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Radio Evangelists

One week and sixteen years ago, we commemorated the passing of Oswald Hoffmann, who died September 8th, 2005. Most of you will say, who is Oswald Hoffmann? But I’m guessing if you are above age 50, and a Christian, you have likely listened to Mr. Hoffmann a time or two. Likely you heard him on any random Sunday, as you travelled, likely with your parents or grandparents, to church. His deep bellowing voice was perfect for radio audiences, just hoping to grab a bit of worship as they travelled throughout our land.

Oswald Hoffmann was an American clergyman and broadcaster who was best known as a speaker for The Lutheran Hour, a long-running radio program affiliated with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS). During his time on the Lutheran Hour, the weekly broadcast was heard on 1,200 stations in the U.S. and in thirty other nations. As a young man, I often listened to the Lutheran Hour and Mr. Hoffmann and truly enjoyed his messages and broadcasts. Many called him Doctor Hoffmann, although well deserved, his three doctorates will all given as honors.

My fond memories of the Lutheran Hour and Oswald Hoffmann’s wonderful voice and delivery, got me thinking about the great radio evangelists. Let’s face it, for years all we had was the radio and most people tuned to their local stations to get their worship to and from church or while travelling when they were unable to attend. I have been very fortunate in my life to have been exposed to some of the very best. I grew up with Mr. Hoffmann in my ears and mind. Several years ago, when I would travel to work at Rolls-Royce, I could time my morning trips to coincide with the Moody Radio broadcast of Dr. Erwin Lutzer. This followed years of morning commutes listening to Jeffrey Johnson of Eastern Star Church. Today I am usually able to time my commutes, to GE Aviation, so I can listen to Focus on the Family, which has wonderful great speakers who all exemplify what it is to be a lover and following of Jesus.

There have been some brilliant radio evangelists over the years, as you can imagine. Many of these brilliant orators became huge television evangelists as well, with many getting their start in Radio. The first, and arguably foremost, was Billy Graham. In his first ministry assignment, as part of his assigned ministry work, he inherited a radio program, ‘Songs in the Night,’ that was going to be cancelled. So, Graham agreed to help convert this fledgling program. Launching the new radio program on January 2, 1944, still called ‘Songs in the Night,’ Graham recruited the bass-baritone George Beverly Shea as his director of radio ministry. While the radio ministry continued for many years, Graham decided to move on in early 1945. As history has shown, Graham quickly grew his followers into new followers of Jesus but also helped challenge current Christians, in their faith and commitment to God. Quite frankly, I could write volumes on Billy Graham. However, I will make one suggestion. If you ever get the chance, you should visit the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte North Carolina. It should be noted, that Graham did eventually launch his own radio evangelical effort titled ‘Hour of Decision.’ This weekly radio program, was hugely successful and was broadcast around the world for 66 years (1950-2016). Also worth noting is that his son, Franklin Graham, is equally great and can be heard on numerous web-casts and radio stations, as well.

Also quite popular, is Charles Swindoll. His “Insight for Living” radio program and countless books have helped a generation of preachers in its understanding of what biblical exposition should look like. The long-time pastor of First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, Calif., Swindoll became President of Dallas Theological Seminary and now serves as Senior Pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas (a suburb of Dallas). His radio program, books and Internet resources continue to influence thousands.

Rick Warren is also a model for today’s new generation of preachers and church planters who are seeking to create churches that will reach the unchurched of their own generation. Although not a child of radio, he is widely known as author of The Purpose Driven Church (which shaped the views of thousands of pastors about how the church can be changed) and the huge best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His own sermons, made available via the Web, have become models for many young pastors in the United States and around the world.

Gardner C. Taylor may have had the largest impact of any evangelist outside of the works of Billy Graham. A profound influence on the African-American pulpit, Gardner Taylor is a model of eloquence and passion in preaching. He served twice as National Radio Preacher for NBC, delivered the 100th Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching at Yale and has lectured at many colleges and seminaries. In 1979, Time magazine recognized him as one of the seven best Protestant preachers in the nation and conferred on him the title “Dean of the Nation’s Black Preachers.” Few black preachers of the past 25 years would have offered a list of great preachers without including Taylor at or near the top of their list.

Adrian Rogers closes out my list. With a remarkable voice and a gift for expressing biblical insights in an engaging manner, Adrian Rogers became widely-known through his radio and TV ministries. It is incredible that his ‘Love Worth Finding’ program is still sending his sermons around the world, five years after his death.

You all know I am a lover of good music and I make every effort, EVERY CHANCE I GET, to listen to my music and/or a great Christian music station. But I can honestly say, that any chance I get to tune in a radio evangelist … I take it … and set aside my music. Because knowing more about God and His Son Jesus, and bringing this knowledge to me and helping me worship, is without doubt more valuable to me than virtually anything else. I love being taught or informed about our Creator…I truly do!!!

There are literally thousands of great evangelists, and many today still use radio as a medium to reach out to all and any they can. I personally am so very glad and appreciative of the Lutheran Hour and Oswald Hoffmann. He authored eight books, including ‘Hurry Home Where You Belong’ as well as his autobiography, ‘What Is There to Say but Amen?’ He was inducted into the National Religious Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1999.

Hoffmann died on September 8, 2005, at age 91 in St. Louis, Missouri. His wife of sixty years, Marcia Hoffmann (née Linnell), whom he had married on June 23, 1940, died in 2000. He was survived by four children, three sons and a daughter. Two of his sons followed in their father's footsteps, becoming Lutheran ministers themselves.

Although radio has been largely lost in today’s world, our love of cars continues to grow. So, the next time you’re on a drive, you might seek out a radio evangelist. Yes, today they are usually only aired on Sundays, or at odd times of the day - usually very early mornings. But programs like Focus on the Family are broadcast every day, and with phone Apps so prevalent, many of these evangelists, or other Christian programs, can be listened to, over the car radio, via their Web Site Apps (I listen to Focus on the Family nearly every morning at 5:00 via a radio station App).

So, as you can see, you can get thoughtful, caring, meaningful, and thought-provoking Christian messages any time you’re in the car. Just turn on the radio - and tune in God’s Word.

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