Divinely Inspired Plan
To speak of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ as an
organization is to speak of its illustrious and dynamic founder, the late
apostle, Bishop Robert C. Lawson, D.D., LL.D. We can safely say that God made
His choice to use this dedicated man to work His divinely inspired plan for
this great organization. For it was by his Herculean effort and prolific
preaching and the mastery of the inspired scriptures that Bishop Lawson, with
tenacity and determination hewed from the villages, cities, towns and hamlets, the
dynamic organization known as the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the
Apostolic Faith Inc.
It was in the year of 1914 when Mr. Lawson accepted the
word of God and was baptized in the name of Jesus and received the Holy Ghost.
A supernatural event took place in his life, namely the miraculous healing of
his body from Consumption. This occurrence was stamped indelibly upon him and
played a major part in the shaping of his inspired faith healing ministry.
By his own testimony we learned that Bishop Lawson was
divinely called by the Lord through a whirlwind, hearing the voice of God
saying “Go Preach My Word! I mean you! I mean you! I mean you! Go preach My
Starting a small work in St. Louis, Missouri, and a later
endeavor in San Antonio, Texas, preaching everywhere the apostolic doctrine, he
was led to the midwest where he pastored a church in Columbus, Ohio. It was in
Columbus that he married the late Miss Carrie Fields of Levinworth, Kansas. The
couple was subsequently blessed with four sons.
The Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ had its inception in
the year 1919. Bishop Lawson, then Elder Lawson was invited to a prayer
meeting, which was in progress in a basement in the 40th Street area of New
York City. So energetic was his service to the Lord, that his fame spread
abroad and reached the ears of Mr. and Mrs. James Burleigh and Mr. and Mrs.
Edward Anderson. These two blessed couples opened their homes to Elder Lawson
and their home today is affectionately thought of as the “Cradle of the Church of
Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Within a short period of time, the congregation outgrew its
place of worship, having approximately 200 members, and larger quarters had to
be sought. Bishop Lawson purchased the sight at 52-54-56 West 133 Street and
relocated his thriving church. It was there that his vision was enlarged and
the Lord laid upon his heart to conduct a tent revival and great numbers were
added to the church.
Under the thriving ministry of Apostle Lawson, many
preachers, missionaries, and teachers were sent into the field establishing
numerous works. To the far flung isles of the sea, to the continent of Africa
and to the Caribbean, these Christian heralds went carrying the Apostolic
It was in 1932, that Bishop Lawson initiated the radio
broadcast over the station's WGBS. He broadcasted successfully over WHOM and
WINS. The broadcast is presently continuing over station WBNX every Sunday
evening from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.
As the work grew the quarters on 133rd Street were found to
be inadequate for such a rapidly increasing congregation. Bishop Lawson found
the present site on 124th Street and 7th Avenue and in August 1945, the
congregation relocated to this site. This building is known as the “Mother
Church” of the Churches of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In two short years the
indebtedness of the church was lifted and on Christmas day in 1947 the mortgage
The years following were outstanding in rapid growth and
spiritual progress. The church of Christ Bible Institute flourished, the R. C.
Lawson Institute in Southern Pine, North Carolina, already established,
continued to grow. Through the arduous labor of dedicated workers in various
parts of Liberia, West Africa, British West Indies, England, and the Isles of
the sea, the international works began to grow and flourish. So vast was the
work until more workers had to be sent, to Superintend the vast harvest of
During 1948, Mother Carrie Lawson known as the “Praying
Mother of the Air” departed this life. Mother Carrie Lawson’s passing is
noteworthy because it was through her intercessory prayer that many souls were
delivered from the powers of darkness.
Bishop Lawson in his lifetime was awarded many honors for
his contributions as humanitarian and for his scholastic achievements. Among
the honors, he received the Carver Merit Award for outstanding service to his
race and country. He also held a Bachelor of Theology degree, a Doctor of
Divinity degree, and a Doctor of Literary Letters Degree from the Lynchburg
Seminary and College and the American Bible College.
Every organization must suffer the pangs of growth and the
Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ was no exception. In the year 1957, there was a
major schism within the ranks of the organization. This occasioned Bishop
Lawson’s calling together the now famous Summit Meeting, which was the rallying
and turning point of the organization. It was in the closing session that
Bishop Lawson preached a soul stirring message recounting the work that he had
done and hurled the challenge to all who would receive it. “ADD THOU TO IT”.
The challenge was accepted. From that moment on the organization began to grow
to new greatness.
The clarion call for our illustrious leader came on Sunday
July 2, 1961, and Bishop Lawson a prince of preachers, the Bible Answer man,
God’s shining star departed this life.
Bishop Lawson’s death necessitated new leadership. It was
to the Convention in August 1961 that Bishop William Lee Bonner introduced
proposals. “Twelve recommendations for the common good. ” The National
Convocation acted upon this and a three man apostle’s Board was formed. Bishop
Hubert J. Spencer, Bishop William L. Bonner, and Bishop Maurice H. Hutner.
Bishop Hubert J. Spencer was unanimously elected to preside. A year later the
Board expanded to five Apostles and Bishop John W. Pernell and Bishop Henry Jones
were included. Subsequent to the demise of Apostle Maurice Hutner, Bishop J.P.
Steadman was elected to the Apostle’s Board.
In the year 1961, Bishop Bonner was sent to the mother
church. Upon coming and seeing the need he set about the remodeling of Refuge
Temple. The mother church and headquarters of the Church of Our Lord Jesus
Christ is now known as the Greater Refuge Temple. This ultra-modern edifice has
changed the face of 7th Avenue and is undisputedly one of the most modern
structures in Harlem, with a total seating capacity of three thousand seats
with thirty-six conference and meeting rooms, all fully furnished in modern
decor. The words of our famed pioneer and Apostle are still resounding in our
ears. “Add Thou To It!!! Add Thou To It!!! and the answer comes from the church
of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we will, we shall, we have.”
***Edited from original text Discipline Book, Church of Our
Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc., third edition, 1969***