History of the Restoration Movement

Dr. Michael Lewis Wilson


Dr. Michael Lewis Wilson1 (1 See: Preachers of Today (1981), p. 300.) was the second child of Cecil and Ruby (Shaver) Wilson, born May 20, 1946, in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. He moved with his parents and older brother, Donald Ray, to Randolph County in 1947 where he attended Pocahontas schools, graduating in 1964. Michael was baptized by G. W. Allison at the Pyburn Street Church on May 12, 1959, during Jimmy Allen's very successful meeting.

As a youth Wilson traveled with his parents throughout northeast Arkansas and southern Missouri to various churches where his father preached. His paternal grandparents, the Lewis Wilsons of the Brakebill community, and maternal grandparents, the Luther Shavers of the Palestine community, were dedicated members of the Church of Christ. The Wilsons trace their membership in New Testament churches back to Johnny Wilson, cofounder of the Brakebill Church of Christ and father of Lewis Wilson. The Shavers trace their membership back to an 1810 Philip Mulkey revival held in Sumner County, Tennessee. They (and some of the Mocks) became New Testament Christians and a few years later migrated to what is now Randolph County, Arkansas.2 (2 See: "Mud Creek Church" in this book.)

Through the years there have been many preachers, teachers, singers, and church leaders in both the Wilson and Shaver families. Michael Wilson's son, John-Mark, is minister at the Broadway Church of Christ in Marked Tree, Arkansas.

After Wilson graduated from high school he went to Michigan City, Indiana, where he worked in a steel mill and played professional music. In Michigan City he attended the Shady Lane Church of Christ where he was deeply influenced by Stanley Davis, the minister. It was there in August, 1965, that Wilson gave up professional music and announced to the congregation that he had decided to give his life to the Lord's work, and preached his first sermon.

Through the encouragement of his parents, co-workers and friends, he enrolled at Gem City College in Quincy, Illinois, where he graduated from the Department of Horology in 1967. In the summer of 1966 he was a student at Freed-Hardeman College and was influenced by W. Claude Hall, G.K. Wallace, W.A. Bradfield, E. Claude Gardner and H.A. Dixon. Each Sunday he traveled to Randolph County and preached for the Palestine Church of Christ. During his time in Quincy, when he was not at the Eighth and Kentucky Church of Christ, Wilson did appointment preaching at Pleasant Hill, Illinois.

In 1967 Wilson returned to Randolph County where he assisted his father in Wilson's Jewelry Store and preached at the Palestine Church of Christ. Paul Starling of Imboden heard him speak over KPOC Radio in Pocahontas and invited him to preach there. Wilson left the jewelry business and became a full-time minister with the Imboden Church of Christ on the first Sunday in June, 1967.

He remained in northeast Arkansas until 1971 preaching for churches in Walnut Ridge and Rector. At the Free Street Church in Walnut Ridge Wilson became known as the preacher who rolled a casket into the church building and preached the "Funeral for the Dead Church" (Rev. 3:1). After the lesson folks were invited to file by the casket to view the remains of the dead church and they saw themselves reflected in a full-length mirror. Wilson spearheaded the "Lake Charles Youth for Christ" meeting in the summer of 1969 which brought twenty-five churches in northeast Arkansas and southeast Missouri together in a common effort. Attendance for the one day event exceeded 1,000 people. Wilson took some college classes at Crowley's Ridge in 1967, but became a full-time student in the 1970-71 school year. He completed the A.A. degree in June, 1971, graduating with highest honors, and left the following month for Germany where he was student coordinator and song director for a campaign for Christ featuring Don House as speaker.3 (3 This writer maintained a thorough and daily diary of the activities on this campaign.)

In the fall he moved to Springlake, Texas, where he served the church and enrolled at Lubbock Christian University, graduating magna cum laude in May, 1973. Earlier in the spring Wilson had accepted an invitation from Dr. Emmett Smith and Boyd Morgan to move to Paragould and work for Crowley's Ridge College beginning in the summer, 1973.4 (4 "House and Wilson Named Admission Counselors," The College Bulletin (April 1973):2; and, MWilson is Admissions Counselor," The College Bulletin (June 1973):2-3.)

The churches at Pine Knot (Greene County) and Noland (Randolph County) hired him to preach during the summer, but the leaders at the New Haven Church of Christ, near Jonesboro, asked him to preach for them on a regular basis in the fall of 1973. Happy to be back in northeast Arkansas, many congregations invited him to speak for youth meetings. lectureships, and gospel meetings.

Wilson left the college in the spring of 1975 and moved to Paris, Arkansas, where he preached for the local Church of Christ. Don House, who had moved to Flint, Michigan, as pulpit minister for the Bristol Road Church of Christ, encouraged Wilson to accept a job at Bristol Road as minister to youth and teacher in the School of Biblical Studies, a college level preacher training school. Wilson moved to Flint in January 1977, and began a three year ministry.

During those days Wilson was privileged to preach in youth meetings, lectureships, gospel meetings, and in special programs throughout the North, and complete the master's degree from Harding Graduate School in Memphis, Tennessee. Near the end of his third year in Flint, Walter Gilfilen, president of Michigan Christian College in Rochester, encouraged Wilson to accept a position at MCC.

In January, 1980, Wilson began his work with MCC as counselor and instructor,5 (5 1Michigan Christian College Catalog (1980-81), p. 14.) and minister for the Sixma Church of Christ in Madison Heights, Michigan. A History of the Church of Christ in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1900-1925, 6 (6  "Wilson Writes Early History of Little Rock," Pulaski County Christian (Oct. 1980):1.) Wilson's graduate school thesis, was published during this time. Two other books, A Symposium on the "Gift of the Holy Spirit" and An Outline of Bible History and Major Christian Movements. had been published during his years at Crowley's Ridge College. Many other writings from Wilson's pen appeared in the Gospel Advocate, Firm Foundation, Fulton County Gospel News, Securing the Faith, and the Gospel Exhorter, a paper founded and edited by Don House and co-edited by Wilson.

Wilson left MCC in the spring of 1981 and returned to Paragould, Arkansas, where he once again served the New Haven Church of Christ and worked at Crowley's Ridge College. Dramatic events occurred in his life in the late 1970s and early 1980s which resulted in major changes. Despite these changes and their tragic results, Wilson never lost sight of the God who saved and preserved him.

After a period of time during which he completed work on a doctorate from International Seminary, Wilson has found fulfillment in a ministry with Christian Churches throughout Arkansas, southern Missouri, northern Mississippi, and western Tennessee. He has continued to write for the Arkansas Christian and local newspapers. A member of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society and Arkansas Historical Association, Wilson contributed a number of articles to the new Randolph County History book published in 1992. He has appeared on Christian Scholars conferences at Abilene Christian University and has taught at the Osceola campus of Mississippi County Community College, Mid-South Community College in West Memphis, and is now financial aid administrator at Crowley's Ridge Technical Institute in Forrest City where he also serves as an adjunct instructor in history and American Government for East Arkansas Community College. Wilson has continued post-graduate studies in history at Arkansas State University and plans several writing projects for the future.

A successful minister, he has solemnized more than 50 marriages, officiated at 34 funerals and baptized 75 people into Christ. He is the father of four children: John-Mark (b. 1969), Andria Leigh (b. 1976),7 (7 Andria, a graduate of Crowley's Ridge College and second year student at Arkansas State University, bas traveled extensively in Europe on campaigns for Christ.) Hannah Michelle (b. 1985) and Lydia Lee (b. 1987), and makes his home in Wynne, Arkansas.

-Dr. Michael L. Wilson, Arkansas Christians:A History of the Restoration Movement in Randolph County, Arkansas 1800-1995, c.1997, Delight: Gospel Light Publishing Co., page 446-449.

Directions To The Grave of M.L. Wilson

The old Palestine church of Christ Cemetery lies north of Pocahontas, Arkansas. Travel north on Hwy. 115 out of Pocahontas. Turn left on Co. Road 251. Go about eight miles and turn right onto Palestine Road. The road is a dirt road. Best to go on dry days. The road will make a couple of hard turns before coming to the church and cemetery. When entering the cemetery, continue toward the rear of the cemetery. The grave is located in the middle and about six or eight rows from the back. While in the cemetery, be sure to visit the graves of other gospel preacher buried there such as A.B. Shaver, P.H. Shaver, J.C. Wilson, and Jake Waddle

GPS Location
36.432499, -91.005923

Photos Taken 11.14.2014
Webpage Produced 02.22.2015 
Courtesy of Scott Harp

*Special thanks to Tom L. Childers and Charlie Wayne Kilpatrick for assisting in the burial location. They, along with your web editor, took a trip into northern Arkansas to find the graves of gospel preachers of yesteryear in November, 2014. We traveled together three days and located the final resting places of nearly forty preachers and their families. It was a great trip. Many of the personalities we researched were chronicled in Boyd E. Morgan's book, Arkansas Angels, or later in Dr. Michael L. Wilson's book, Arkansas Christians: A History of the Restoration Movement in Randolph County, 1800-1995.

History Home

History Index Page