Memories of Hugh Mitchell
A Wise and Visionary Apostle
On the 19th November 1914 Mr and Mrs Mitchell, then living in Bradford, had the joy of welcoming their first son into the family. They named him Hugh. Little did they know that this child would become a remarkable man of God, who would not only be a blessing to them but to many people in many countries. Through his service as the Secretary of the Apostolic Church Missionary Movement, he would be making decisions that would be a means of blessing to many nations.
Early in his life he committed himself to the Lord and to His service. As a young man of seventeen he would go, together with his younger brother Kenneth, to the Puritan Press (The Apostolic Church's printing arm) every month and assist a team to parcel and post 36,000“ Apostolic Heralds” - the Church's missionary magazine. Later there was added “The Riches of Grace”- a magazine produced for the deepening of spiritual life. It sold in similar quantities.
In 1935 it happened that the Editor of the magazine was away on a Gospel crusade with Pastor Andrew Turnbull when both his children became very ill - the oldest with measles and the baby, who was only months old, with double pneumonia. According to the doctor's judgement he was critically ill and, with no antibiotics available, the young Hugh Mitchell decided to have an all night prayer meeting with two or three other young men. The doctor feared for the child's life and said that if the child should live the illness would leave permanent consequences. That night the crisis came and passed. God answered prayer and that child is alive and well today with no consequences of that illness! I was that child!
Let me share with you some of the wonderful stories that were the result of the ministries of the Gospel Quintet which was the “child” of Hugh Mitchell. Hugh Mitchell was an exceptional musician and a grand pianist. He gathered four young men with musical abilities and they became known as the Gospel Quintet. This group was greatly used evangelistically and through their ministry several churches were planted in Yorkshire.
It would be difficult to exaggerate the impact of the evangelical work that the Gospel Quintet did in Bradford and the surrounding area. In 1939 in Queensbury many souls were saved and there were also several miraculous divine healings. A person who had suffered from heart disease for twelve years was instantly healed. In Kirkstall a person who was totally blind immediately received partial sight. This caused a great stir in the community and the next night many came to hear the Gospel. At the end of the service five people gave their lives to Christ. Again in 1939 in the town of Shipley there were large crowds gathering to hear the Gospel. The mission lasted for eight weeks and over twenty adults and twenty children gave their lives to the Lord. As a result an assembly was opened in that town with sixteen people becoming members of the new church.
Hugh Mitchell also produced some sixteen Gospel Quintet chorus books and many of the songs contained in them are now being sung in nations throughout the world. They were dynamic and inspirational. Many older believers carry a treasure chest of his songs in their memory, bringing praise and glory to God.Consider:
Thy lovingkindness is better than life, Thy lovingkindness is better than life. My lips shall praise Thee, Thus will I bless Thee, Thy lovingkindness is better than life.Consider:
Wonderful, wonderful Jesus is to me Mighty God, Counsellor, Prince of Peace is He Saving me, keeping me from all sin and shame Wonderful is my Redeemer praise His Name.Consider:
I'm living in the victory, victory, victory Living in the victory now. Since the Son has set me free I'm enjoying liberty And I'm living in the victory now. Victory for me through the blood of Christ my Saviour Victory for me, through the precious blood.
Pastor Mitchell also wrote the signature tune for the National Youth Work. The youth of the Church were known as “The Witnesses” and their motto was “God First”.The words of the song were:
God first, God first, God first is our only aim Let go those things which hinder and glorify His Name O give your best to Jesus, triumphantly we'll sing God first, God first, God first in everything. What of his songs for children? Three good men lived very long ago Shadrach Meshach and Abednego To an idol they would never bow Shadrach Meshach and Abednego …............................ Away far beyond Jordan We'll meet in that land, O won't it be grand? Away far beyond Jordan We'll meet in that beautiful land …...................... and at least 1,000 more choruses and hymns!In fact you will find them on the internet.
A Quintet chorus book was produced year by year and, during the 1960s, Pastor Mitchell led the International Convention in worship, teaching the congregation these songs while playing his claviolin. That image of Pastor Mitchell remains with many people to this day. At 28 years of age, in 1942, Hugh Mitchell was ordained as the Missionary Secretary and was also recognised as a Pastor. He recorded that some time before he became Missionary Secretary and during his early days in office over one hundred missionaries were on the field. He later worked towards a further twenty-five missionaries being ordained and sent out. He remained in Bradford till 1949 and then was appointed as pastor in our Newport (South Wakes ) church till 1953, when he left with his wife Muriel and their two children, Stuart and Judith, to become pastor in Glasgow.
During his time there they had their third child, a son called Andrew. I can tell you that Andrew is proud that he had his beginnings in Bonnie Scotland. Talking about Bonnie Scotland, it was during this time that Pastor Mitchell developed an insatiable love for the Highlands of Scotland. Spending many of his holidays touring the Highlands, he had plenty of opportunity to develop his remarkable gift for photography.
It was during his time as the pastor and apostle in the Glasgow church and district that I began to come to know Hugh Mitchell. He regularly ministered in the Tuesday evening Bible teaching services in Glasgow to congregations of well over a hundred people. I can still remember some of his sermons.
Saturday nights for the Apostolic Church in Glasgow were when the open air services were held at the corner of a road leading into Argyll Street. These became an important part of reaching the lost for on some occasions hundreds would gather to hear the singing and the Gospel. We would leave the church with an old ice-cream barrow full of amplification equipment at 7pm. Quite often no one would come to the church to pray and help and Pastor Hugh would say, “Let's go, it's 7 o'clock.” I would suggest, “Should we not wait in case someone else comes?” The answer would come back loud and clear, “No, it's 7 o'clock.” And so I learned as a young man that your word is your bond, whatever the cost! This man was a man of principle to the last detail.
On another occasion the youth group was meeting as usual in a café for coffee and a chat. Up came the subject of the Pastor and someone expressed the view that he was an amazing person but they did not find getting to know him easy. I offered to go and see him and diplomatically talk to him about it. I remember going to the door shaking with fear. He happily invited me in and Mrs Mitchell joined us. I told him as best as I could and he said that surely that was not true. Mrs Mitchell came to the rescue and said “Hugh you know that is true.” The outcome was that every Friday evening all the young people were invited to their home for fellowship and Bible Study. What an example he set for all. For Pastor Mitchell nothing was too much for the Gospel.
He was a generous man, but he gave quietly and privately. It often seemed he was a wealthy man, but he was wealthy because he was generous!! Sometimes in life we need a living example to amplify the Biblical truth of a seed producing a harvest.
In 1962 Pastor Mitchell was appointed as Pastor and Area Apostle for the Kennington Church and the London area. He remained there till 1970. In 1963 he was appointed as the Vice President of the Apostolic Church UK. Around that time he took leave for in depth theological studies. He saw this as a progressive step for a servant of God to be equipped to face a more informed world. In our National Council he displayed the pioneering spirit for a progressive Bible College with well trained lecturers that would include Biblical language studies. Sadly this proposal was hindered, but in 1969, endorsed by a prophecy, High Mitchell's propositions were finally accepted.
Once again I had the blessing of being under his cover. We had been called in 1966 to Dover to pastor that district. There were three, if not four, new Pastors in the Area and Pastor Mitchell had his hands full. We all had L plates, although we thought that we were advanced drivers. Here the pastor showed his patience and wisdom time and time again. I sincerely believe it was more than wisdom - it was the gift of the word of wisdom we saw in operation.
Pastor Hugh Mitchell truly helped us to become what we have been in our pastoral roles. Our pastors’ meeting Bible studies and devotions became something we looked forward to. He was also a man of faith and vision. The youth work had grown in Dover and I believed it was time for us to rent the Kent County Youth centre with billiard tables, tennis tables and weight lifting equipment in it. Please remember this was not 2015, but 1968, when such activities were totally unacceptable in Apostolic Churches. He listened to the request and decided that if within three months souls had been saved then we could continue. Within three weeks we saw young people committing their lives to Christ, praise God. An apostle with vision was ready to take the church into new territory! For me that was a further example of biblical apostleship. These were the things that were shaping us for our future service.
What I have gathered from records and what I have recorded from some of my memories of Pastor Mitchell is only a fraction of all he did in his life time of service for the Lord. It is a true saying that you have not succeeded unless you produce a successor. Did he produce a successor? I would say that he produced countless successors, for, in every field of service and ministry, there are many who have followed his example and the Body of Christ has been enriched by their service.
May the Lord bless you as you read and possibly remember some other instances in Pastor Hugh Mitchell’s life that were precious to you and have blessed you and stabilised you in your walk with God.
Pastor Samuel McKibben (Inverness, Scotland)
For a further tribute to Pastor Hugh Mitchell – see “Thy Loving Kindness is Better Than Life” at apostolic-theology.blogspot.com. This was written by Pastor Jonathan Black, Leeds.