Dr. John D Fuller, who recently died, leaves behind a sprawling legacy bigger than the huge church building complex and congregation he helped grow during his many years as the pastor at Lewis Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. Fuller died at the age of 73, just days after his birthday on May 23.
He was honored this past weekend with three funeral services — one in Rockingham, where he served as a pastor after his retirement from Lewis Chapel four years ago, and two in Fayetteville.
The Rev. Christoppher Stackhouse Sr., who became the pastor at Lewis Chapel in 2016 following Fuller’s retirement, said Fuller was like a father to many people. “I’ve never seen so many grown men cry at the loss of someone,’’ Stackhouse said.
One of the biggest lessons Stackhouse said he learned from Fuller was that where you live doesn’t define who you are. Stackhouse said Fuller believed you didn’t have to be from New York City or Atlanta, Georgia, to have an impact on people — or the world. His philosophy was not to use where you are as an excuse to not pursue as much as you possibly can or to not do what you possibly can.
Stackhouse said Fuller displayed a level of humility and integrity that Stackhouse has tried to model in his own life.
“For somebody that accomplished as much as he did and was respected as much as he was, he was very humble,’’ Stackhouse said. “When he came in, he didn’t come in with a lot of fanfare and flash. You would take note of his stature, but you wouldn’t take note of him because he came in being loud and demanding attention.”
The Rev. Cureton Johnson of First Baptist Church on Moore Street, who retired earlier this year, first crossed paths with Fuller when Johnson was a young minister starting out. Fuller invited Johnson to come to his Lewis Chapel Church and preach one Sunday morning.
“He’s one of those folks who helped a lot of people along the way,” Johnson said. “He produced a whole lot of ministers out of his church. I wouldn’t be surprised if he produced 100 ministers over there.”
Johnson worked with Fuller when Fuller rose to leadership positions within the Missionary Baptist Church. Fuller was president of the General Baptist State Convention of North Carolina at one point in his career.
“Dr. Fuller had a lot of influence among the Baptist churches of the city, county and around the state,” Johnson said. “He just had a gift of leadership. He took Lewis Chapel when they only had a few members and took them to 3,000-4,000 members. That takes someone with a lot of charisma and giftedness.”
People who attended Fuller’s services at Lewis Chapel, both long-term and short-term, came away impressed with his ministry.
Billy King, a former Cumberland County commissioner, has been going to Lewis Chapel since the early 1980s. He described Fuller as a spiritual and forthright person who believed in fairness and equity. “I think he really loved the Lord,” King said. “We have a good-sized church, but I think he knew the names of almost every member.” \
Marsha Mann Lake attended services at Lewis Chapel during a time in the mid-1990s when she was seeking a new church home. She recalled Fuller as being a mesmerizing speaker. “He was so engaging and enthralling,” she said. “He makes you feel special. He was extra special in everything he did.”
Photo: Dr. John D. Fuller