The Rev. Charles E. Cook, an internationally influential Christian leader who was pastor at Mountain Christian Church in Joppa for a decade, died Jan. 11 of respiratory failure at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air.
He was 84 and lived in Bel Air.
"He is highly regarded all over the world as a visionary leader, respected Christian scholar, missions catalyst, and most of all, wise and caring pastor," said the Rev. Ben Cachiaras, who is senior pastor of Mountain Christian Church.
Mr. Cook, the son of a coal miner and a grade school educator, was born in Christopher, Ill., and raised in Elkville, Ill., and Du Quoin, Ill., where he graduated from high school.
He began his ministry in 1945 when he was 19 as a student pastor at a rural church in Glen Elder, Kan. He received his bachelor's degree in 1947 in ministry from Manhattan College in Manhattan, Kan.
Five years later, he received a master's degree in divinity from Phillips University in Enid, Okla. That same year he married Barbara Jean Gregory and for the next two years, the couple joined the Barnes-Cook evangelistic team that toured the nation while leading revival meetings of up to two weeks.
He was an accomplished cornet player who performed big band and swing music, co-recorded several contemporary renditions of traditional Christian hymns and performed vocal and instrumental duets with his wife in churches and revival meetings.
During his professional lifetime, Mr. Cook established and was pastor at several small and medium-sized churches, building thriving congregations in Indiana, Kansas, and Mesa, Ariz., where Central Christian Church is now one of the largest nondenominational Christian churches in the Southwest.
From 1979 to 1984, when he came to Maryland, Mr. Cook was professor of pastoral ministry at Manhattan Christian College.
He was appointed senior pastor of Mountain Christian Church in 1984 and, during the next 10 years, grew the congregation to 4,000 members.
"Our congregation grew in numbers, became a significant impact in world missions, and saw the birth of many new programs during his tenure," Mr. Cachiaras said.
"He presided over the construction of a spacious worship sanctuary which was dedicated and named in his honor in 2005, but its greatest impact is felt in the community with congregation members serving in dozens of ministries in the surrounding area and across the world — all of which is a legacy stemming from the vision of Charles Cook," he said.
Mr. Cook later served in other pastoral roles at the church until cancer forced his retirement in 2005. He was then named pastor emeritus.
"Charles I would describe his demeanor as being a velvet-covered brick. He was gentle on the outside and came across as a gentleman pastor. He had a gentle exterior but a strength and inner firmness," Mr. Cachiaras said.
"And when he preached, it was deeply grounded in Scripture. He was not an arm-flailing type of preacher," he said. "I would defy anyone to show that they did not like him. He was kind, loved and respected. He was as solid as a rock."
Mr. Cachiaras attributed Mr. Cook with his own success as a pastor.
"As a young pastor, no one encouraged me more than Charles Cook. He was instrumental in my coming to Maryland, and through the years, we shared a deep affection and profound mutual respect for one another that has always given me a target of what to shoot for in terms of what kind of leader, husband, father and Christian I am called to be," he said.
In 1981, Mr. Cook was awarded an honorary doctorate of divinity degree from then-Pacific Christian College, now Hope International University, in Fullerton, Calif.
For more than 50 years, Mr. Cook also served as a founding board member, director, chairman and president of Christian Missionary Fellowship International, which is based in Indianapolis and has staff and operations in 17 countries.
Christian Missionary Fellowship International established the Cook Conference Center in recognition of his years of work with the organization.
He also had been president of North American Christian Convention and enjoyed visiting missionaries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
In 2006, the Emmanuel School of Religion founded the Cook Institute for Excellence in Ministry.
Mr. Cook enjoyed reading and traveling.
"He loved going deep into the bush in Africa and he liked to go into the hills to where the roads ended," said his son, Kevin Cook of San Jose, Costa Rica.
Services were Saturday at his church.
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Cook is survived by two daughters, Carlesa Kay Mullin of Bel Air and Leah Ann Crussell of Indian Hills, Colo.; a sister, Lowenn Land of Fullerton, Calif.; and six grandchildren.