By Cecil Willis
Ten Years Ago
Truth Magazine is now well into its sixteenth year of publication. Just a few days ago, I completed my tenth year as editor. Ten years represents a good-size chunk out of ones adult, active years. Yet I am nearly the “junior” editor, even among papers published by conservative brethren. A few months ago Yater Tant “retired” as editor of the Gospel Guardian after serving in that demanding capacity for well over twenty years. William E. Wallace succeeded Brother Tant. Stanley Lovett has edited Preceptor since 1956. H. E. Phillips has served as editor of Searching the Scriptures throughout its existence, and it is in its thirteenth year.
Several brethren were responsible for establishing and maintaining Truth Magazine through most of its first six years of existence. Bryan Vinson, Jr., now of Dallas, Texas, edited the paper through nearly six years. He was assisted in publishing the paper by his brother, FOY, Leslie Diestelkamp, Gordon Pennock, Ray Ferris, and a host of other brethren.
During the last part of his tenure as editor, Bryan Vinson, Jr. had become involved in a number of other time demanding enterprises. The paper had not only demanded of all those connected with it a great amount of time and free work, it also bad cost all of them considerable money. Those brethren decided to let Truth Magazine die.
I wrote my first article in Truth Magazine for a “Special Issue” in Volume Two in 1958. When the decision came to stop publishing Truth Magazine, I had been writing regularly for the paper for two or three years and securing a goodly number of subscriptions for it. After the decision bad been reached by the former publishers not to publish another issue, apparently as an after thought, someone thought I might take the paper and continue to operate it. When one of these brethren called me, of course I had not given the matter the slightest thought. I was not seeking the position as editor of any paper. I recommended that they call Irvin Himmel, who then was publishing Apostolic Doctrine, and see if he would take Truth Magazine, and perhaps merge it with Apostolic Doctrine. He rejected the proposal.
The former publishers then called me back and told me of Himmels decision. At that very moment, William F. Wallace was in the North holding some gospel meetings. He was living then in Oklahoma. William told me that if I would agree to take the paper, he would go back to Oklahoma and make immediate plans to come to the North to help me operate it. He moved to Lisbon, Ohio within the space of about three weeks.
At the time I took over Truth Magazine, there were 990 subscribers. Two months printing bill was owed. There was something like $7.00 in the bank account. A sizable investment would be necessary to fulfill the subscription obligations to those whose subscriptions had not yet expired. There was not a single manuscript on hand with which to compile even one issue. But that is where we started.
The ten years of editing Truth Magazine have been enjoyable years to me. I am one of those fortunate few people who happen to like the work he is doing. I hear a lot of preaching brethren continually complaining about what all they do not like about preaching. My attitude has always been, if you do not like preaching, quit! With such an attitude, you probably are not making much of a contribution to the Cause of Christ anyway. Furthermore, the Lord always has been able to get His Work done without the assistance of any unwilling servants. The work on Truth Magazine truly has been to me a “labor of love.”
This is not to say that it has been a “bed of roses,” for it has not been. David Lipscomb once said that any man who would edit the Gospel Advocate for ten years would either end up an infidel, or a mighty good man. I have gotten my share of knocks and bruises, and a few verbal brickbats have been hurled in my direction. The little childhood ditty, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” more than once has come to my mind. I sincerely have sought to do those things which would result in the glory of God, and not to be swayed either by praise (and I have even gotten a little of that too, on rare occasions) or criticism.
That I have made errors in judgment, no one knows better than myself. None of us bats 1000 % in the realm of making human judgments. Some of my wrong decisions have only resulted in the loss of some money; others have done definite harm. Certain ones nearly always remind me of my mistaken judgments, but usually by the time their letters arrive, I already know I made a mistake. Like most everyone else, my hindsight vision is nearly 20/20.
For nearly three years now, Truth Magazine has been a weekly publication. Some of the brethren tell me that I make a bigger job out of editing the paper than need be For instance, I insist on doing a page-by-page paste up of each issue. I think I have pasted up every issue during the past ten years, except one, and I was in the hospital for a few days at that time. I never have liked to see articles continued to back pages of a paper. In papers that do that, I never finish reading an article until I read through the paper to the page to which it has been continued. Furthermore, I personally want to decide which article goes where in the paper. So I like to design each page.
During the years I have edited the paper, I have nearly always been working regularly with a congregation. Furthermore, I have for many years carried a fairly heavy schedule of gospel meetings. One year I held 23 gospel meetings, and another year I held 19 meetings and two debates. Regularly, I conduct from 12-18 meetings. This makes it doubly hard to keep up with the demands of a weekly paper. Much of the time, less time and attention have been devoted to the paper than I would like to have given it.
For seven years, I edited the paper without being paid a cent. Of course, all the while brethren around the country reminded me, “But youve got Truth Magazine,” whenever financial matters were discussed. Like nearly every other religious journal published by our brethren, Truth Magazine does not pay; it costs! In fact, it has lost about $8,000.00 since I have been editing it. Since January, 1969 I have been associated with the Cogdill Foundation, which is now responsible for the publication of Truth Magazine. About two years of that time, I worked for the Cogdill Foundation on a full-time basis, working to prepare the new series of Bible class material now in process. Presently I am paid the stupendous sum of $25 a week for my work for Cogdill Foundation, which includes editing Truth Magazine.
Brother W. W. Otey told me one time that in seventy years of preaching, he could not remember being discouraged a single time. That statement has bothered me a good deal. I am now only 40 years old, and quite obviously have not preached seventy years, and I have already been discouraged a couple of times! Sometimes when I am very weary, I think I would like to let someone else wrestle with the burden of publishing the paper for awhile. In fact, when we began publishing weekly, I suggested that I resign as editor, and that James W. Adams serve in that capacity. But he turned down the proposal.
But truthfully, I enjoy the work. I wish I were free to devote full-time to editing the paper. It is a sufficiently important work to warrant all of an editors time and attention, in my judgment. I suppose I am occasionally like the retiree. He works all his life looking forward to retirement and when the time comes to do so, he then continues to work as long as he can. When it got down to the final analysis of the matter, I do not think I would want to quit editing the paper. I have no grandiose power-seeking ambitions or intentions, as some have on occasion indirectly and incorrectly charged; I simply like my work!
The burdens of publishing the paper always have been generously shared by a host of willing and helpful brethren. I had better not mention anyone specifically, or I would be starting a never-ending list. Particularly am I indebted to our staff of writers, I am somewhat like the world traveler who returned home and said, “There may be a lot of things wrong with this country, but it is a whole lot better than anything else I have seen.” In like manner, our staff of writers may be lacking in some fields, but I would not exchange them for any other staff of writers known to me.
A good deal of personal satisfaction has resulted to me in that we have been able to use Truth Magazine to help worthy brethren get before the brotherhood a statement of their needs in order to engage in some sacrificial work. In nearly every instance, an informed brotherhood has been a generous brotherhood.
And what of the future? I do not know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet. However, any observant person can see that the future holds more struggles for the people of God. During the past quarter of a century, a Herculean battle has been waged by thousands to keep Churches of Christ from being devoured by the institutional inventions of men. In most places, that battle already has been f ought, and either lost or won. However, it will startle some brethren to learn that in many places that fight has not even been waged yet. Yet already battle lines are being drawn upon new fields. A soldier of Christ does not finish the fight until God tells him to lay down his armor. So, fight on we will, God being our Helper.
Rank modernism is beginning to show its bead among Churches of Christ, as I have shown in recent articles in this journal. The coming years will see more and more of that monster revealing itself. The Lords people always are facing some kind of a crisis, for the devil is never at rest. But whenever the battlefield and whoever the enemy maybe, we must all he ready continually to “fight the good fight of faith.” Whether we sail briefly through balmy seas, or are pitched upon the turbulence of raging waves, let us hold high the banner of the Lord Jesus Christ … until He mines.
For several months now, the demand of other things have so pressed upon our time that we have not been able to give the matter of securing new subscriptions adequate attention. Securing new subscriptions is a never-ending job, for someone is always letting his subscription expire. Within the last six months or so, we have suffered a decline of about 500 subscriptions. This means a loss of about $3000.00 in annual income. Would you please make a little personal subscription drive of your own, and help us to replace those lost subscriptions? A few of our most loyal friends have a never-ending subscription drive going, but right now we need the help of all our readers.
To encourage you to seek new subscriptions, we are going to offer a copy of a paperback book for every new subscription you secure at the regular $6.00 per year subscription price. We have secured perhaps two thousand copies of the classic The Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis. One author stated that The Imitation of Christ has been for five hundred years the most widely read book of Christian devotion in the world.” No one knows for sure how many editions of this book have been made, but the municipal library of Cologne, Germany has 400 different editions of the book in its collection. The Latin edition of the book was first published in 1486.
For each new subscription you secure to Truth Magazine, we will send you a free copy of The Imitation of Christ, if you request that we do so. If you want to send, say 25 subscriptions and want 25 copies of the book to give to friends, tell us so when you send in your list of subscriptions. We would like to exchange two thousand copies of The Imitation of Christ for two thousand new subscriptions to Truth Magazine. And we need your help in order to do so.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 43, pp. 3-6
September 7, 1972