Hollis Creel, a beloved gospel preacher, passed away on Tuesday, July 15. Funeral services were conducted yesterday in Pleasant Grove, AL., with nephew Josh Creel and myself conducting services. It was an honor to me to be asked to pay tribute to this godly man. Uncle Hollis (really my wife’s uncle) would have been 86 on Aug. 14. He and Robbye Creel had been married 63 years. He had worked as evangelist for 57 years with churches of Christ across the southeast. It is estimated that he preached more than 6,000 sermons, plus countless Bible classes and home studies. He touched many lives. Yesterday at the funeral home, every seat was taken, and the back of the auditorium as well as lobby were filled with people standing.
When Abner died, David lamented to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? (2 Sam. 3:38). Uncle Hollis was one of my heroes. I have known him for about 50 years. He was a friend “who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 14:17). “A friend loves at all times” (Prov. 18:24).
He loved the Lord, and loved the church, the people of God. He was not a “big shot.” His one purpose in life was saving souls. He was a quiet man, a humble man, and he had a tremendous influence for good. His convictions ran deep; he was not for sale. When churches were troubled by various issues his only concern was to take a kind but firm stand for truth. His aim was to please God.
Proverbs 10:7 states, “The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot.” I have good memories of Uncle Hollis. I’ll remember his loved for his family. More than anything else, he wanted each family member to go to heaven; to “choose the one thing that is needful.” His children loved and respected this quiet, unassuming, strong man. He and his wife have been a wonderful team. He had recently mentioned to his daughter, only a couple of weeks ago, how very blessed he was with his family, including extended family.
I’ll remember his sense of humor. And I’ll remember him as a great story-teller. He also had a bit of mischief about him. Also, he could laugh at himself.
He was a “good sport.” Twenty-five years ago we were moving from Lexington, AL, to our present location in Hanceville, AL. Uncle Hollis was in Lexington to conduct our fall gospel meeting with the church there. During the course of the week he helped me move my shop tools to Hanceville. I had borrowed a full size van which had no back seats; my wife and I occupied the two front seats. He sat on a 5 gallon bucket all the way down, helped me unload the tools, and sat on the bucket all the way back.
He enjoyed buying and selling. He could take a piece of “junk” and turn it into a beautiful piece of furniture.
But the “tie that binds” is Truth, the truth of God’s word. To have that in common is most important by far. What attracts men and women of all ages to someone like Uncle Hollis is in reality seeing the influence of Christ in his/her life; such are “adorn[ing] the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10) by letting the gospel have free course in their lives.
I am thankful that Uncle Hollis lived in the Lord; that when he died, he died in faith. He died in the Lord (Rev. 14:13) and thus died in hope. I’m thankful for the salvation that is in Jesus Christ.
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
Goodbye for now, Dear Friend. May “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:4) sustain and comfort the Creel family at this time.