RADIO AND TV PREACHING IN THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT
(Note: This week we resume with Part 2 of a speech I gave at the Friends of the Restoration luncheon on February 5 as part of the 82nd Freed-Hardeman University Bible Lectures. The full title of the speech was “The Power Of Radio And Television Preaching In The Restoration Movement”).
So far as I have been able to determine, the longest running radio program among churches of Christ is that of the Central church in downtown Nashville. In fact, according to reliable sources, the Central church hosts the U. S. A.’s longest running religious broadcast. I understand that in the lobby of the Central church building there is a certificate indicating that the radio program began a couple of months before the launch of the Grand Ole Opry which had its first broadcast on November 28, 1925.
In 1928, Hall L. Calhoun became the full-time radio preacher for the Central church. The regular Sunday services were broadcast, and Calhoun conducted a noon worship service which was broadcast every day from 12:25 to 12:55. According to J. E. Choate (via Scott Harp’s website, The Restoration Movement), thousands heard Calhoun preach in his effective and inimitable way. He was responsible for teaching many people who might not have otherwise heard and learned the truth. It was said that all the businesses along Broadway in Nashville were tuned into the program each day and that a person could walk from one business establishment to another without missing a word of the program! The program is still heard daily on W.N.A.H. in Nashville.
In 1934, in Hot Springs, AR, a young 23 year old preacher by the name of Verna Elisha Howard began a radio program. Over the next few years, the program was expanded to include stations in TX, LA, IL, OK, MO, and Mexico. Eventually it landed on the powerful 250,000 watt station XERF in Mexico, across the river from Del Rio, TX and was heard in all states, as well as Canada and other parts of the world.
Brother Howard was the speaker on what eventually became known as The International Gospel Hour and continued in that role for sixty-one years – from 1934 to 1995. Multiplied thousands of his sermons were printed and mailed to all parts of the world. Many of them were published in book form: Is the Church of Christ a Denomination?, What is the Church of Christ?, Roman Catholicism Vs. Freedom, Fake Healers Exposed, as well as others.
Brother Howard became known for his distinctive phrase, “Are you listening?” From 1945 until his death, the IGH radio program and evangelistic meetings were his work. He baptized over 8000 during his lifetime. How many were baptized or restored, or how many congregations were started as a result of his radio work, I doubt if anyone knows.
The IGH continues under the oversight of the elders of the West Fayetteville (TN) Church of Christ, and has been a powerful witness to the influence of radio preaching in advancing the restoration of apostolic Christianity.
In about 1950 the Getwell Church of Christ was established in Memphis, TN and Emerson J. Estes moved there to preach for the new congregation. The church began a thirty minute Sunday morning radio program that has continued to the present, making it one of the oldest continuous radio programs operated by brethren. Brother Estes was blessed with a marvelous speaking voice and was an extremely effective radio preacher.
In 1959, Alan Highers succeeded brother Estes as the preacher at Getwell and the program was expanded to forty-five minutes of continuous preaching every Sunday morning. In time, Alan formatted it into a Question and Answer program, thereby greatly increasing its popularity.
On one occasion when he was preaching in a meeting in Savannah, TN two ladies came to Alan and said they wanted to meet him because they had been converted by listening to his radio program from Memphis.
On another occasion, Alan stopped at a business in Eupora, MS to visit an uncle of his wife. His wife’s uncle said to him, “Wait here a moment, I have someone I want you to meet.” In a few minutes he came back leading an elderly man and his wife. The man was obviously blind. He said to the man, “Uncle Joe, I have someone I want you to meet.” Alan stepped forward to speak to the man and he immediately recognized Alan’s voice and called him by name. He had heard him preach on the radio and he and his wife had been converted. His wife would write down the scriptures Alan used and after the program she would read them to her husband. They traveled fifteen miles to the nearest church of Christ to be baptized for the remission of their sins.
On two occasions, Alan read tracts on the broadcast. One was “I Married a Catholic.” The other was “What Smoking Has Done For Me,” a tract in which a brother explained that he was dying of lung cancer due to smoking. Some listeners tuned in late and did not know that Alan was reading from a tract. Over the next several days, Alan received several sympathy cards in the mail!
Nearly seventy years after its beginning, the program continues every Sunday morning from 8:00 to 8:30 on W.H.B.Q. Gary Colley is the current speaker.
(To Be Continued)
March 6, 2018