By Cecil Willis
Several years ago Norvel Young and Batsell Barrett Baxter compiled two volumes entitled Preachers of Today. At the time, I had absolutely no interest in such volumes, and these books often have been referred to as preacher “blow books.” But nonetheless, I have found myself resorting to them again and again for one purpose or another. Occasionally I have needed a photograph of a preacher listed therein; at times I have needed to know the correct spelling of his name, or to refer to some biographical data concerning him.
Two of the most useful books I have found in Restoration History are W. T. Moore’s History of the Disciples of Christ published in 1909, and John T. Brown’s Churches of Christ which was published in 1904. Everyone who has had occasion to study Restoration History, or to do any kind of research in the biographical field of early preachers surely has appreciated these books. One of their greatest values to historians today has been their large collection of good photographs of well-known and not-so-well-known brethren. In fact, some of the photographs which I used in W. W. Otey: Contender for the Faith were taken from these books.
Most preachers today are too modest to think that anyone would be interested in knowing what they look like, and something about their lives. But I have found every single one of the preacher-books which I have read to be most interesting. There have been perhaps a dozen or so such books published in the last century. The Preceptor recently has been re-running some pages from one of these old books; evidently great interest has been generated in reading these men’s brief biographies.
Recently I have been wondering if there might be enough interest on the part of preachers among us to publish such a book. I have in mind the publication of a good photograph, and a brief account of each preacher’s early life, – training, areas of work, and perhaps some kind of a permanent contact given. With such a book, it would be feasible to publish only 350 – 500 biographies of faithful gospel preachers. There are perhaps four times that many, in this country alone. However, some probably would not be interested in having an account of their lives included, but yet these same men would enjoy knowing something about the lives of other gospel preachers. Some might be completely opposed to such an idea. Certainly no one would pretend to pass judgment on the soundness or worthiness of men whom they do not even know. I would hope that no liberal preachers would want to appear in such a book. In fact, I suspect they know that the appearance of their picture in a book published by us would be a “kiss of death” to them in many places.
If you would like to see such a book prepared and published, write me concerning your interest. If there seems to be enough interest, we might proceed to advertise a little regarding it and encourage some positive response in order to see if such a publication project is feasible. I know I personally would appreciate having such a book. Within the last two or three days, I have had to seek some biographical information and a photograph of preachers. It is very difficult to find such items now. I believe that laying modesty aside (and some who pretend such modesty may not be as modest as they pretend), many of us profitably could use such a book. If you think this is a good idea and worth pursuing further write me. If you do not write, the idea will die with this last line of this article.
Truth Magazine XVIII: 3, p. 35
November 21, 1974