The Story of Billy McCarrell by Dorothy Martin

This little biography of the founder of the IFCA, while certainly not a comprehensive study of McCarrell’s life, is nevertheless well worth the time it takes to read — especially for those in the IFCA, and similar separatist organizations.

In my opinion, Martin spends too much time with minor details that are not later developed. For example, the author writes of numerous trivialities of the McCarrell’s home life, while making only passing references to the Fishermen’s Club and McCarrell’s involvement with Wheaton College and the Moody Bible Institute. This reader would have liked to know of the impact that the Fishermen’s Club had in Chicago. I have heard that McCarrell and the Fishermen’s Club stood toe to toe with Al Capone — but whether that is true, our author does not say. It would have also been instructive to learn about issues that McCarrell may have faced as a member of Wheaton College’s board, especially in light of how far Wheaton has removed itself from McCarrell’s doctrine and philosophy of the church. Did he do battle at Wheaton, and if so, over what issues? We are not told.

Instead, Martin often alludes to the fact that McCarrell had eight children but spent very little time at home, leaving the training of those children to his wife. But even here she does not go on to develop the family story. How did the McCarrell children handle their father’s absence? Did they become resentful? Did they leave the church? Did they go on toward spiritual maturity? Nothing is said.

What Martin does very well is to showcase Billy McCarrell’s deep passion for the gospel and the church of Christ. This is a man of vision, of energy, of purpose. To read of his enthusiasm, not just in youth, but throughout his life is contagious. Many of us pastor-types often find ourselves dragging through our ministries, just trying to hang on — but not McCarrell. Every obstacle he turned into an opportunity. His mind seemed to never tire of developing new projects and ministries. In addition, he was a forerunner in the early days of ecclesiastical separation. He saw clearly where the denominations were headed, developed a plan (that still lives today) and stood fearlessly for what he knew to be right. In a day when the pressures to compromise on separation are increasing he still serves as an inspiration. May his tribe increase.