Lisa Craft: Dynamite comes in small packages

Saturday, November 14, 2020

What are the qualities of a pastor?

In Greek, the term “pastor” translates to “shepherd,” so traits that help a pastor guide his congregation are highly esteemed — to be loving and compassionate, honest and accountable, loyal and humble. These are all qualities that most exhibit when claimed to be called by a higher authority, and Pastor Jimmie Copley was most definitely called by a higher authority.


Pastor Copley was saved at the age of 40 and dedicated his life to the Lord. It was his love and passion that from that time forward, he would work hard to make sure he would do what he could for God and make sure that whomever he came in contact with, he would leave a touch, a legacy and perhaps a path that would lead that person towards salvation. It was Pastor Jimmie’s hunger to make sure that the more days he was on this earth, the more souls were saved.

Pastor Jimmie Copley, age 77, of Monett, passed away on Thursday, Nov. 5, at Cox South Medical Center following complications from COVID-19.

So, how do you describe or give tribute to someone that impacted so many lives? According to Cathy Lewis, Pastor Jimmie was an “everyman’s minister.”

“There may be many serious issues making the news today, however this passing will touch many lives for miles around,” Lewis said. “Every hospital, nursing home, funeral home and community organization has been touched by this small man with a big heart. For miles around, his death will not go unnoticed. The community supports his wife, Janet, and his family. The Chapel of Grace family has shared an incredible friend with all of us.”

And shared they did. When I titled this “Dynamite comes in small packages,” most everyone would know what I was talking about. Jimmie was not big in stature. I am not sure how tall he was, but I don’t believe he was much over 5-3, if that. He was not a heavy man. But, he had such a huge way of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

One totally amazing thing that I found out by talking to some of the family members was that his sister, Linda Fulp, said that they never had one fight or fuss!

“He was my best friend, and we never fussed,” she said.

Linda was 5 years older than Jimmie. She has two brothers, one sister and a half-brother.

Linda shared with me how Jimmie came to be only be only 5-3.

“When he was only 18-months-old Jimmie fell out of his high chair and hit his back, bruising his backbone,” she said. “Momma knew something was not right, so she took him to a doctor in Springfield. They said nothing was seriously wrong, but he did not get better.”

Linda said they finally they took Jimmie to the Shriner’s Hospital in Kansas City.

“He was in the hospital for three years and 8 months,” she said. “I only got to see him once from the window, and it was awful for momma. They finally took a bone from his leg and made a new backbone for him, that is why he is only 5-3. Otherwise, I truly believe he would have been 6 foot tall, because my other brothers are,” Linda said.

Linda also shared how Jimmie came to her house every Sunday morning for breakfast.

“I made eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy,” Linda said. “He loved biscuits and gravy and orange juice. He had to have his orange juice. He was just so precious, and I miss him so much.”

Jimmy was a hospital chaplain and pastored at nursing homes. He delivered numerous eulogies at funerals and delivered many wedding ceremonies bringing two people together. If someone needed him at 2 a.m., he would get out of bed and go. And to be honest, I feel like when he preached, no one noticed that he was a small man. The words that he spoke from the spirit of God made him 10 feet tall, and his voice could echo like it was bouncing off of the mountaintops.

I told my youngest daughter that Pastor Copley passed away and asked if she remembered him. It had been quite some time since she had attended church there. She told me, “Yes I remember him, I had fallen asleep in church and he woke me up!” In all honesty, I believe she was only 5 or 6 years old.

My dad was my best friend and apparently the title of best friend was also Jimmie’s to his children. According to his daughter, Kim Young, he was their rock and was always there to talk to about anything at anytime.

“I know that I made sure I would go with my dad to every church he would preach at just so I could be with him,” Kim said. “We would also love to sing together. He was just the sweetest, kindest man.”

“He was always happy and had the biggest sense of humor,” she said. “If you would call him and ask him how he was feeling, he would always say he was feeling with his fingers. He always wanted to make us laugh.”

Jimmie’s long-time friend and one of the original church members, Carol Swadley, shared with me that when the Ministerial Alliance wanted to make him president, he could not understand why. He told them that they were more knowledgeable than he, and they knew the scriptures better than he did. They told him, “Yes, but you have love and a Christ-like spirit in you.”

Jimmie and his wife, Janet were married 51 years. I got the pleasure of speaking to Janet on the phone for a bit and realized just how wonderful their life together was. They were two people that got to love the Lord together, have a family and enjoy their lives together. Janet shared with me what a huge sense of humor Jimmie had and how he loved to embarrass her and call her “Hot Lips” in front of people, and at times, in the pulpit. But at the same time, he loved her so much he was always doing things for her without being asked.

“He would buy me flowers for no reason,” Janet said. “When I would ask him what they were for, he would say, ‘Just because I love you.’”

The couple has three children, two girls and one boy; 10 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren, with one more to arrive in May. His family was very important to him.

Jimmie and his wife started the church in their home and quickly realized that it was too small. They tried to switch the church to two other buildings, and for one reason or the other it did not work out. Property was found on Farm Road 1060, south of Highway 60 and west of Monett approximately 37 years ago, and they built a basement where they held church there for a few years before they built the actual building.

“We started going to Chapel of Grace 36 years ago,” said Marsha Williams. “Other churches just did not feel like home — this church did. There was so much love and concern. It was just a family.”

Marsha’s husband, Doug, became assistant pastor, approximately ten years ago.

“You did not have to be a member for Pastor Jimmie to help you,” Marsha said. “If you needed counseling, help, pastoring of any kind, he would be there.”

When Chapel of Grace celebrated its 30-year anniversary, Pastor Jimmie described the church as, “Loving, giving, excited, joyful — a good, wonderful family church, and they’re good to me. Loving God and one another has always been my main focus. Having faith in God and loving one another are the two most important things you can do.”

Personally, the church body is very important, but the pastor leads, and if Jimmie felt this way, I firmly believe he had a lot to do with it.

I feel strongly Jimmie was one of those that had a discerning call to preach, to bring those lost souls to God. He was gifted with a fervent desire to preach. It was not a career, it was a calling.

On Sunday, Nov. 15, the Community Thanksgiving Worship Service will be held at 2 p.m. at the Jerry D. Hall Memorial Pavilion, located at Fifth and Front Streets in Monett. Originally, Pastor Jimmie was scheduled to speak. There will be a time of remembrance for him during the service. The speaker will be Susanne Kampala, with First Presbyterian Church in Monett.

Attendees are asked to bring their own chairs and observe social distancing protocols at the outdoor event. Proceeds of the offering will go towards Monett Crosslines. In case of inclement weather, the event will take place at the same time and location on Nov. 22. For more information, people may call 417-235-7444.

We bid you an earthly farewell, Brother Jimmie Copley, and we shall see you again someday!

Lisa Craft is the General Manager of The Monett Times. She may be reached at 417-235-3135 or at community@monett-times.com.

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