis regularly, even though
Davis had been sent to a maximum-security prison near Houston and George lived
outside Dallas. George discipled Davis behind bars, instructing him, correcting
him, motivating him.
“Jesus discipled His followers by making them accountable,”
During his incarceration, Davis made a profound impact on
the inmates around him, with hundreds converting to Jesus Christ.
“Don George helped me understand my past didn’t control my
future, that Jesus wipes away every sin,” Davis says.
The state unexpectedly released Davis after 8½ years
of confinement due to prison overcrowding. George knew the tutelage now
required an increase in intensity.
“At that point, my first responsibility to him was to make
sure he knew how to live as a civilian, after having been incarcerated for so
long,” says George.
“When a man is released from prison, it’s a major culture
shock,” Davis adds. “He needs somebody he can ask questions, somebody to watch
over him and somebody who will not only give him unconditional love, but also
Although Davis wanted to start preaching immediately, George
recommended he spend six months learning pastoral duties by observing George’s
own ministry. So Davis accompanied George wherever he went — to his
church office, on trips to preach at other churches, jogging, even on a family
Davis appreciated the mentoring.
“When a man goes to prison, his mind continues to grow, but
emotionally he becomes stagnant because there are no responsibilities in
prison,” Davis says. “Although I grew spiritually and intellectually in prison,
when I got out I still had the emotions of an 18-year-old.”
After six months, George offered Davis a job — as the
church janitor. Davis impressed George with his passion for excellence in
tackling all the tasks associated with the assignment. As he matured, Davis was
promoted to supervise the maintenance staff and then became George’s
administrative assistant. The church eventually hired Davis as youth pastor, a
role in which he led dozens of young people to salvation in Jesus. Davis also
met his wife, Gail, at Calvary Church, where she served as pianist for the
George’s commitment to discipleship has proven effective in
his church’s growth. He became senior pastor of Calvary Church in 1972 when 60
people attended. George still leads the congregation, which now averages more
than 3,200 in attendance each Sunday morning.
“When people come to the Lord, they need somebody who will
walk with them and lift them up when they make a mistake,” George says. “They
need somebody who believes in them.”
After four years on staff, Davis told George he wanted to
launch his own evangelistic ministry. George commended him, but suggested he
wait another year during which he could help him develop a strategy to line up
speaking engagements. During that preparatory time, Gail gave birth to
Davis went on to become a sought-after evangelist for
2½ years, warning youth in schools about the danger of drugs.
In 1991, the Tennessee District of the Assemblies of God
asked Davis to become senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in the Nashville
suburb of Madison when the congregation had an average Sunday morning
attendance of 240. Cornerstone now is the largest church in the Nashville area,
with a Sunday morning crowd of 3,300. Several judges and police officers are
members of the church and are encouraged to see someone who has gone through
the legal system emerge as a productive citizen.
The Sunday School program serves as the skeletal structure
of Cornerstone Church in discipling members.
“If you are a part of this church and you need ministry
— someone to mow your yard, cook a meal, pick up your children —
you must be in a Sunday School class,” Davis says.
Yet Cornerstone also is a place where hurting people can
“If a drug addict doesn’t renew his mind and close the doors
of dysfunction in his life, he’ll go back to his addiction or replace it with
another bad habit,” Davis says.
Davis knows there is hope for everyone. His own father
— married seven times and absent from most of his son’s life —
committed his life to Jesus after being evangelized by Davis’ stepfather.
George and Davis still talk by phone every Saturday night.
“I discipled him because it was the right thing to do,” says
George. “I saw the touch of God on his life, but I never dreamed he had the
potential that he has risen to in his present ministry.”
Their relationship shows the difference a mentor can make in
redeeming the life of someone society had discarded. Davis has made an eternal
influence on hundreds of people.
JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel.
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