Writing was a creative outlet for me, not a contemplated career move.
That is, until my friend William T. (Bill) Neal III started giving me writing assignments when I was doing campus ministry at Georgia Tech.
His affirmation and encouragement always made me want to write more and better. But campus ministry was my intended vocation.
Eventually, Bill developed a new position at The Christian Index, the historic newspaper of the Georgia Baptist Convention, for a managing editor. He kept revising it and showing it to me until I bit.
I am deeply and forever grateful to Bill for pulling me into and guiding me through a new career. He was my patient mentor for more than six years, teaching me most every aspect of the news publishing business.
There is no way I would be serving as editor of Baptists Today without standing on the broad shoulders of my dear friend Bill Neal. He is one of the kindest and most authentic Christians I have ever known.
Bill’s adherence to basic journalistic and Christian ethic principles of fairness and honesty eventually made him unfit to serve a fundamentalist-controlled publication that expected the editor to carry out a political cause.
His forced departure was ugly and unchristian. Today, however, he is graciously using his many talents as president/CEO of Developmental Disabilities Ministries based in the Atlanta area.
Standing on Bill’s shoulders got me into journalism and therefore to Baptists Today. But, also, I stand on the shoulders of those who preceded me at this uniquely independent, national news journal.
One of the joys of my eight years as editor of Baptists Today has been getting acquainted with founding editor Walker Knight. He is a prophet, hero and consummate journalist.
Jack Harwell was the second editor of Baptists Today. Because he was longtime editor of the Index (and the one who brought Bill Neal into career journalism), I have known and appreciated Jack for decades.
Recently, he told me that he often drives from his home in the Atlanta area to Chattanooga and back. When he passes the northernmost Georgia exit of I-75 — near where I was born and raised — he offers a prayer for me.
I am grateful to Jack for his prayers and affirmation.
Bob Ballance, pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Cartersville, Ga., was editor for only one year before I came to Baptists Today. Though brief, his leadership helped refocus the news journal to face a changing denominational landscape and new technology. He is kind and encouraging to me as well.
As Baptists Today faces its 25th anniversary, I am deeply grateful for those editors on whose shoulders I stand. Both those who brought the publication to the time and place when I assumed the editorship — and the one who enabled me to even be considered for such a job. Thanks!