The World Evangelist 1972-2004 On DVD
David R. Kenney
In 1972, Basil Overton was asked by the President of International Bible College (now Heritage Christian University) to begin a paper, evangelistic in scope and international in focus. Brother Overton borrowed money to finance the launch of The World Evangelist, which fulfilled that request for over 32 years. Many writers’ first writings appeared in the paper, including my own. At the Annual Appreciation Dinner at the 2000 Freed-Hardeman Lectureship, the Overtons were honored for their many years of service in various capacities. I recall the words brother Overton spoke on this occasion, and several times prior, about the importance of editors of our papers to remember the audience. People will be turned off by caustic and mean-spirited material and, consequently, will turn a deaf ear to our plea for the gospel. Even material that may be factual and not malicious can be construed as mean-spirited and become a stumbling block to those who would otherwise obey the gospel. Brother Overton encouraged us not to forget the work of evangelism.
In May 2004, the final issue of The World Evangelist appeared. While it contained notice and farewells, the main thrust was evangelism, including articles on first principles, as it always had. In fact, the final issue was 16,000 copies and was mailed all over the world. Sister Overton, or as Basil called her “My Margie,” also regularly wrote for the paper in the column “Woman to Women” for nearly 27 years.
Brother Basil is a people person! He loves souls and is a soul winner. I cannot think of a single person who has said a disparaging word about the Overtons that could carry any weight with anyone that had a casual knowledge of them. They are above reproach. Brother Overton often said he preferred to be introduced simply as a “gospel preacher” rather than “Doctor Overton.” One may not realize that he graduated with the highest honor conferred by Freed-Hardeman College under the esteemed N. B. Hardeman in 1949. He also obtained a Bachelors degree from Eastern Kentucky State University, Masters degree from University of Kentucky, and Doctorate from Morehead State University. Brother Overton resisted the temptation to have these degrees interfere with his ability to relate to everyone. According to the introduction of his 2004 book, A Book About the Book, he has written nearly 2,500 articles! Many will recall his love of days gone by with his “Mule Musings” column. I always appreciated his “Out of My Memory” and “Gems from the Greek” columns and recall his stating he was a “Word Nut.” He has published over 50 tracts and several books. His writing is clear, concise, and convincing. If someone had an idea or a special event, Overton would encourage him to send it to the paper. If the person was reluctant to write, brother Overton would really pour on the encouragement. Because of that encouragement, the paper had pieces of information that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Each issue of The World Evangelist was a storehouse of information, including restoration history, first principle lessons, Bible class lessons, Bible geography, introductory material on books of the Bible, book reviews, current events, lives of preachers, elders, teachers, lectureships, and congregational events. In fact, the book reviews in The World Evangelist provided me with the idea to write my own for The West Virginia Christian and my first blog. Accessing this information is a daunting task for any researcher, but, thankfully, we live in an age where computers make material more accessible.
Brother Tom Childers approached the Overtons about scanning the paper for a DVD that could produce the paper exactly in the layout in which it was published but also searchable. The Overtons quickly agreed, and offered hundreds of photographs related to the paper. Due to the format of the paper, a special scanner was purchased to scan the paper so it could be available for others in the future. The paper is in PDF format that includes a search engine that can literally pull up every instance where a word occurred in the 32 years of the paper. Imagine the information available to researchers at their fingertips! For example, I recalled many articles brother Overton wrote relating to J. D. Tant, whom he greatly admired. When I was preparing my lecture on the life of brother Tant, one of the very first tools I used was this DVD. Simply by typing the name “Tant” in the search engine brought up every article Overton had written about him or published by J. D. Tant - plus any other mention of Tant’s name by other writers.
The Overtons have enriched our lives with The World Evangelist and, thanks to the work of Tom Childers, this enrichment can continue. The cost of the DVD at the time of release was $25 (and possibly still is). –29 Flora Dr., Bedford, OH 44146-2011. For additional book reviews, visit http://www.drkenney.blogspot.com/
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