Dr. Charles W. Mayes
Editor’s Note: This is excerpted from Heroes Who Live On, Vol. 2, the stories of our Grace Brethren ancestors. The book, written by Robert Cover, Sr., Viki Rife, and Ashley Woodworth, is published by BMH Books and is available online at www.bmhbooks.com, or by calling (800) 348-2756 .
It was hard for anyone to imagine Charles W. Mayes becoming a preacher. He was a quiet, timid country boy who had accepted the Lord at the age of 12. His only public activity was playing trombone in the school band. He enjoyed playing trombone and could even play the difficult trumpet parts on it.
When Charles graduated from high school he studied at the business college and the conservatory of music in Oberlin, near his hometown of Sullivan, Ohio. After that training he went to Ashland College. There he was asked to become the leader of the college’s first band. He also began traveling with a gospel team, where he would sing and play his trombone.
As leader of the ministry band, Charles was used to dealing with the unexpected. Still, it was a surprise one night when he was told that the evangelist was sick, and he would need to preach. Charles immediately began trying to find someone else to preach. Finally, he realized he had no choice. He would have to preach.
After that night, Charles was on his way to becoming a preacher. He got a job teaching in a one-room school. But people kept asking him to come preach at their churches, and his interest in ministering to people kept growing. He became convinced that God was definitely calling him to preach.
He married Marjorie Stone and went to pastor his first church in Lanark, Illinois. Later he pastored in Des Moines, Iowa, and in Whittier, Calif. These experiences prepared him for his next assignment.
In 1936 he was asked to help publish The Brethren Evangelist, a magazine for Brethren churches. At that time there was a lot of confusion and tension in the church. Some people were saying that the Bible was out-of-date. When Charles became editor of the Evangelist, he was careful to include articles that defended the belief that the Bible was God’s Word and should not be treated like just another book. Because of his stand, a number of leaders decided he should be removed from his job as editor.
Charles was eventually forced to leave his job, but he was able to get his belongings and personal documents. Later, those materials would be useful as he helped start the new Brethren Missionary Herald Company, the publishing arm of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches.
In 1943 Charles Mayes was asked to go to South Pasadena, Calif., to pioneer a church there. Three years later he was invited to take Dr. L. S. Bauman’s place (see Heroes, Vol. 1) as pastor of the large First Brethren Church in Long Beach. Charles served there for 22 years. He also taught classes at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, where he received a Doctor of Divinity degree.
Charles had two great dreams in his life. One was to make sure that Christian publications were available. While in California, he bought a printing press and began printing the church bulletin. Soon he was printing bulletins for other churches. Then he started printing teaching materials, also.
Pastor Mayes’ other dream was that Christian families would have a way to give their children a truly Christian education. The Bible, prayer, and the mention of God were gradually being squeezed out of public education. Charles Mayes realized that a student is not fully educated unless he knows God’s truth. He spoke with other pastors in the area, and in 1947 Brethren Church School opened with 102 students. It continued to add at least one grade each year until it contained all elementary and high school grades and covered two campuses.
Pastor Mayes was very involved in seeing that the school would fulfill its mission to young hearts and minds. He taught in the high school, led the school orchestra in presenting public concerts, helped on work days to fix the facilities, and worked tirelessly behind the scenes providing direction and support. Many people who are working for Christ throughout the world today received their early education at Brethren Church Schools in Long Beach and Paramount, California.
Dr. Charles Mayes was also co-founder of what is now known as the Association of Christian Schools, International (ACSI). He served long terms on both the Grace Brethren Foreign Missionary Society and the Grace Theological Seminary boards.
Charles was a tender-hearted man whose tears came easily. He had a great sense of humor and a sparkling wit. His life was bathed in prayer and ministry. Near the end of his life he discovered he had cancer. After an extended time of pain and suffering, he and Marjorie realized that the time for his homegoing was near. They prayed all one night, telling the Lord that he was ready to go. The next day the Lord took him home to heaven. He was 78 years old.