Published March 1, 2021
It is hard to imagine Kentucky Baptist life without the Western Recorder. We realize change is part of life, but losing this treasure is difficult.
I am truly thankful every morning when Kentucky Today arrives in my inbox, but it was the Western Recorder (WR) that gave me insight and context as I grew up in ministry. We have adapted to this new online news service, but please allow me to share four personal reflections on the Western Recorder.
1. Values. The Western Recorder — in both its newsprint and magazine formats — provided much-needed biblical perspective on matters of faith. The articles I read often reminded of the need to respond to our Lord's teaching. I recall reading an inspirational editorial that challenged me to build character and Jesus said, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26). There were times I didn't fully agree with a WR opinion piece, but that is part of being in the Southern Baptist Convention family. It was so great to have a state newspaper that served the interest of congregations all over Kentucky.
2. Victories. For several years, two of the churches I pastored used the back page for our weekly newsletter. It allowed for our members to experience the spiritual victories of our church, individuals and congregations across the commonwealth. Proverbs 21:31 tells us, "Victory belongs to the Lord." Seeing items in print allowed members to spur on their friends to grow in their walk with the Lord and be encouraged by members of the body of Christ. It has been a great tool for local church leaders.
3. Virtues. I grew up during the SBC era that featured programming and allowed congregations to focus on consistent teaching from the Sunday School Board, church training materials, evangelistic outreaches and passionate preaching. The Western Recorder encouraged believers to be a faithful part of their church. I was regularly reminded of Philippians 4:8, and to "think on things" that are true, honorable, just, commendable, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy. To me, the Western Recorder promoted denominational unity which I felt was very important in my growth as a Christian.
4. Voices. I got to know Baptist leaders and laypersons through articles in the Western Recorder. When I recall the notable editors, pastors, seminary, mission and denominational leaders, it actually points to what the future could be. The late John Bisagno stated, "Jesus called us to be brothers and sisters and not identical twins." John 15:12 tells us, "This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I loved you." Today, let our Baptist voices be inviting and loving as a watching world needs Jesus.
Recently, I walked through the space previously used by the Western Recorder staff. There was an old typewriter, a plaque in memory of C.R. Daley — but then I saw the stack of newspapers going back to the 1800s. I then realized how many people were touched by the Western Recorder.
Farewell, old friend. I already miss your values, victories, virtues and voices.
French Harmon is president of the Kentucky Baptist Foundation.
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