RADIO & TV PREACHING IN THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT
(Note: This is the final installment of a speech I gave at the Friends of the Restoration luncheon on February 5 as part of the 82nd Annual Freed-Hardeman University Bible Lectures. The full title of the speech was “The Power Of Radio And Television Preaching In The Restoration Movement”).
In 1936 a 14 year old boy in rural southern Oklahoma began listening to W. L. Oliphant’s radio program out of Dallas, TX. He determined then and there that as an adult he would become a gospel preacher and would use radio to reach the masses. God, of course, had bigger plans for Mack Lyon.
In 1980, on a small NBC affiliate in Ada, OK, Mack launched the television program “In Search of the Lord’s Way.” In 1982 he moved the program to Edmond, OK where the program remains under the oversight of the Edmond elders. (Incidentally, not unlike what happened to U. L. Allen when he obeyed the gospel [Part 1 of this series], when Mack determined that he was going to become a gospel preacher [a preacher of what his father referred to as “the doctrine of the church of Christ”], he was told by his father to pack his suitcase and leave home. Mack did so).
Known for his kindness and gentleness, Mack was anything but flashy, but he preached the gospel effectively to millions of people every week for 30 years via TV. Since 2009 Phil Sanders has continued the program. Those of us who know and love Phil know the program is in good hands. He too is kind and gentle, but uncompromising in his presentation of the gospel.
The program now appears in the top 210 TV markets in the U. S., is seen in all fifty states, as well as in many markets abroad. It is seen in South Korea, Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Guyana, Trinidad, Dominica, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Iceland. From the states of New York, Michigan, and North Dakota the program reaches into various parts of Canada. It reaches hundreds of islands in the Pacific Rim. Via the internet, it goes into all the world!
Think how many souls have been saved and how many congregations of the New Testament order have been established – all unknown to us. We can rejoice in knowing that millions have access to the gospel every week via “In Search of the Lord’s Way.”
The “Herald of Truth” began in 1952 in Abilene, TX under the oversight of the elders of the 5th & Highland Church of Christ. James Walter Nichols and James D. Willeford were the early speakers. Actually, Nichols and Willeford had had a joint program in the upper mid-west beginning in the late 1940s and early 1950s. They persuaded the elders of the 5th & Highland church to take the oversight of the program and help them move it to a national level. G. K. Wallace was the first guest speaker on the program. E. R. Harper, George Bailey, and Batsell Barrett Baxter were some of the later speakers.
“Herald of Truth” expanded to television in 1954, featuring Batsell Barrett Baxter and others. B. C. Goodpasture, longtime editor of the Gospel Advocate, loved to tell the story of a family in Atlanta who watched the program every Sunday morning before going to church. One Sunday morning when the rest of the family was a little slow getting dressed for church, the little boy in the family said, “Y’all need to hurry and get in here – brother BUSHEL BARREL BASKET is about to come on!”
I do not know the state of the program today. I never hear anything about it. But at one time it had a great influence and accomplished much in the proclamation of the gospel in its apostolic purity and wholeness in the advancement of undenominational Christianity.
E. W. Stovall was a very effective radio preacher. He conducted programs in Bonham, TX, Blytheville, AR, Glasgow, KY, and other places where he served as the local preacher of a church of Christ. He was extremely successful in his radio work, especially with people ensnared in denominational churches. I believe it was in Glasgow, KY that an older man and his wife listened to brother Stovall every day on the radio. One day after the broadcast the man turned to his wife and said, “Mama, we have been wrong, and we have to get right.” They obeyed the gospel and became simple New Testament Christians! How many times down through the years could a similar story be told of the power of local radio preaching?
For many years James Watkins conducted a very effective TV program titled “Preaching the Gospel with James W. Watkins.” The program continues with Cliff Lyons as the speaker. Jack Wilhelm (along with other speakers) conducted “Televisit With the Bible,” a noon program seen Monday through Friday in Florence, AL. Billy Lambert of Summerdale, AL conducts a television program on Direct TV called “Getting to Know Your Bible.” The Gospel Broadcasting Network, under the oversight of the elders of the church in Southhaven, MS, a suburb of Memphis, TN, provides 24/7 television broadcasting of New Testament Christianity. We could tell many, many other stories about the power of radio and TV preaching in the advancement of the plea for undenominational Christianity.
I will conclude this three part series with the following statement from Roy Beasley’s Restoration Radio-Gram of July 2013 and an article titled “40 Years in Radio Has Taught Me Much.” Brother Beasley writes:
“I have experienced firsthand the powerful potential of radio outreach. I have long admired the tremendous good accomplished by many Christian broadcasters such as V. E. Howard and others. I have heard from many listeners to gospel radio whose lives have been drastically changed. The late James Swafford, a preacher friend of mine, told me how he was converted by listening to a gospel preacher on his car radio. Toby Miller, a radio announcer, who used to put my show on the air in Indiana, got to listening to my messages and was soon converted. He described himself as being the ‘next thing to an atheist,’ but now he is a good gospel preacher—one of the best. There are many other stories I could tell.
“I have learned that radio is a powerful tool in evangelism. There are more listeners to radio now than ever before. The average household, we are told, has access to five radios. In other parts of the world, especially Third World countries, access to TV is limited and too expensive for most people to own. But, they do have radios. They depend upon radio for entertainment, information, and spiritual sustenance….”
March 13, 2018