‘HIS WORD FOR HIS WORLD’: Texas-based radio ministry looks to modern methods to spread an unchanging message. ABILENE, Texas
— The microphone used in the first Herald of Truth radio broadcast, now firmly mounted on a plaque housed in a display case, tells where the ministry started.
A large globe and offices filled with people typing on computers and handheld devices tell where it’s going.
The venerable radio program first aired Feb. 10, 1952. Originating from the old Fair Park Auditorium, the program aired on 31 American Broadcasting Co. stations.
Today, it reaches a global audience with websites and through social media such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Old-timers most likely would giggle at hearing “Herald of Truth” and “Twitter” in the same sentence.
Even the current president, Bill Brant, defers to Tim Archer — Herald of Truth’s Spanish-speaking ministries director — when the subject of social media comes up.
“He tweets,” said Brant, who has been president of the ministry since 2007.
While Brant may not tweet himself, he has a vast knowledge of the history of the radio program and its direction. The programming started as a ministry of Highland Avenue Church of Christ in 1952, before the Abilene church dropped the word “Avenue” from its name.
This year the program, which now can be accessed globally, is beginning its 61st year. The fact that Herald of Truth quickly adapted to the Internet and social media doesn’t come as a surprise to Brant, whose knowledge of the ministry dates back to the 1960s.
“The Herald of Truth has always been the gold standard of media utilization, both nationally and internationally,” Brant said.
In fact, the ministry came about when two smaller programs in the Midwest merged in Abilene.
The history dates to 1947 when a recent graduate of then-Abilene Christian College, James Walter Nichols, was attending graduate school in Iowa and preaching at a local Church of Christ.
He also had a weekly local radio program named Herald of Truth. Another man, James Willeford, had a similar radio program in Madison, Wis., and the two formed a regional network. Nichols believed the programming could go national, and he approached the elders of Highland Avenue for support.
The elders agreed to take on Herald of Truth as an outreach ministry, and the radio program was off and running.
It could be heard alongside Billy Graham’s Hour of Decision, founded in 1950, and programming from The Lutheran Hour, which began in 1930.
In 1954, Herald of Truth expanded to television. By the 1970s, it could be seen on 152 television stations.
A high- water mark came in 1959 when Herald of Truth offered to film its TV program on location if a host church would pay the expenses.
A trip to the Hillsboro Church of Christ in Nashville, Tenn., in 1959 resulted in the addition of a familiar name to Herald of Truth programming.
The minister of the church was Batsell Barrett Baxter, whose father, Batsell Baxter, was named the sixth president of Abilene Christian College in 1924. Batsell Barrett Baxter was himself an ACC graduate.
The response to Baxter’s presence on the Herald of Truth television program was so overwhelmingly positive that he was asked to become a primary presenter on the television show.
“He became the first Church of Christ superstar,” Brant joked. “Everybody in our fellowship knew who he was.”
Despite Baxter’s desire to stay out of the limelight, Brant said he was the voice and face of Herald of Truth until his death in 1982.
The Herald of Truth made another major move in 1964 when an evangelist from Spain, Juan Antonio Monroy, joined the team.
In 1985, Monroy became the first Church of Christ minister allowed into Cuba since the revolution that put Fidel Castro in power.
The ministry may have expanded to Facebook and Twitter, Brant said, but the original message, “His Word for His World. Every Day,” is unchanged. FOR MORE INFORMATION, see the Herald of Truth website at www.heraldoftruth.org.
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION