His Conversion Story
Norman Crawford had an older brother who was injured in a football game. After a prolonged stay in the hospital his brother died, and as was common in those days, his body was brought home. Norman asked himself as he looked into the casket, “if that were me, where would my soul be?” On the last Friday night of a six-week gospel series in the West Toronto Hall, Sam McEwen spoke on Revelation 20 (The Great White Throne Judgment). A man who sat next to Norman told him later that Norman trembled as the gospel was preached. That night, he found out through 1 Peter 3:18 that Christ (the just One) had died for him (the unjust one) to bring him to God. In his own words, “I couldn’t help but trust Him.” Norman Crawford loved to tell how he worshiped, walking alone through a dark park that night on the way home. He looked into the sky and thanked God for sending His Son for him. A favorite hymn has a chorus, “I know He’s mine, this Friend so dear, He lives with me, He’s ever near. Ten thousand charms around Him shine, and best of all – I know He’s mine.” This love of the Savior led to Norman’s call.
At 18 years of age, after it became obvious that Norman was both gifted and exercised about spreading the gospel, he was commended by several assemblies in the Toronto area. His call led him to devote his life to the Lord in the preaching of the gospel.
Norman Crawford came to Jackson, Michigan in 1946, and preached for six weeks with Mr. McBain (who was to become his mentor and father-in-law) in a little red schoolhouse in Rives Junction, Michigan. Many souls were saved and later added to the assembly in Jackson. Norman had many such series through the years in Jackson, including one on the book of Revelation. He had an exercise about pioneering in an area where others had not worked. In Fremont, Ohio, he preached nightly for six months without seeing one soul saved. He stayed in a little travel trailer, and when asked how it was that he knew to continue on, he quoted a verse that he had in his trailer. “And let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal 6:9). Finally, there was a break, and it wasn’t too long before a number of souls were saved and an assembly was planted in the neighboring town of Clyde. A few years later, Norman worked in Mansfield, Ohio, and saw an assembly planted. “Stormin’ Norman,”as he was known, had many series in Iowa, Michigan, Ontario, and across the world. He was a builder as well, and instrumental in the building of many gospel halls, including the extension of the present hall in Jackson, MI.
His Character and Conduct
Many times in ministry meetings, Norman could be heard saying these words: “All that the Lord wants from you can be written on your thumbnail – OBEY.” He was a man who practiced what he preached. His character was marked by Christ-likeness: a gentleness and kindness that drew people to his Lord. He exemplified what the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 11 (KJV), “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart.” He had a genuine care for others, a love for souls who were perishing, and a tenderness for the Lord’s people as he carefully taught the Word of God. He was a true pastor/teacher in every respect. Many can attest to his care on a personal level, as he often had visitors in his study or conversed on the phone in spite of his busy schedule. He prayed consistently for many he met in his world-wide travels who had reached out for help. He was a gentleman, polite to old and young alike, saved or unsaved. He exhibited a gracious, Christ-like spirit.To someone who questioned another’s motives, Mr. Crawford replied, “God will get the glory,” instead of being critical. When doing secular business transactions, he would be quick to generously tip. When presented with a bill, he would ask, “Is that enough?” and would rather be a loyal customer and pay a bit more, than be cheap and try to “get the best deal.”
He appreciated others, was prompt with acknowledgements (despite a busy schedule in earlier days), and when he was older, was quick to thank individuals who showed even a small gesture of kindness. He was also thankful to the Lord for daily blessings and did not complain or grumble when he had to move from his home into assisted living. “Remember those who led you, who spoke the Word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” (Heb 13:7, NASB).
His Careful Study of Scriptures
Norman was a true student of God’s Word. Whether in a Bible reading, or a ministry/gospel meeting, he followed the noble example of his blessed Lord and turned to the Bible as his source of reference and authority for teaching truth. His expository style was detailed, yet warm in its delivery. He was sought after at conferences, and the Christians who sat under his ministry, have profited from it. He authored two books which he is well known for: The Gospel of Luke, in the What the Bible Teaches series, and Gathering Unto His Name, a book describing assembly truth. The latter has gained worldwide acceptance and has brought help and profit to many. He was editor of Truth & Tidings for many years, and wrote numerous articles. In the last 15-20 years of his life, due to the limitations of his own and his wife’s health, Norman was limited in his travels, and as a result, the dear Christians in Jackson were privileged to enjoy his rich ministry and profitable contributions in the Bible readings.
His Commitment to the Local Assembly
The words of the psalmist, “LORD, I have loved the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thine honor dwelleth” (Psa 26:8, KJV), can aptly be said of Mr. Crawford. He quoted Matthew 18:20 extensively in his preaching and prayers, emphasizing the grand truth that it was the Person in the midst Who gave value to the place. In the conferences where he spoke, he had an exercise to bring out the truth of the assembly, as though it was a stewardship he had received, and wanted to faithfully pass on to the generation to come. His life bore out this great commitment, and even in the last few months of his life, with all the limitations of self-care and mobility, he loved to be at the assembly meetings, and his presence and words brought joy and blessing to all.
His Call to Glory
Heaven and home was a blessed hope, and there was seldom a “remembrance meeting” when he did not mention that this might, perhaps, be the last one, and that the Lord might come before the meeting was over. Norman Crawford was a worshiper. Even in his last years, his heart was full of thanksgiving for the Lord Jesus. Even if he took part twice in a meeting (unintentionally due to his failing memory), the thoughts would be fresh and different from each other in content. Until the day breaks and the shadows pass away, we continue in the same pathway of faith waiting for the great resurrection morning. Maranatha!