By David Dawson
MURFREESBORO — As he has done for more than 70 years, Bill Cox continues to impact the lives of others through his music and message.
The biggest difference is that Cox now travels the hallway instead of the highway.
The renowned former minister of music and evangelist, who will turn 95 in May, still has a strong and powerful voice — and he uses it each and every weekend at the assisted living facility where he now resides.
For the past two years, Cox has hosted a weekly worship service for the residents at “Creekside at Three Rivers” on Saturday mornings. The worship sessions typically include a group of about 20 seniors who gather in a central meeting room for a time of song, prayer and Scripture study.
“The Lord has left me with my voice,” said Cox, “and I still use it for His glory. God has been so good to me.”
The weekly worship services represent the continuation of a lifelong commitment to ministry for Cox, whose career has included serving on staff at Two Rivers Baptist Church, Nashville, and First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, along with serving at the Baptist Sunday School Board and a highly successful career in full-time evangelism.
He also recorded several albums and CDs with his wife of 65 years, Catherine, who died in 2014. (See full profile below this story)
Cox moved into the assisted living facility in 2019. Shortly after he arrived, Cox became burdened by the fact that many of the residents were unable to attend church on Sundays due to health issues or having no access to get there.
One day, while talking to a close friend, Cox mentioned the situation. The friend answered by saying: “Bill, if they can’t get to church, why don’t you bring church to them?” And that’s exactly what he’s done.
After checking with the staff at Creekside, Cox began hosting the weekly services on Saturdays. Each week, Cox opens the service with several songs and then delivers a brief message. “We have anywhere from 15 to 25 who attend each Saturday,” said Cox. “They are a very loyal group, and it’s such a sweet fellowship.”
Cox said many of the residents have expressed to him how much they appreciate and enjoy the services.
“Recently, I had one lady who stopped by my room during the week just to let me know that she wouldn’t be able to come to the service that week,” he said, “but she wanted me to know that she would be praying for us while we met.”
At the end of each service, Cox gives attendees a list of verses to read that will help them learn more about the sermon, such as his recent message on the ascension of Christ. “I always recommend that they look up the Scriptures and maybe write them out,” said Cox. “They’ve been very sweet to follow through with it.”
The services generally last about 30 minutes. “They get fidgety if it goes much longer than that,” he said with a chuckle.
One of the other residents from the center plays the piano each week, and a staff member plays the guitar. The music usually starts about 15 or 20 minutes before the service — “playing some old favorites” as Cox puts it.
The service begins at 10:30 a.m. with Cox leading the music and usually singing a solo before he brings the message.
“It’s just a sweet, wonderful fellowship of people,” Cox said.
Cox is still in good health, although he now requires a walker. He said he looks forward to the weekly services and enjoys the opportunity to continue his ministry.
“I get on my computer two or three times each day,” he said, “and I prepare each week for the message that I am going to give. (As for my health), I feel good. I’m a little unsteady on my feet, but I use the walker and keep on going. The Lord has been so good to me.”
Cox has two grown daughters, both of whom live close to the facility, and they stop by frequently to check on Cox.
He said he plans to continue the weekly services as long as he is able to do so.
“We have a new manager (at the facility),” he said. “And I (recently) asked her, ‘do you still want me to do the worship service on Saturday mornings?’ And she replied, ‘Oh, there’s no question there.’ So, it will continue as long as I can do it.”
Cox said he is grateful for the opportunity to keep sharing his gift of music in this chapter of his life.
“I know the Lord is going to take me home one of these days,” he said, “but as of right now, I’m feeling good. I don’t have any physical problems. I sleep well, and I spend time studying the Scriptures.
“I have a great life,” he said. B&R
BILL COX PROFILE
• Born May 2, 1927
• Served as music director at First Baptist, Arp, Texas and Calvary Baptist Church, Shreveport, La., during college, along with serving at First Baptist Church, San Augustine, Texas, and First Baptist Church, Jasper, Texas, during the summer months of his college days.
• Married his wife, Catherine Ann Ward, on Dec. 5, 1948. She was an accomplished pianist and together, they had a long ministry, serving in revivals, concerts and evangelism. Catherine taught piano for 35 years and served as organist at Two Rivers Baptist Church for 36 years. She was the organist at Triune Baptist Church in Arrington, until her death, March 15, 2014.
• Served two separate tenures at the Baptist Sunday School Board in Nashville; first as director of intermediate work in Sunday School Department for five years, and later serving as program director of the two Baptist Conference Centers: Ridgecrest and Glorieta.
• Served as minister of education at First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, where he supervised a staff of 33. During this period, the church would have as many as 6,000 people in Sunday School.
• Served as minister of education and music at First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach, Fla., and at Miami Springs Baptist Church, Miami, Fla.
• Retired from the BSSB in 1990 after 29 years of service to go into full-time music evangelism.
• Volunteered to serve in the Evangelism Department of the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board, where he helped develop “block parties” — a program where people would be fed and hear the gospel.
• The Coxes were married 65 years. They made two albums, “God Gave Me Love” and “From Glory to Heaven” and five CDs.
• Compiled a book of invitation hymns called Time of Salvation and co-authored (with Elmo Mercer) two senior adult musicals: “I’ll Raise My Voice to Sing” and “Brighten the Comer.” B&R