Friday, September 9, 2016

A Tribute to Neil W. Anderson & The Gospel Advocate Company

A Tribute to Neil W. Anderson & The Gospel Advocate Company
by David R. Kenney

My father and I often attended the Freed-Hardeman Lectureship.  In fact, when I was a boy he would attend these lectures with Artie Collins as I stayed home with my mother. He would regale us with stories, laughter, and memories of the time they had together.  I decided long ago that if I were to attend a Christian college, then it would be Freed-Hardeman College.  After I graduated from Freed-Hardeman University, my father and I attended the lectureships together.  In February 2010, the trip back from Henderson, TN was special because as we travelled through Nashville dad mentioned he would like to go by the Gospel Advocate and wondered if I would be interested.  To put it mildly, I was interested, and I suspected he knew of that interest too.  So, we pulled up unannounced, walked in, and asked to speak to Neil Anderson.  I had sort of foisted myself upon Neil because we both knew R. C. Thompson who was also good friends of my father. So, I just used their friendships to springboard a relationship with Neil Anderson whether he wanted such or not.

While we waited, we looked around at the displays and saw things I had only read about or seen pictures of; e.g., Ira North’s “fiery red” sports coat was on display.  I admired it because I know my father loved the bright color that matched North’s reported personality.  Neil came out and graciously greeted us.  He gave us a complete tour of the facility.  He asked me who some of my favorite writers were, and among those I mentioned was Guy N. Woods.  I told him I wanted to see some of the memorabilia relating Guy N. Woods.  He told me to follow him into his son’s office.  He encouraged me to look around.  I felt a bit awkward looking through someone’s office and expressed some reservation.  He laughingly reassured me, and he told me the story behind why he brought me into this office.  When Guy N. Woods passed away in 1993, Neil immediately went that night to the Gospel Advocate and locked up Guy N. Woods’ office.  Apparently the death of a prior editor taught Anderson the wisdom of doing so.  Anderson wanted to preserve Woods’ office. He told me that his son’s office was the way it was when Guy N. Woods passed away.  He watched me look through his library, encouraging me not to hesitate to bring down any book to look at.  I just did not want to disturb it so others would have the same opportunity to see Woods office.  Neil saw my admiration and appreciation of Guy N. Woods.  He went to a drawer in Guy N. Woods office and told me he wanted me to have this book, How to Study the New Testament Effectively.  I thanked him and told him I had this book and enjoyed it immensely.  He assured me that I did not have this book, and he opened it to the page which had Guy N. Woods’ signature.

Neil Anderson would encourage me to write, but he would not just accept any article.  On more than one occasion he would return an article for improvement.  Once I commented to my dad that I was not sure if I would ever get an article in the Gospel Advocate, but both men encouraged me to keep at it.  I attended the Writing Workshop that Gospel Advocate hosted during the FHU Bible Lectureship, and I continued to work at honing my craft of writing. 

Once when I was attending the lectures, Neil invited me to attend the special luncheon the Gospel Advocate hosted for their writers.  I told him that I did not have an article in the Gospel Advocate and did not considered qualified to be one of their writers.  He asked me “Have you ever had an article in the Gospel Advocate?”  I replied “Yes, a couple of years ago.”  “Then you are one of our writers, so come to the luncheon and we can eat and visit together.”  He was so gracious, generous, and encouraging.

It is with mixed emotions that I recognize the Andersons’ wishes to turn over the Gospel Advocate Company.  I am saddened that the time for change has come, but sometimes that is the nature of change—a mixed bag.  I welcome the new leadership at the Gospel Advocate Company, look forward to meeting the Dukes, and pray for its continued success for the Kingdom of Christ.  Neil, thank you for your kind, gentle, and even fatherly-like encouragement.  May God richly bless you and your family.

June 10, 2016

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