The sudden death of the Rev. James Marlin Brown has left a large, empty spot in the hearts of Baptist congregations in the local area, although Brown’s legacy will live on in hearts due to his patient and kind concern for others.
Brown served as a minister for more than 50 years. He served as the as the Director of Missions for Harmony Baptist Association for 21 years and after retiring he served as First Baptist Associate Pastor of Administration while the church looked for a new pastor.
As director of missions he was a “pastor to the pastors,” First Baptist Church Pastor Dr. Glenn Sparks said.
“He left the church a better place and the world a better place, and he left every person he met a better person,” Sparks noted. “… He spent 51 years of making an impact on the world, one person at a time, and he left a huge footprint. You miss people like that, the community misses people like that.”
Sparks cited the scripture, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold,” Proverbs 22:1 (NIV).
Brown, 70, found he had a brain tumor one week before his death Sept. 8. While at the hospital he was still discussing issues that need to be addressed for the church. There wasn’t much that could stop him from wanting to help others.
Church staff Amy Tilley, worship leader; Cara Harrington, minister of missions and children; Twila Simons and Connie Edwards, administrative assistants; and Fritz Boyd, custodian, all agreed Brown was a humble man who never forgot a name, and prayed for each person listed as a church member — even those who no longer attended.
Boyd said “it’s pretty hard” to find someone who has no negative personality traits.
“He wasn’t like anybody else I’ve ever met,” Edwards noted.
Simons said Brown knew everyone’s family, he was good with names, faces and places.
“His memory was, really, really good,” she added. “He was real personable … he was always sending notes to everybody. He had beautiful handwriting.”
The staff said Brown was known for sending out hundreds of handwritten cards and notes, usually 25 a week just to church members alone.
“Marlin was also very organized,” Boyd noted. “If there was something going on church-wise, he was very focused on getting stuff done way before the date, that’s just sort of how he was.”
Tilley added that Brown was “extremely humble,” and was a “faithful prayer warrior.”
“He prayed for all of us daily, by name,” she said. “He would have them print out the list of the entire congregation, and not just those who are active. Those who were on the roles, whether they had been there in the last 10 years or not.”
To get down the list Brown would pray for eight families a day, Edwards added.
“He did that not to boast, but it was a challenge,” Tilley said.
Because of his dedication Tilley found she was challenged to pray more for others.
“It was never, ‘look what I’ve done,’ but it was ‘I’m not asking you to do anything I’m not willing to do,’” she added. “That’s what I loved about him. We are all grieving. I’m sure everyone of us in this room would call him a very special friend.”
Brown’s wife Jean Ann still volunteers Tuesdays at First Baptist. The group said Brown had a wonderful sense of humor and loved to joke and tease his wife and the staff.
“They had a strange and wonderful relationship,” Edwards said smiling.
Tilley laughed and said Brown would say “we have a strange and wonderful relationship, she’s strange and I’m wonderful.”
They also remember him as “tenderhearted,” someone who felt deeply and was full of empathy for others.
“I think every pastor who spoke at his funeral service talked about his love for all people,” Edwards said. “His primary focus was always what’s their relationship with Christ? That was his passion.”
“He acted with a sense of urgency that people know Christ,” Tilley added. “Not only in our church, but in our community and through our world. He had a missions heart.”
Brown was responsible for starting a Hispanic ministry with the Harmony Baptist Association. He also helped with the beginning of the Open Door Ministries in Sedalia.
“He was constantly looking for ways to connect with people so they could know Christ, even while he was in the hospital,” Harrington said. “He was talking about people who had visited recently and how he could connect with them. That was just always on his mind.”
“There was a huge pile of notes that he had written, scattered around the house, that hadn’t gotten mailed before he went into the hospital the last time,” Pastor Sparks said. “When I think of Marlin, I think of just the fact that he was a man of God. A lot of people want that title, but he earned it and lived it. I saw him as my mentor.
“He was a leader in the church, not just this church, but he was a leader in all the churches around here,” he added. “He wasn’t a vibrant or flashy guy, he just was this turtle in the race (but) he got it done.”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.