Thirty years ago, evangelicals had a President with whom they could identify (Dwight D. Eisenhower), several trustworthy seminaries (Fuller and Dallas, to name two), a world-renowned evangelist (Billy Graham), and a sense they represented the grassroots religious values of the country.

What they did not have was a magazine. The liberals had The Christian Century. But where could the evangelical pastor go to see his viewpoint expressed with intellectual credibility and depth?

That was the question Billy Graham and L. Nelson Bell first asked themselves in 1954. “We need,” Graham said later, “a new strong vigorous voice to call us together that will have the respect of all evangelicals of all stripes within our major denominations. It has come to me with ever increasing conviction that one of the great needs is a religious magazine … that will reach the clergy and the lay leaders of every denomination.”

Thus, in 1956 the first issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY came off the presses and was delivered gratis to nearly 200,000 pastors. The premier issue had an article by Carl F. H. Henry, editor of CHRISTIANITY TODAY for its first 12 years, on the difference between the concept of freedom in the West and in Communist countries. G. C. Berkouwer, systematic theologian from the Free University of Amsterdam, wrote about the changing climate of European theology. And evangelist Billy Graham contributed an article on biblical authority in evangelism.

In the over 500 issues that have been published since then, the editorial purpose of CHRISTIANITY TODAY has remained essentially the same: To disciple the evangelizers by offering concerned Christians insightful commentary on the critical social, political, and theological issues affecting the church in the twentieth century. Or, as Henry put it in Volume 1: “To articulate historic Christianity and its contemporary relevance.”

Keeping the magazine true to this purpose were Henry’s successors, the editors of CHRISTIANITY TODAY: Frank Gaebelein (co-editor 1963–66), Harold Lindsell, Kenneth Kantzer, and V. Gilbert Beers. Coming under their watchful eyes were issues as diverse, yet uniformly important to evangelicals, as the problems of racism and sexism, the trustworthiness of Scripture, the role of social action in evangelization, and the separation of church and state.

To be sure, “the look” of CT changed over the years—but only to keep up with a movement no longer in its infancy. American evangelicalism has positioned itself as a viable force for change in both the religious and secular worlds, adding new dimensions to Henry’s mandate of “contemporary relevance.” Its sphere of influence has broadened to include television and radio; politics; social action; as well as increased numbers of mission agencies and missionaries, Parachurch agencies, and institutions of higher education. And thus there is the ongoing need to carefully, clearly, and in a contemporary way, communicate biblically oriented thoughts and ideas to an ever-expanding evangelical leadership.

This special anniversary section is devoted to documenting briefly how the face of evangelicalism has changed over the last 30 years. We have commissioned ten writers to take a critical look at specific areas of evangelical involvement, noting both accomplishments and the many challenges that remain. Along with the analyses of biblical scholarship, higher education, theology, media, Christian education, missions, evangelism, preaching, and Parachurch ministries, we have included short biographies of a few of the people influential in each of these categories. (Space did not permit us to recognize all who have distinguished themselves.) Helping us in the selection of these names were CHRISTIANITY TODAY’s senior editors and contributing editors, along with fellows and resource scholars of the CT Institute.

Not mere sentimental retrospective, the overviews and profiles offered here serve as a guide to the next 30 years—exhibiting in a historical context those practical lessons and personal qualities that may keep the evangelical movement from suffering a midlife crisis, and which, instead, may help it become a more vital instrument of spiritual and societal change.

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