The man who brought faithful readers some of the most influential stories in 20th-century Christianity, author and editor John Sherrill, died Saturday at age 94.
Sherrill, along with his wife, Elizabeth, cowrote the bestselling books The Cross and the Switchblade with David Wilkerson; God’s Smuggler with Brother Andrew; and The Hiding Place with Corrie ten Boom.
Over 66 years as an editor and writer for Guideposts, he helped shape the inspirational magazine and train hundreds of Christian writers.
Guideposts executive editor Rick Hamlin remembered Sherrill as “always honest, always seeking to grow in faith, always ready to tell a life-changing story, whether it was his own or someone else’s.”
A World War II veteran and son of a theologian, Sherrill was drawn to stories that showcased the powerful movement of the Holy Spirit, which he chronicled in his book about charismatic gifts, They Speak With Other Tongues.
CT’s 2006 list of the top 50 books that have shaped evangelicals called the Sherrills “the most influential Christian authors you know nothing about.” The pair also cofounded the publishing imprint Chosen Books, whose first release was Chuck Colson’s Born Again.
“A man of wisdom, a lover of God, a faithful husband, and a man passionate to see all Christians live the Spirit-filled life,” read a tribute from Chosen, now part of Baker Publishing Group. “We are humbled to carry on your legacy of Spirit-empowered resources and a deep love for God’s people.”
Sherrill mentored and trained fellow charismatic writers, including the late Jamie Buckingham—who authored biographies of Nicky Cruz, Pat Robertson, and Kathryn Kuhlman—as well as Steve Strang, the founder and publisher of Charisma magazine.
“To me, John Sherrill was an icon at a time when I was a neophyte writer and editor,” Strang said. He considers Sherrill “one of the greatest writers of our generation.”
In an interview with Assist News Service, Sherrill was asked about his most-popular books and whether they would fare as well today.
“We have asked ourselves that same thing,” he responded. “I don’t think books take off and do well or don’t do well depending just on the quality of the writing. I think it depends on catching something that is in the air—that people need. … I think all three of these books did catch something that people needed at that time.
“That may be one reason why they have lasted for a long time and have sold 50 million copies.”
The Sherrills had lived and written in Africa, South America, and England. Hamlin described the couple as looking for scoops and stories wherever they traveled. John Sherrill wrote for the publication, including reflecting on its early years, well into his 90s.
He died in his home outside Boston, Massachusetts, weeks before he and wife Elizabeth had planned to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. Sherrill is survived by three children, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.