Pentecostal Pioneers: Samuel Calvin McClain
By Charles McClain
Samuel Calvin McClain was born February 25, 1889, in the state of Georgia to Samuel Bryant McClain and Laura Batchelor McClain. At the early part of this century, Sam C. McClain was among the pioneers who joined the Pentecostal movement. He received the Holy Ghost as a teenage boy while teaching school in central Arkansas and began preaching in 1912. His first converts were members of his own family and some of the young people that he taught in school.
Always seeking all that God had for him, it is not surprising that he was among the first Pentecostals to understand the oneness of the Godhead. And upon this truth he stood firm for the rest of his life.
Sam McClain married Bessie Ann Rodgers in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, on February 23, 1919. They were deeply involved in the work of God together until her death on May 4, 1966.
In those early days revivals were not planned a year in advance. They were planned while he was on his knees seeking God’s will and direction for his life. He and his wife, Bessie, an ordained minister herself, lived by faith and were led by the Lord. Aunt Bessie had the faith that could move mountains, and if you were not sincere in your walk with God, you had better get out of her way.
A revival for Uncle Sam and Aunt Bessie would typically start with both of them on their knees before the Lord waiting for instructions. Most times they were told to catch a certain train. Once on the train, God would tell them just where to get off. When they got off the train, they would walk up and down the streets of the strange city until God would show them just which house they were to approach. Since God always does things well, inside that house would be someone who had been praying for God to send someone with the message.
Now the revival could begin. First those of the household would be saved, then the neighbors, and then others in the town. When they would outgrow the house, porch, and yard, a church would have to be built. This is where Uncle Sam would shine. His calling was to break new ground and plant churches.
When the church was well established, the Lord would send a good pastor to take over so Uncle Sam and Aunt Bessie could be free to carry the message to another town. The fruits of their labor can be found all over the Southwest today.
At the beginning of the Pentecostal movement in the early 1900s, there were too few preachers to have much fellowship with each other. At this time there was a Bible school in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, established by a Sister Barnes. It was here that many of the preachers of that time would come for fellowship, to renew their spirits, and to build up their faith.
They would set the table for a meal even when they had no food in the house to cook. They would gather around the table and start praying. Soon they would hear a knock on the door and there would be food for the meal. What a way to learn to use your faith!
At one of these gatherings at the school Uncle Sam had a desperate need. He told the Lord he just had to have a new suit before going back on the field. “My suit is in threads, Lord!” A letter arrived from a dear saint somewhere, and in it was ten dollars for Uncle Sam. After having himself a little shout, he started to town to get that much-needed suit. On the way, God spoke to Uncle Sam and told him to return to the school. “Someone is praying there who needs that ten dollars.” Uncle Sam tried to argue with the Lord, but finally he knew he had to yield to the will of God.
Upon returning to the school, he found B. H. Hite on his knees. “Here is the answer to your prayer,” Uncle Sam said as he handed Brother Hite the money. Now it was Brother Hite’s turn to shout. It seems that God had told Brother Hite to go to St. Louis to start a work, but he needed at least ten dollars to get there.
Uncle Sam always took credit for making my marriage possible. You see, Sister Stella Guinn was one of the first ones saved under Brother Hite’s ministry, and my wife, Jane, is Sister Guinn’s daughter. God works in mysterious ways!
One of Uncle Sam’s passions was to have part in as many new churches as he could. Every time he heard of a new church starting anywhere, he would send an offering. He always said that by helping, even in a small way, he would have a part in every soul that would ever be saved in that church.
As Uncle Sam and Aunt Bessie grew a little too old for traveling, they moved to Tupelo, Mississippi. Uncle Sam taught at the Pentecostal Bible Institute there. He was certainly an inspiration to all the students who sat in his classes. His telling of all the times that God had delivered him instilled a strong faith in all of us. Some leading preachers who learned under him and are still active are E. J. McClintock, E. E. Judd, E. E. Jolley, and George Sponsler. About this time Uncle Sam wrote a book on church history, which is still used as a guide in classes today.
After being at the school for some time, Uncle Sam felt he had one more missionary journey to make while he was still able. This was one journey I got to make with them. With the fire of an evangelist still burning in his soul, we started out. Our goal was to visit every relative of Uncle Sam’s who was not in the church. We covered several states and many miles. We stopped at small cottages and large, palatial Southern homes. But in all of them the message was the same. Uncle Sam had come to tell them that the Lord was coming and they had better get their house in order before it was too late.
With this work done, Uncle Sam and Aunt Bessie returned to one of their early churches. The saints had wanted them to come back home. It wasn’t long before Aunt Bessie went home to be with the Lord. A few more years and Uncle Sam went to join her.
To trace his life is to trace the history of our Pentecostal movement. Without men like Sam McClain, who had the faith and courage to pioneer, we would not be as far along our journey as we are today. His crown in glory will shine like the sun, because there will be a jewel in it for every church he had a part in helping.
Editor’s note: According to S. C. McClain’s obituary, he established over twenty Pentecostal churches in Arkansas, New Mexico, and Texas. The entire fellowship of the United Pentecostal Church is indebted to the fifty-seven years of fruitful ministry of this godly man. Hundreds of younger ministers have come under the influence of what he taught and the books he wrote.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS COMPILED BY MARY H. WALLACE, AND PUBLISHED BY WORD AFLAME PRESS, 1992, PAGES 157-161. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.