Owen C. Carr has served the Assemblies of God as a pastor, evangelist, district and national youth leader, television producer, fundraiser, general presbyter, college president, and assistant district superintendent – but at heart he has always been, first and foremost, a preacher of the Word of God who seeks to see souls saved.
Born to an Oklahoma farmer in 1923, Carr grew up loving the Bible and the church. Before he was able to read, his mother saw that he was able to memorize Scripture, and required the quoting of a Scripture verse before releasing him for play.
Even though his early childhood was in a devout Methodist home, he still keenly felt that he needed God. When he was 10 years old, four of the churches in Kaw City, Oklahoma, got together for meetings in the high school auditorium. The Methodist evangelist, George Rose, said to those gathered, “I want to preach so simply that a 6-year old child will understand and no one will be able to say that they cannot understand the gospel of Jesus Christ.” That night, Carr went to the altar and wept as though his heart would break at the realization of his own sinfulness. The next day, he took his Bible and found a place to be alone with God – a practice that he has continued for 89 years.
When war was declared during Carr’s senior year in high school in 1941, the future seemed uncertain. Not knowing what was coming in the world, Carr married his girlfriend, Priscilla Seidner, on Jan. 1, 1942, less than a month after the war declaration. It was not long after this that Carr felt a call to preach. When he asked the superintendent of the Kansas district what he should do, he was told, “There is a church in Gerlane with hardly any people. You can’t do much damage there. Let’s try it out.” The 19-year-old pastor and his brand-new wife arrived to find a town of about 25 people with a church of just a few folks who had served God longer than their pastors had been alive. Carr hired himself out as a farmhand and began his ministry by cutting the weeds in front of the church.
The recent high school graduate knew he was inadequate for the job and went to the Lord in prayer, “God, I don’t know why You called me. I have no special talents. I can’t sing. I’m not even that smart.” Carr felt the response from the Lord to be, “These people will not answer for what you think or what you know. Just give them My Word. They will be held accountable for that.”
From that time, Owen Carr became a student and a preacher of the Bible. He made it a goal to read the Bible through once a year. After achieving that goal, he marked off enough pages in his Bible to read it twice a year. Then three times a year. With this method he developed his Bible knowledge and began to see connections in the Scriptures, giving him plenty of material to use in his preaching. From his earliest days, his sermons were full of biblical references.
After serving as a pastor for several years, Carr was chosen as the Kansas district leader of the youth department, Christ’s Ambassadors, and on May 21, 1961, the Pentecostal Evangel announced that he had been chosen to travel for the national youth department to represent the Speed-the-Light youth missionary program. This gave the young preacher an opportunity to travel broadly and, though his primary responsibility was to raise money for missionary endeavors, he was convicted that, after giving his short appeal for funds, he must open the Scriptures to the youth who gathered to hear him. God was faithful and the youth gave generously. Just one year later, Carr was named as the head of the youth department of the Assemblies of God.
One of Carr’s passions during his time as national youth secretary was to raise up biblically literate young people who would use their gifts in ministry. He stated, “their talents need to be challenged and channeled. If we fail to use their abilities and influence … we not only do them an injustice, but we miss their important contribution to the cause of Christ.” As a result of this passion, two continuing youth ministries were born during Carr’s tenure: Teen Bible Quiz and Teen Talent (now Fine Arts).
Carr would go on from the position of national youth secretary to pastor six more churches, including the historic Stone Church of Chicago, and establish television Channel 38 as a venue for preaching the Word of God in Chicagoland. He also served as president of Valley Forge Christian College (now University of Valley Forge) where he put his primary focus on raising up preachers of the gospel. Serving as an evangelist in the 1980s, Carr did much to promote urban church planting for the Decade of Harvest initiative.
After it became difficult for Priscilla to travel with him, the couple moved to Springfield, Missouri, where, in their 80s, they planted a new church in the downtown area. When Priscilla passed away in 2011, Carr married Norma Lee Shoults Fite and moved to Maranatha Village where, at age 99, he continues to preach any time the opportunity presents itself and to contribute to the raising up of young preachers through the Pastor and Mrs. Owen C. Carr Scholarship Fund. He also still takes time to read the Bible, having just completed his 122nd cycle of reading Genesis through Revelation. While Carr has served capably in many areas of ministry, he hopes that his primary legacy will be as a preacher of the Word.
Read the article, “Owen Carr Joins National C.A. Staff,” on page 27 of the May 21, 1961, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue
• “Apostolic Christianity” by Thomas F. Zimmerman
• “Revivals in Colombia” by Verlin E. Stewart
And many more!
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.