When I visited him last fall, Joe Maxwell (co-author of "Gospel Riches") drove me around Jackson, Mississippi, in his red pickup truck and talked freely about everything from the current state of evangelicalism to the fine art of skinning squirrels. The latter topic came up because I had overheard him talking to one of his journalism students about squirrel hunting. And eating.
"Do you know something?" the student said with an astonished look on his face. "My father-in-law doesn't even know how to skin a squirrel!"
Joe didn't bat an eye. As a boy growing up in the South, he did his share of squirrel hunting. It's what Southern boys do. What most Southerners (and Northerners) don't do is distinguish themselves as Joe has.
He's been a beat reporter at two Chicago-area newspapers, where he won several industry awards. He was formerly the national editor of World magazine and now serves as a World correspondent. For a time, he edited the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based re:generation quarterly magazine, which Utne Reader named its top spirituality magazine.
Along with Green Bay Packers defensive end Reggie White, political guru Ralph Reed, and band members of DC Talk, he was named one of the "50 up-and-coming national evangelical leaders" by, uh, Christianity Today.
However, I happen to think his greatest honor was working as assistant news editor for CT from 1991 to 1995. Then again, I'm not sure what he learned here. When I asked him what he remembered most about working at CT, he said, "No one eats more cookies and cake than CT editors!"
Let me set the record straight. First, things have changed since 1995! We're much more health conscious, and we usually set out fruit for snacks (okay, along with cookies and cake). That hasn't helped the waistline of the managing editor, but we're much more "food correct" than in Joe's day.
Second, Joe also waxed eloquent about the staff he served with at the time. It would be nice to believe that his stint at CT allowed him to blossom as a journalist, so we'll continue to believe it. But in our better moments, we know that Joe came to us with talent, and it was that talent combined with his hard work that won so many journalistic awards, state and national, over the years. He's currently journalist-in-residence at Belhaven College in Jackson.
As a committed believer in the Reformed tradition, he has differences with the Pentecostals he wrote about in the cover story. But he's more committed to the work of God in the world, and he said, appreciatively, "The thing that seems to put Pentecostals on the cutting edge is their willingness to embrace 'new things' God is doing."
God is doing a new thing at CT as wellbringing Joe Maxwell back into our orbit as a freelance writer.
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