By Jonathan Chandra ‘19
On Tuesday, Sept. 27, a team of five Tartan reporters sat on the “Sunnyside” of Lane Student Center, waiting for their guest to arrive. The group ran through potential interview questions and puzzled over the ideal seating arrangement for the meeting.
Just as the team decided on the ideal configuration—three on one side, two on the other, leaving an empty chair for their guest—Harold B. Smith, the President and CEO of Christianity Today (CT), arrived. He introduced himself, dispensing handshakes all around.
“Remember, I was up at three o’clock this morning to get to my plane. So if I start sounding incoherent, then know I need sleep!” he quipped.
It was a fitting introduction to a casual interview. Among other things, the conversation touched on his advice for college students, Smith’s career, the role of Christianity Today and his family.
“Know the one you serve,” he said when asked of his advice for Gordon College students. “Use this time as an opportunity to draw ever-closer to Jesus Christ.”
Smith continued, “If you’re really serious about your faith, and serious about using the gifts that you have, then get to know the one who’s going to lead you in the use of those gifts.”
On the subject of his career, Smith described how he had first worked for the Michigan Daily in college, and then for Manufacturing Engineering Magazine. He later worked as a press secretary for a Congressional candidate before accepting a job at Christianity Today.
When asked whether Christianity Today was foremost a publication or a ministry, Smith’s mouth, hidden partially by a salt-and-pepper mustache, broke into a smile.
“Good question! I would say that we are a communications ministry. We are a ministry. We were called into being, I clearly feel this, by the Holy Spirit 60 years ago,” said Smith.
He went on to tell the story of Christianity Today’s foundation. One morning in 1953, Billy Graham woke up reportedly nudged by the Spirit of God. He then went into his study and, on a piece of legal paper, drew up the editorial grid for what would become Christianity Today.
Smith also explained how Christianity Today was not only called to report on the church, but to help lead it. He cited a cover article that ran in the publication’s September issue that stressed how the church needed to welcome and bless ex-offenders.
“Serve them! Bring them into the church, because when somebody leaves prison, they’re broken. The state breaks them more. So how can the church administer grace to these men and women who desperately need it?” he said, pounding his hand on the table.
In response to a final question about his family, Smith grinned before sharing the story of how he and his wife had met.
“Judy and I, we shared a nursery together, so that’s when I first met her. Here’s the story: I accepted Christ under the ministry of her grandmother, when I was six years old.”
Though his parents had been close to his wife’s parents for some years, Smith did not actually meet his wife until he saw her at a night church service during his junior year at Michigan State University. They got to know each other on campus soon after, eventually marrying and having two sons.
“Can I pray for you guys?” he asked at the end of the conversation.
And he did, blessing the reporters gathered there. The interview ended as it had started, with handshakes and smiles.