Road To Revival – The Story of Bishop Billy McCool
His is a familiar name. He has preached revivals, campmeetings, and conferences throughout the country. He has served as Superintendent of the Tri-State District of the Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ for the last twenty years. His ministry spans nearly three generations.
In The Beginning
Billy McCool was born in a very small town in southeast Missouri called Charter Oak. A traveling evangelist came to town and held an open air revival out under some shade trees. Young Billy attended the revival and repented when he was a mere seven years old. “As far as I can recall,” says Bro. McCool, “I was the only convert during the revival.”
He began his ministry at a very young age; he was only eleven years old when he began to preach. At a small Trinitarian Pentecostal church, he received the baptism of the Holy Ghost in 1948. Shortly after that, while attending a revival in a neighboring town, young Billy got up to testify. “The Holy Ghost fell on me and I preached my first sermon. I didn’t know I was going to preach. I hadn’t been asked to preach, but I somehow kind of took over the service. The Holy Ghost moved, though, and a preacher from a nearby church heard about it and asked me to come and preach for his assembly.”
At that time, there were no Oneness churches near, so the McCool brothers would hitchhike to Kennett, Missouri and attend the church pastured by Rev L. D. Seagraves. There they were baptized in the Name of Jesus.
The Twins In Early Revivals
“My grandmother, Mrs. Ida Crank, heard that I was preaching and she came to my house and told my father that the Lord had sent her to take me to hold a revival in a little town called Tallapoosa, Missouri. My dad told her, ‘well, the Lord didn’t say anything like that to me!’ My grandmother informed him that she intended to stay there at the house until the Lord DID speak to him. It didn’t take him long to listen to the Lord when his mother-in-law moved in. So in a few days my dad agreed to let me go. My grandmother and I rode a train to this little town. There was a little Pentecostal church there that had been closed up. Granny and I got permission to use that church. We went in and swept and dusted the church and then walked up and down the gravel roads and told people throughout the community that we were starting a revival. My first baptism was a result of that revival; I baptized seven people in the Little River.
Later on, a preacher by the name of Glen Thompson came to our home and told my dad that he pastured a church in Arkansas and wanted Bobby and me to come and hold a revival. Bobby wasn’t preaching then, but since we were twins, he said he wanted both of us. So I would preach and Bobby would pray and conduct testimony services; in that revival during one of the testimony services the Holy Ghost fell on Bobby and he preached. From then on, I would preach one night and he would preach the next.”
After traveling a while with Brother Thompson, the twins felt that their father should be the one going with them to preach. Their father did not have the Holy Ghost, though, and was not receptive to the idea. And then one day, “Dad was badly injured in a tractor accident. He was unable to get out of bed for days. And in that condition the Lord spoke to him and said that he must go with his sons to preach. So he promised the Lord if He would heal him and make a way, he would go. He started getting better immediately.”
Not having a car, the three of them went out to the highway and started hitchhiking. Their first ride was in the back of a cattle truck. After arriving in the little town of Dexter, “we went to my grandmother’s house. We had not been there for a half hour when the local pastor, Rev. Gunn, came by asking my grandmother how to get in touch with us. When she told him we were sitting there in the living room, he immediately booked us for a revival. And in this first revival traveling with my father, he received the Holy Ghost.”
Bro. McCool appreciates the great influence his mother and his grandmother had on his life and ministry. He recalls, “My grandmother was a great prayer warrior. She fasted, prayed, and sought the Lord; when she came to visit us, she would pray way into the night. My mother was also a praying woman, and lived for God. Their prayer life and dedication and instruction had a great impact on me; because of them I was able to recognize the voice of God and the calling of God on my life.”
Billy McCool and his wife, Betty, were married in 1956. After being married on Saturday, Brother McCool and his new bride traveled to Windfall Indiana and on that Tuesday night began a two-week revival at Brother Lester McGruder’s church. They evangelized for about a year before arriving in Knoxville in August of 1957.
From Evangelist To Pastor
In Knoxville, they held a tent revival and the church started from that. They continued to hold services in the tent until it became too cold. The next step was to rent a lodge hall above a grocery store. The following spring, they put the tent back up on a piece of property they had purchased. After raising the tent on the back side of the property, they began construction on a building on the front side. Brother McCool remembers those early days: “We’d have church in the tent in the evenings and during the day we would work on the building. By winter we had a basement built, and we held services in the basement for the first few years.”
Brother McCool reminisces about that first service in Knoxville. He and his brother Bobby enlisted the help of some neighborhood men and put the tent up; they then placed an ad in the local newspaper. Some of the Knoxville radio stations also advertised the upcoming tent revival. As a result of all the advertising, the tent was full for the initial service.
“No one knew what denomination we were at that point,” he recalls. “We were just another tent evangelist come to town. We kept the music very joyful and upbeat. We had a piano, guitars, a mandolin; and we just had an old fashioned revival. We had altar calls, and many people came to the altar and repented. Later on, we began to preach baptism in Jesus’ Name, and we started baptizing folks. At that point, the crowd started to thin a bit… those of us who have preached tent revivals have found that when you start preaching the Apostolic doctrine, many people turn and go the other way. But some stay, and we won many converts also. We baptized people in the Tennessee River, out at a place called Boyd’s Bridge. We would drive down to a little open spot at the river’s edge. We took a guitar with us and we would gather there by the water, sing a while and have a little service, and preach a short sermon. Then we would wade out into the river and start baptizing folks.”
A Growing Revival Church
From that humble beginning, the First Apostolic Church has grown to be an assembly with a reputation throughout the country for being a growing revival church. Many present and former home mission churches throughout the area owe their existence to Billy McCool and his vision. “I think one of the most valuable things in having a revival church is to stay involved with other churches and other people in the work of the Lord. It is so important to be involved in youth rallies, campmeetings, and in reaching out to try to start other works. Ministering to young people and keeping the church youth oriented has been very beneficial in the growth of the church. Our Christian school has been a great blessing. You need your old prayer warriors, of course, but you need young people, and you need to have things going for the young people to keep them excited.”
Study of the word of God and prayer is a top priority in this busy man’s life. Also important is staying available for the local church: praying for the sick, dealing with problems, and ministering to the congregation.
Like most pastors of successful churches, Brother McCool has done his share of outreach programs through the years. But he believes there is one method that always works: one-on-one evangelism. “We’ve used all kinds of advertising, but I think in the long run the most effective way of growing the church is just for the saints to bring people to service. Basically, the preaching and the anointing of the Holy Ghost in the service is the key; the Lord then ministers and calls people to repentance and causes people to want to be involved in the work of the Lord.”
Do The Right Thing
From his humble beginnings on a farm in southeast Missouri, Billy McCool has traveled the pathways of his life guided by the Holy Ghost and his philosophy of life:
“It is always right to do right. One should always do right by everybody – no matter what they do to you. Don’t let the devil set your agenda; don’t let anyone change the way you do things or the way you act in a situation. You should do the right thing, no matter what anybody else does. Retain your character and your principles above everything else. Your character is one of the most valuable things you have. The Bible tells us that a good name is to be chosen above great riches.”