17 April, 2024

Jack Cottrell’s Life, Teaching Celebrated at MACU Lectureship, Library Dedication

by | 22 March, 2024 | 3 comments

By Johnny Pressley 

We lost a great Bible teacher in September 2022, when Dr. Jack Cottrell passed from our midst. For 49 years he was the esteemed Professor of Theology at Cincinnati Christian University. He was an inspirational classroom teacher and a prolific writer, publishing 43 books and numerous articles. He was a passionate proponent for biblical truth and the ministry of the Word in the Lord’s church. 

Dr. Cottrell’s legacy was recently commemorated at Mid-Atlantic Christian University in Elizabeth City, N.C. On March 8, MACU hosted their inaugural Jack W. Cottrell Lectureship, a public forum designed to highlight notable themes from Cottrell’s teaching. The focus this year was the inerrancy of Scripture. The well-attended event in the school’s chapel featured excellent presentations on that theme. 

The first lecture, “The Bible: God’s Inerrant Word,” presented by Drs. Josiah Peeler and Ronnie Woolard, expounded what the Bible teaches about itself. It was a clear and solid affirmation of Scripture’s divine inspiration, its reliability in everything it says, and its absolute authority in faith and practice. Listeners were reminded of the relevant teachings of Jesus in the Gospels as well as the words of the prophets and the apostles.  

The second lecture, “Why Inerrancy Matters for Teaching and Preaching,” presented by Drs. Gene Andrews and Bane Angles, exemplified an emphasis Cottrell often made to his students. Theology has practical implications. How we practice our faith and do our ministry is grounded in what we believe. With that fundamental principle in mind, the speakers laid out some of the dire consequences of a weak view of Scripture. 

The speakers all commended Cottrell for his strong conviction and public advocacy of inerrancy and biblical authority. Their lectures were reminiscent of Cottrell’s own teaching style—a systematic and orderly presentation of key Scripture texts that speak clearly on the matter at hand. This inaugural lectureship was a fitting tribute to Cottrell’s ministry and influence. 

PHOTOS COURTESY OF MID-ATLANTIC CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY’S FACEBOOK PAGE.

The event that day also included the dedication of the Jack W. Cottrell Memorial Library. The Cottrell Library is a separate room within the MACU’s main library. The nicely furnished space includes plaques, photos, and memorabilia related to the professor, writer, and theologian. The room is filled with rows of library shelves holding books from Cottrell’s personal library, which he donated before his passing. 

Cottrell was a lover of books; he was a voracious reader who enjoyed being surrounded by the books he read. Anyone who ever visited his office will remember the iconic labyrinth of books. All four walls were covered with bookshelves from floor to ceiling. A bookshelf arch was built on top of his desk, through which he peered at visitors sitting on the opposite side. Wherever Cottrell could conceive of nailing another shelf in that office, he set up more books.  

The new Cottrell Memorial Library is a neater arrangement of his books, yet it brings fond memories for anyone who visited the professor in his office. 

Cottrell was born and raised in Kentucky and spent his career in Cincinnati. So how did books from his personal library end up in a school in eastern North Carolina?  

Through the years, many graduates of MACU subsequently took seminary classes taught by Cottrell at Cincinnati Christian University (which closed at the end of 2019). This fact was borne out by several folks who spoke at the lectureship and/or library dedication who had earned master’s degrees from Cincinnati; these include current MACU faculty members (President John Maurice and Drs. Bane Angles, Kevin Larsen, Robert Smith, and Ronnie Woolard) and former faculty (Drs. Gene Andrews and Johnny Pressley). Also, many in attendance indicated by a show of hands they also studied under Cottrell.  

MACU had hosted Cottrell on campus in the past, and when he delivered the Commencement Address in 2014, the school bestowed upon him an Honorary Doctor of Divinity in appreciation for his service to the church at large. When MACU was given the opportunity to receive Cottrell’s books, the school regarded it as a privilege. 

Before his death, Dr. Cottrell told me that he was pleased with this arrangement. He appreciated the many graduates of MACU he had known as students. In them, he witnessed a conviction regarding biblical authority and teaching, a commitment to Restoration principles, and an emphasis on ministry in the church. He was hopeful the school that produced these graduates would remember and appreciate his life work long after he was gone.  

If the lectureship and library are indicators, his wish is being fulfilled. 

Johnny Pressley graduated from Mid-Atlantic Christian University (Bachelor of Arts), where he taught for seven years, and Cincinnati Christian University (Master of Divinity), where he taught for 27 years with Jack Cottrell. Pressley also graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary (Master of Theology) and Westminster Theological Seminary (Doctor of Philosophy). Pressley has served as senior minister of First Church of Christ, Washington, N.C., for the past several years. 

Photos are courtesy of the Mid-Atlantic Christian University Facebook page. 

3 Comments

  1. Bob Moodie

    Jack has not departed. Jack has arrived!!!!

  2. Mike Gillespie

    Humbly, I acknowledge that Dr. Cottrell and I were/are Timothies of the Northside Christian Church in Georgetown, Kentucky, a town that played a central role in the emergence of the Restoration Movement. Humbly, I also acknowledge that intellectually and academically, Jack Cottrell is Northside’s shining star while, unfortunately, I can only claim to be the last active Timothy of the congregation.

  3. Harold Harker

    Dr. Jack Cottrell is one of my pillar heroes of the faith. I have devoured many of his books and personally own every book he has written on the topic of Christian Baptism. Dr. Cottrell was never too busy to answer questions or advise concerning critical decision-making regarding the church.

    His passion, beginning in his college days and on through the remainder of his life concerning the issue of Christian baptism in a world that is now moving its importance to the back burner, or discounting its importance altogether, has inflamed within me the desire to carry on the torch of truth concerning this vital part of the salvation process that Jack was so passionate about.

    Jack has passed on to his reward, but fortunately for us who remain, he has left a prolific legacy of teaching for us to enjoy and continue to learn from.

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