DESPITE THE EVANGELISTIC emphasis of the many activities of Calvary Church, Charles Fuller still did not feel he had found his niche. Something inside kept urging him to extend his ministry beyond the bounds of Calvary Church. He was free to to this because he had an independent income and took no salary from the church. In 1924 he had subdivided ten acres of orange property and used the profit to buy additional acreage, which further increased his income.
He had not been pastor very long before he began accepting invitations to preach at Bible conferences. In the summer of 1925 he spoke for a week at the Southwest Bible and Missionary Conference at Flagstaff, Arizona. Here some two hundred missionaries to the Indians and Indian Christian leaders gathered each year. God's blessing rested upon this conference in such an unusual way that the memory of it helped him in the difficult times of later years to remain confident that God had indeed called him to be an evangelist.
Then in December, 1925, Charles Fuller held a meeting at the Sherman Institute for Indians in Riverside, California. The newspaper reported that "there were a number of decisions when the altar call was given to the one thousand students attending. Mr. Fuller was invited to go back for a week's conference when he will speak twice a day to the Indians." He preached there again in March of the following year. Concerning these meetings the director of the institute, Mr. C.W. Cell, said, "Over four hundred of our choice Protestant Indian youth voluntarily attended Charles Fuller's series of Bible classes at our institute, and over one hundred of them took a definite stand for Christ."
One of the ways Charles Fuller was able to relate to these Indians was to recall the time when his Pomona College football team had played a team from this institute. The Indians, coming as they did from a life virtually untouched by civilization with its comforts
which also weaken, were in so much better physical condition that even the star athletes at Pomona that the game had to be called off after the score had reached 100-0.
The blessings which attended these meetings away from Calvary Church encouraged Charles Fuller to give himself to this kind of work in a more official capacity. In November, 1926, he became a member of the Field Department representing the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. Biola published a brochure which billed him as a "Bible Conference Leader and Evangelist," and after quoting letters of recommendation from a number of Christian leaders, said, "Mr. Fuller is available for Bible Conference and evangelistic work and will gladly respond as far as possible to every appeal."
As a result he conducted a three-week evangelistic campaign in Ocean Beach, California, in January-February, 1927. The newspaper reported that "this is the first of his many calls for evangelistic work under the Bible Institute of Los Angeles." The church, in its own column in the newspaper, declared, "Mr. Fuller feels definitely led to go out and spread the Gospel in less-favored places. His opening meeting last Sunday night was greatly blessed of the Lord and seven souls were led to Jesus Christ."
Then after only one Sunday back in the pulpit of Calvary Church, he left again for two weeks of meetings in Walla Walla, Washington. The church reported wistfully in the newspaper that
. . . this will be Mr. Fuller's last Sunday with us for several weeks, as he will leave next week for Walla Walla, Washington, to hold a Bible Conference under the auspices of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. We will miss our pastor but we are only too glad to share him in the work. It is our prayer that God will richly honor his ministry in Walla Walla and that souls may be saved.
In the spring of 1927, Charles Fuller resigned from Biola's Field Department in order to become a member of the school's board of trustees. And indeed, except for preaching at the Gideon Convention in San Francisco in June, he did not go on any more extensive evangelistic tours for the rest of 1927.
It might seem strange that one who had such urgings to extend his ministry to the people should now relinquish this work (at least temporarily) in order to have time to be a board member. But we
must remember that Charles Fuller considered himself committed to teaching as well as to evangelism. Being on the board of trustees of a major Bible institute meant doing work which resulted in training tomorrow's leaders of the church. It was this same urge which would lead him, in the fall of 1928, to become a member of the faculty at the Los Angeles Baptist Seminary and teach classes in Bible exegesis,1 and which, in 1947, resulted in his founding a theological seminary.
But the desire also to reach people could not be suppressed very long, for in February, 1928, he returned to the Northwest to hold a three-week evangelistic campaign in Touchet, Washington, under the auspices of Biola. It was miserably cold and wet during this campaign, and he came down with a severe attack of sinusitis. But God gave him strength to preach two to four times a day. The meetings were greatly blessed with conversions and dedications to service. But upon returning to Calvary Church, Charles Fuller had to stay out of his pulpit for two whole Sundays and then preach only once each Sunday for some weeks in order to regain his strength.
During this absence the church took up a collection for a special fund to spruce up his study. They carpeted the floor, hung paintings on the wall, and placed four potted ferns in the room. In doing this it seems that they were not only expressing appreciation for what he had done for the church but were also urging him to give as much time as possible to being a pastor. In May, 1928, Charles sent out a letter to the members of Calvary Church in which he thanked them for their continued support. He told them how much he appreciated being their pastor and then asked, "Will you not let this letter be my messenger to you in place of a personal call which if time and pressing duties permitted I would gladly make . . .?"
But it was not only the enervating campaign in Touchet, Washington, which was now limiting the time Charles Fuller had for Calvary Church. Biola was entering the worst crisis in its twenty-year history. All the board members of the school underwent a tremendous strain, but none so great as Charles Fuller, who had the courage to become the chairman of the board just when the school had to be rebuilt from the wreckage.
CHAIRMAN OF THE BIOLA BOARD
The crisis centered around Dr. John MacInnis who had become dean at Biola after Reuben Torrey retired in 1924. A Presbyterian minister, MacInnis had been closely associated with Reuben Torrey for some years at the Montrose Bible Conference in Pennsylvania. Then in 1922 Reuben Torrey had brought him on to the faculty at Biola. But when John MacInnis became dean, he wanted to do things a little differently from his predecessor. He wanted Biola to work more in cooperation with the churches so as to be "constructive" in its influence. When he became editor of The King's Business in 1927, he stated that the policy of this magazine would be, henceforth, more to seek the "triumph of God's truth rather than the downing of an enemy."
This emphasis upon working for peace with the churches troubled some Fundamentalist leaders. But it was the publication in the fall of 1927 of MacInnis' book Peter, the Fisherman Philosopher which unleashed a storm that almost destroyed Biola. Limiting himself to Peter's epistles and the New Testament's records of Peter, John MacInnis wrote to "indicate in a simple way that Peter's insights include a most comprehensive view of God and our world and can stand the test of the most searching thinking of our day."2 He wanted to show that as a fisherman, Peter expressed theological truths in a way that the common man could easily grasp and regard as relevant and vital. For example, he interpreted Peter's statements in his first epistle that Christ bore men's sins upon the cross to mean that
. . . it was the sins of the people that put Him there . . . [Jesus] openly attacked the sin of the race as it was manifested in his day . . . and men resented the exposure, and . . . [so] men actually attacked the innocent one and killed him. Peter clearly saw and stated that simple fact. The church has lost the full significance of this fact because it has allowed the actual thing that took place to be overshadowed by the theological explanation which grew up around it. The thing we need to clearly see is that Jesus literally carried up the sins of the world in His own body upon the tree. There was no artificial reckoning about the matter.3
Such a statement seems to discount Paul's teaching that when Christ died on the cross God imputed to Him the sins of the world, so that God could remain just in forgiving sins. To be sure, later in the chapter John MacInnis said that there was a deeper significance in the death of Christ by which it became possible for God to forgive sins. But this appeared to be only a concession, for was not this "deeper significance" a part of that "theological explanation" of the death of Christ which he had said was virtually incomprehensible to all but trained theologians, and which distracted from the "fisherman" understanding of the cross which even the simplest person could grasp and find intensely relevant?
Biola was soon beset by many cries of outrage. Four or five people closely connected with the school suggested to John MacInnis that he resign. On February 6, 1928, he did present his resignation to the board of trustees (Charles Fuller was not present because he was holding meetings in Touchet, Washington), but they refused it and urged him to carry on with his work. They did this because John MacInnis, a very sincere and godly man, assured them that he heartily endorsed the school's creed and that nothing in his book contradicted that creed in any way. A group of Fundamentalist ministers had also been asked to study the book, and their verdict was that "attacks on this book were wholly unwarranted."
But the book continued to rankle people. In recalling this incident in later years, my father used to quote Job 31:35, "Oh that . . . mine adversary had written a book," and note that it was not John MacInnis but his book which made people become his adversaries.
The Moody Monthly gave the book a very unfavorable review, as did Arno Gaebelein in his publication Our Hope. But the most damaging criticism came from Dr. Charles Trumbull, the editor of the Sunday School Times, the most influential periodical of the Fundamentalist movement. In May, 1928, he published a six-column editorial review of John MacInnis' book and concluded that "its central theme is unscriptural." He was disturbed that John MacInnis should regard Peter more as a philosopher than as an apostle.
The book argued that Peter, by his own powers of intuition and reasoning, and in close fellowship with Christ, had achieved the insight that God was ruling the world by a moral purpose. To Charles Trumbull, this contradicted a number of biblical passages which taught that revelatory spokesmen like Peter had not spoken from the impulse of their own spirit but had been "born along" (2 Peter 1:21) by the Holy Spirit.
He also objected that for John MacInnis, Peter exemplified a "higher Fundamentalism" (the book's subtitle) in that he did not get involved in abstract theological concepts but had the rough fisherman's instinct to see through to the heart-stirring, simple meaning of it all. John MacInnis drew quotations from secular poets and philosophers and even some liberal theologians who echoed his understanding of Peter's down-to-earth, fisherman philosophy. Charles Trumbull objected that an interpretation of Peter which regards his teaching as essentially nothing more than what men can arrive at by their own efforts drags "the divinely given beliefs of the church down to the unspeakably low levels of the minds of men." Far from being a "higher Fundamentalism," John MacInnis' teaching was thus not even fundamental.
Charles Trumbull concluded his editorial with these strong words:
Not only a large number of Christian leaders and individual men and women throughout the Church in America, but undoubtedly some within the Institute itself among both teachers and students, and officers and members of the Church of the Open Door which meets on the premises of the Institute, are deeply distressed and are convinced that a crisis has come in the life of this institution. The Sunday School Times is in touch with much more information in the whole matter than it could give in these six columns. And so the staff of the Times are assured that they voice the heartfelt plea and prayer of a multitude when they urge confidently upon the Directors of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles that they recognize the true situation and cleanse the Institute of all false teaching. Only unequivocal and public action to this effect can restore the confidence of the Christian public in the school . . . . Many are praying for this action; may many more unite in this prayer, and pray without ceasing until the longed-for and gracious answer from God comes.4
It is easy to understand how such words appearing in so influential a journal challenged Biola's very existence. The cry of moral anguish is unmistakable on the first page of the June, 1928, issue of The King's Business in which Keith Brooks, the editor, said that if what The Sunday School Times reported was true then the faculty of Biola was lying when it signed its creed and the school had apostatized. The page concluded:
Such an unjust and subtle attack will, we are sure, be deeply resented by hundreds who know the members of our faculty intimately, and we believe that those who stand for common honor among men, to say nothing of the "victorious life,"5 will register strong protests. . . . The attack upon our Institute has resolved itself into a one-sided battle of mud throwing. If men must throw mud, they should remember that they cannot keep their own hands clean.
Charles Trumbull often spent summers on the west coast, and when he came to Los Angeles in the summer of 1928, he spent considerable time in conference and prayer with John MacInnis. But while conceding that he had misunderstood him at certain minor points, he continued to insist that basically John MacInnis' teaching was unsound. In the August 26 issue of the Sunday School Times, Charles Trumbull dropped Biola from the list of "Bible Schools that are True to the Faith." In September, 1928, he acknowledged John MacInnis' many protestations of being orthodox, but he concluded, "My conviction is that his book and his protestations do conflict, and that the two sets of teachings are mutually irreconcilable."
For a man of Charles Trumbull's influence to persist in such a judgment of the head of Biola (at this time the school had no president) could only mean that thousands of earnest Christians would entertain the darkest suspicions about the school's orthodoxy. The pressure mounted so during the fall of 1928 that finally the board of directors met around the first of December and voted six to four to reverse their decision and to accept John MacInnis' resignation. The four who voted to retain him then resigned from the board. These included the chairman, the first vice chairman, and the secretary. G. Campbell Morgan resigned from Biola's faculty as did
Keith Brooks from being managing editor of The King's Business. A Presbyterian minister who had championed John MacInnis and thus deplored the decision of the board said in a sermon the following Sunday that "the student body is reported as ready to revolt if the breach is not healed at once by the remaining directors who represent the majority." He also mentioned Biola's serious financial condition because a gasoline engine business had not proved as profitable as Lyman Stewart had hoped.
What a tremendous task of rebuilding the school fell to the remaining six directors, and especially to Charles Fuller, who then took on the responsibility of being chairman of the board. He was now the one primarily responsible for finding a new administration for the school, a new editor for The King's Business, and the replacements for the faculty and board members who had resigned. He also had to convince the Christian public that Biola had indeed cleaned house so that the school would continue to receive the support it needed. Obviously a man with such responsibilities was not going to be a very good pastor for some time.
Charles Fuller's first step was to call a special board meeting and draft the following statement, which appeared in the April, 1929, King's Business:
After much prayer and serious reflection concerning the book Peter, the Fisherman Philosopher, written by Dr. J.M. MacInnis, the former Dean of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, the Board of Directors desires to make the following statement:
We reaffirm our belief in the great Fundamental doctrines of Christianity as set forth in the Statement of Doctrine of the Bible Institute.
Because we recognized that we were in error in commending the book Peter, the Fisherman Philosopher, the Board some time ago accepted the resignation of the author, and he has now absolutely no connection with the Institute; and being determined that our testimony to and teaching of the Fundamental doctrines of Christianity as set forth in the Institute's Statement of Doctrine shall be so clear as to be absolutely above all possibility of suspicion, we hereby express our disapproval of said book, and declare that its thought and teaching does not represent the thinking and teaching of the Bible Institute today; and further, as a first step in the execution of our determination to pursue a course which will put this Institute's loyalty to the Bible beyond question, we have already discontinued the use, sale, and circulation of the book Peter, the Fisherman Philosopher in the Bible Institute
or elsewhere, and all remaining copies, together with the type-forms, have been destroyed.
In respect to the future policy of the Institute, the Board hereby declares its determination to adhere strictly to the purpose for which the Bible Institute of Los Angeles was founded, namely: the teaching of the Bible as the inspired and infallible Word of God in order to train men and women for the task of proclaiming the Gospel of salvation through the blood of Christ at home and abroad.
The Board also hereby declares that only such teachers will be elected to or retained on the Faculty of the Institute as do solemnly pledge themselves without reservation that their teaching shall be in complete harmony with the doctrinal statement of the Institute and with this declaration, and that they will carry out this declared policy of the Board.
Adopted at a special meeting of the Board of Directors held March 20, 1929.
Charles E. Fuller
President, Board of Directors
Bible Institute of Los Angeles
[Note: This book by MacInnis, is available at the Biola library, it's presence there being a contravention of Charles Fuller's statement. I will inquire as to how it's presence was authorized online editor]
The next step was to appoint not only a new dean but also someone who would fill the newly created office of president of the institute. The Fullerton Daily Tribune reported on May 14, 1929:
Through the efforts of the Board of Directors of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, of which the Rev. Charles Fuller, pastor of Calvary Church, Placentia, is president, the first president has been chosen for the Institute in the person of Dr. William P. White, Pacific Coast representative of the Moody Institute of Chicago . . . Rev. Fuller has made many trips throughout the United States in an effort to find a man to fill the place . . . Dr. White, who has occupied the pulpit of Calvary Church, has been identified with Fundamentalism and is reported as being without a fad in his stand.
A week later the paper reported that
. . . Placentia pastor says new dean of Bible Institute to be announced soon. The reorganization of the Los Angeles Bible Institute, of which he is president of the Board of Directors, is almost complete, the Rev. C. E. Fuller of Placentia has announced. Rev. Fuller returned Sunday morning from a hurried trip to Portland, Oregon, in the interest of the Institute. The name of the new dean will be announced
soon, he said. On the readjustment, the Rev. Fuller said the Institute will be made clean-cut Fundamentalist . . . Arrangements are being made to accommodate one thousand students this coming school year, Rev. Fuller said.
The new dean was Dr. Elbert L. McCreery who had been a missionary to Africa and then head of the pastor's course at the Moody Bible Institute.
In July, 1929, a second edition of the year's catalog was published which showed a full roster of the faculty for the forthcoming school year. Besides the new president and new dean there were three new faculty members. Dr. J.E. Jaderquist became the new editor of The King's Business. The July issue of this magazine had an article entitled "Restoring Confidence," which contained letters from such prominent Christian leaders as Charles Trumbull, Arno Gaebelein, Harry Ironside, Donald Barnhouse, William Evans, Courtland Myers, and Stewart MacLennan all of whom expressed their confidence in the way Biola was now going. By June, 1930, seven new members of the board of directors had been added, among them Charles Trumbull.
Thus because of his great concern for training men for the ministry, as well as for evangelism, Charles Fuller had stood in the gap at Biola at a time when the school could easily have disintegrated, but through his efforts and leadership a solid foundation was laid which made it possible for the school to prosper thereafter.
BEGINNING A RADIO MINISTRY
In February, 1929, during the height of Charles Fuller's travels to find replacements for the board, administration, and faculty at Biola, he spoke for ten days at the Cadle Tabernacle in Indianapolis for the Defenders of the Christian Faith Conference. On one of those days he was asked, with very little advance warning, to substitute for the regular speaker on a local Gospel radio program. He preached from Mark 4:35-41, which recounts how Jesus stilled the waves from the storm on Galilee, and set forth his message in four points: a Great Peril; a Great Plea; a Great Peace; and a Great Personage. The regular speaker was surprised by the many letters and phone calls that came in telling of the blessing people had received from this straightforward Gospel message. Charles Fuller was also surprised
that his short, simple message should produce such a response.
From Indianapolis he went to Philadelphia to interview people and to preach twice on Sunday, February 10. After leaving Philadelphia perhaps Monday evening, February 11 to begin the long journey back to Southern California, he was awakened in his Pullman berth as his train wound its way through the Allegheny Mountains. A sense of the great opportunity that radio afforded for getting out the Gospel overwhelmed him. He was weary from the heavy speaking schedule that he had just completed and wanted to go back to sleep, but it seemed that God kept impressing upon his heart that he should take the first opportunity that presented itself to begin preaching regularly on the radio. He was awed by the problems that would have to be overcome in order to fulfill such a task. How could he have a program with sufficient appeal to sustain a regular listening audience? How would he pay for a regular broadcast? Would people continue to respond enthusiastically to his preaching, or was his recent experience in Indianapolis just a fluke?
After tossing in his berth for some time, Charles Fuller finally told the Lord that he would go on the radio regularly if God would open the door. Having said yes to God, he slept soundly the rest of the night.
Charles Fuller had preached the Gospel from time to time on radio ever since 1924 when he gave Bible lessons two mornings a week over Biola's 750-watt radio station, whose call letters then were KJS. There had also been that Sunday evening in August, 1925,6 while Calvary Church was still meeting in the wooden tabernacle, when he had taken some musicians from Placentia to Los Angeles to broadcast a program over KJS. Neither Charles Fuller nor the Christian public at large were very excited in those days about spreading the Gospel by radio. The first commercial radio station had gone on the air in Pittsburgh in 1920. As early as 1921, Mr. R.E. Carrier, the engineer at Biola, had persuaded Reuben Torrey and Thomas Horton against strong misgivings to extend Biola's ministry by constructing a radio station. The Biola radio
station, the first devoted specifically to religious broadcasting, made its debut on March 10, 1922.7 But for five years hardly anything was said about KJS in The King's Business. An exception was an advertisement appearing in the June, 1923, issue, which told of "soul winning by radio" among people in the backwoods, in distant homes, in the sickroom, on board ship in other words, people who could not attend a preaching service.
In September, 1923, Thomas Horton wrote an article entitled "Restless over Radio," in which he cited several objections against using radio to preach the Gospel: (1) it would give some one preacher too much prominence; (2) it is costly and draws money away from other Christian enterprises; (3) it creates a "stay-at-home" habit; (4) it deprives a listener of that personal contact with the preacher himself; (5) decisions made for Christ through radio preaching cannot be followed up as well as those made in a church; (6) when radio is used for all kinds of commercial purposes and amusements, it is questionable whether the Gospel should also use it; and (7) should the Gospel be preached over the air waves when Satan is the prince of the power of the air? But Thomas Horton nevertheless gave a very cautious approval to the Christians' use of radio:
We have had splendid testimonies from all over this land, from Mexico and Honolulu concerning the messages given over the Bible Institute radio, and of souls who have accepted Christ because of them, but that does not settle the questions which have been suggested . . . Should we not avail ourselves of this newest agency for broadcasting the Gospel, not allowing it to interfere with our emphasizing the obligation to assemble together, and recognizing the fact that the radio with all of its advantages is also another menace to the spread of the Gospel and the saving of souls?8
But by 1927, Christians' attitude toward radio was changing. That year Donald Barnhouse began preaching by radio from his Philadelphia church, and in 1928 he was heard as far west as Iowa on eighteen stations of the CBS network. (By 1932 he was on one hundred stations." Then, too, in 1927 The King's Business began to
devote a whole page of almost every issue to its own radio station, citing letters that had come in reporting conversions and listing the programs appearing on its thirty-five-hour-a-week broadcasting schedule.
Thus Charles Fuller's vision to preach the Gospel by radio came when Christians were awakening to their responsibility to use radio. But a whole year passed after that night in a train winding through the Alleghenies before God provided an opportunity for him to broadcast regularly.
This opportunity first appeared when it was announced that Santa Ana's newspaper, the Register, would found a new radio station, KREG, whose purpose originally was "to emphasize the cultural, the educational, and the religious." On its inaugural broadcast, a director of the station said, "This station has no commercial aims and ambitions. It has nothing to sell and is sponsored by no profit-making concerns and interests." It seemed that a group of philanthropists were willing to underwrite the cost. In one of its editorials, the Santa Ana Register claimed that "KREG is the first such institution to be established in the United States . . . Movies have failed to be educational, and radio so far, but it is hoped that this unique venture will be the reverse of all that."
Here was the opportunity Charles Fuller had been waiting for! Such a station would welcome broadcasts from his church because it wanted to emphasize the religious. The cost would be small since a group of wealthy men were going to sponsor the new station. And indeed, by December, 1929, KREG had promised to carry his Sunday evening service.
An article in the Placentia Courier for December 26, 1929, declared:
Sunday evening services of Calvary Church, Placentia, will be broadcast over the radio beginning Sunday, January 5th, according to the announcement made this week by Rev. Charles E. Fuller, pastor. The church is to have remote control hookup with KREG, the newly licensed broadcasting station of the Register, Santa Ana. Rev. Fuller has for some time spoken over the Bible Institute station in Los Angeles and is a firm believer in the effectiveness of this manner of reaching a larger number of people. Calvary Church will be the first church in Orange County to have the services sent out over the air after the new arrangement is completed.
But the new station had trouble getting its signal heard clearly in the surrounding area. Its radio engineers had to devote all their energies to basic technical problems for several weeks before they could work out the details of broadcasting by remote control from Placentia, ten miles to the north. And during these weeks the new station also encountered economic problems. It turned out that sufficient money to run it would not be forthcoming from the philanthropists. Like other radio stations, KREG would have to be supported by commercial advertisers. So by the end of January, 1930, before he had yet broadcast on KREG, Charles Fuller realized that he would have to pay his own way in order to broadcast regularly.
On February 6, 1930, he sent out the following letter to members and friends of Calvary Church:
AN INVESTMENT THAT WILL
PAY LARGE DIVIDENDS
FOR TIME AND ETERNITY
Calvary Church of Placentia, California, will begin broadcasting its regular Sunday evening services by remote control, over radio KREG, "The Voice of the Orange Empire," February 23, 1930. The hour is from 8 to 9 P.M., Pacific Standard Time. KREG broadcasts on 1500 kilocycles.
Calvary Church is presenting splendid programs of congregational singing, solos, instrumental numbers, and Gospel messages. This church is under contract for every Sunday night, for the hour 8 to 9.
We are sure that you will be glad and eager to have a part in broadcasting the Gospel over the air to thousands of shut-ins in hospitals and homes, and to many others who find it impossible to attend a Sunday night church service. There are scores who are longing for an inspirational service. Calvary Church desires to supply part of that need. This church stands for "The Faith once delivered unto the saints."
To broadcast requires financial assistance. We need your help. Calvary Church has created a radio fund and all money given for the radio and so designated will be deposited in that fund, which will be in charge of Mr. Walter Junkin, president of the Church Board of Trustees, and Mr. Howard Jerome, radio treasurer.
Enclosed you will find a pledge card. We are trusting that God will give us a large number of subscribers who will agree to give one dollar a month or more towards this radio fund. We feel you would like to become a sustaining member of the Calvary Church Radio Fund. If
so, please fill out the enclosed card and mail to the address given. Your investments will pay large dividends for time and eternity. Help to bring cheer, inspiration, and heavenly manna to thousands. We are counting on you to sign this card and mail it immediately with your gift.
Remember, we begin broadcasting our first service Sunday night, February 23, from 8 to 9. If you cannot attend the church personally, tune in on KREG, and listen in every Sunday night.
Yours in an effort to "preach the Gospel to every creature,"
Charles E. Fuller, Pastor
According to contract with KREG, it would cost Calvary Church one hundred eighty dollars a month to broadcast for an hour each Sunday evening, and there was naturally concern about whether there would be sufficient funds to pay for this new venture. But replies to the February 6 letter began to come in, and two days before the initial broadcast the Santa Ana Register reported that "there are now over one hundred regular radio subscribers to the radio fund and contributions have been received from as far east as Kansas and as far north as Washington State."
A few days before the last Sunday of February, 1930, the Fullerton newspaper reported:
Arrangements are complete and testings are being made of the Calvary Church broadcast system, over which the Sunday evening service, February 23, will be sent. Crews of the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company have been working every night on the wiring, and the church will be the first in Orange County to broadcast Sunday services regularly. Services will begin at 7:30 P.M. as usual. At 8 o'clock, the hour of christening the radio broadcast, Mrs. Robert Harkness, contralto, whose husband is composer of over a thousand hymns, will sing. Leland Green will play the marimba solo, and Rev. Fuller will deliver a sermon on "The Greatest Peril of the Hour." Rev. Fuller, who returned yesterday from a tour of the Pacific Northwest, says that the tragedy of empty churches faced him throughout the trip. He says that his only reason for going on the radio is that the simple Gospel messages may be sent to more people.
In another article the paper reported that "a large Scofield Bible will be given to the person hearing the sermon tomorrow or next Sunday the longest distance away, if he writes to the church before
March 15 giving excerpts of the sermon." But Charles Fuller's expectations about KREG's coverage were not realistic. He remembered how the 750-watt Biola station had been heard from Vermont to Hawaii, and so as he made this offer of the Scofield Bible during the first broadcast, he recalled the evangelistic campaign he had had with Paul Rader in McPherson, Kansas, a year and a half before and said he would be particularly delighted if one of his many friends there would write so he could send the Bible to him. Afterwards, someone who understood the technical realities informed him that KREG's signal reached no more than twenty-five miles from Santa Ana. Plagued with money problems from the beginning, KREG improvised by using a fishing pole to help carry the wire out of the studio window to the aerial on the roof. They later realized that about 75 of the station's 100 watts were being grounded through the steel of the newspaper building.
After two months of broadcasting on KREG, Charles contracted for an additional hour of broadcasting time each Sunday evening. Following the hour-long broadcast of the regular church service, he would broadcast a program called the "Happy Hour," a time of special music put on by the young people of the church. By now he was anxious to get some idea of how many were listening so he announced that a telephone would be installed at the pulpit and that in between the musical numbers of the "Happy Hour" he would attempt to answer any questions about the Bible that people would phone in. Charles Fuller recalled in later years that it was with bated breath that he waited to see if there would be any calls. But no sooner had he told people they could call than more calls than he could handle began pouring in.
During three weeks in May, 1930, he carried on these two hours of broadcasting on Sunday evenings, but then he stopped broadcasting altogether for the summer months. This was not because radio was curtailing attendance at his church. To the contrary, during the evening services which were being broadcast the attendance rose until there was hardly standing room. The primary reason for stopping that summer was that he felt he could get better coverage per dollar by broadcasting by remote control over station KGER in Long Beach, thirty miles away. A letter sent out on July 8, 1930, explains his strategy:
Calvary Church radio members:
We are delighted to make the following announcement. We will soon be broadcasting over a 1000-watt station. A contract has been signed with radio station KGER at Long Beach. On Sunday, September 14, we will begin to broadcast both our morning and evening services.
Radio KGER is considered by many as one of the best 1000-watt stations west of Chicago. This station covers an area populated by more than four million people. What an opportunity, therefore, to preach the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation!
A large percentage of the expense of this new arrangement has been promised by a party vitally interested in our church. However, we will continue to need your support during July and August and thereafter. Ours is a faith work. We feel you will greatly rejoice now that your money can be used on a station that has such a high reputation for its broadcasting qualities.
We are canceling our contract with radio KREG, Santa Ana. What we will save, therefore, during July and August, will apply on our new radio set-up. God is working. There are marvelous days ahead. Souls will be saved. Pray!
Yours for a better and bigger radio program,
Charles E. Fuller
Since both Sunday services would be broadcast starting in the fall, the church moved in a better piano and enlarged the organ loft. The Sunday school was scheduled to conclude earlier so that everyone could assemble in the main auditorium fifteen minutes before broadcast time. Thus announcements were made and the offering collected before the red light under the control booth flashed on at 11:00 A.M.
Charles Fuller came back from his vacation one week before the broadcasting was to resume. The paper said, "The pastor wished to speak once more to just the members of his congregation before the services go on the air."
The July letter had spoken of pledges for the support of a sizeable part of the expense of the broadcasts starting that fall. An orange grower in Pomona had promised, "If you don't get enough mailed in, I'll be responsible for up to sixty dollars a month to help you out." Two others had made similar promises.
But a few months after going on KGER a freeze came which made it impossible for the orange grower to fulfill his promise. Another had to renege because his investment in some oil wells failed.
A third party who had made a promise moved to another part of the country. Accordingly, Charles Fuller went before the board at Calvary Church and said, "I guess we have to depend on the Lord now." He never forgot this lesson during the next thirty-eight years that he was on the radio. Even during the days when he was on some one thousand stations and the broadcast was costing about thirty-five thousand dollars a week, he depended only on the small offerings which came in from a multitude of God's people. Thus he was conscious of being cast only upon God and His guidance in carrying on the radio work.
He was much encouraged by the results from broadcasting both Sunday services over KGER. The church itself was filled for both services, and he estimated that fifteen thousand people were listening by radio. A letter had even come from as far as Walla Walla, Washington, telling of a large number gathering in one of the homes and attending church in Placentia via radio. "Mr. Fuller's voice came in as clearly and distinctly as though he were right in the room with us." The broadcast was also heard in Idaho and Iowa. Several months later when Charles Fuller visited Idaho, he was delighted at being able himself to hear the broadcast coming from Calvary Church.
From their experience gained the preceding spring on KREG, Charles Fuller and his staff had learned how to do a better job of programming. "Radio is something different, and I believe it can be used to reach a great many people with the message of the church," he said to the local Placentia newspaper in the fall of 1930. He continued:
There are many people who are unable to attend church, and from letters and telephone calls received we believe the present radio station hour is fulfilling a real need. It is our hope to present church programs of such quality that they will be sought out by those who handle the dials on radio sets.
My father often recalled that as he commenced preaching by radio he had the sense of doing just what he was suited for. Speaking of standing before a microphone (which he likened to a donut cutter because of the shape of the early models), he would say, "It just seemed the most natural thing in the world for me to tell the good news of Christ
into a microphone which would wing my voice to an audience many times the size of what I could ever have visibly present." When he considered the vast multitudes who needed to hear the Gospel, the microphone was obviously the most efficient way to proclaim it.
Thus while chairman of the board at Biola, he heartily supported the ministry of KTBI, the school's radio station. But in 1931, as the effects of the Great Depression began to be felt, the board of Biola did not see how it could justify the expense of keeping KTBI on the air. Over Charles Fuller's protests they decided to sell the station and buy four hours of radio time a week in order to carry on a part of their radio ministry. But Charles Fuller was so excited about the influence of radio that he tried to make up for Biola's loss of KTBI (and also to extend his own ministry) by starting in the spring of 1931 a program called "The Pilgrim's Hour," aired on seven stations of the Columbia Broadcasting System from San Diego to Seattle. In its March, 1931, issue The King's Business reported:
Rev. Charles E. Fuller, Chairman of the Board of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, has entered into a contract with the Columbia Broadcasting System for a half hour of Gospel music and expository preaching of the Word of God . . . This broadcast is a step of faith on the part of Mr. Fuller to place the Bible Institute before its friends, and it is undertaken without any expense to the Institute, depending wholly upon the contributions of those interested in spreading the Gospel. Even though you do not send a check, if you wish to have this program continued, please send a post card of encouragement. Dr. W.P. White, President of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, will be treasurer of the Pilgrim's Hour program. It is estimated that the number of listeners will run into the hundreds of thousands. If you are interested in having a part in this work, address your correspondence to The Pilgrim's Hour, P.O. Box 123, Los Angeles, California.
Thus during the spring of 1931 Charles Fuller conducted three broadcasts each Sunday, the morning and evening services of Calvary Church and a late Sunday afternoon broadcast to help Biola.
But this first attempt at network broadcasting was not a success. Apparently the 4:30 to 5:00 P.M. hour was too early to get much of a listening audience. Charles Fuller also felt he erred by not having enough informality and heart warmth in the program. Contributions
to the broadcast were not sufficient to carry it on, especially in view of the oncoming summer months. So the program was discontinued at the end of April, 1931. Charles Fuller was now suffering great financial losses himself, and so he resigned from the Biola board in September, 1931.
But he continued to broadcast the morning and evening services of Calvary Church over KGER right on through the summer months of 1931, and then in September he even had the courage to launch a third broadcast, the "Calvary Church Radio Bible Class," from 8:00 to 9:00, Thursday evenings, over KGER. This new broadcast was significant because it was an extension of Charles Fuller's radio ministry that was somewhat independent of Calvary Church. The broadcast did not originate at the church but in the studios of KGER in Long Beach, located on the second floor above the Dobyns Footwear store. The room from which this broadcast originated allowed about fifty people to be seated in a semicircle around the musicians and the speaker. By then he had many loyal supporters in Long Beach, and some of these came to the studio for these Thursday evening broadcasts. They provided him with that visible audience which always made it easier for him to preach well to people listening by their radios.
On a post card announcing this new broadcast to his mailing list, Charles Fuller said, "Definite Bible study conducted by the pastor. Send in your card today for membership in this class." A few weeks later a newspaper article said that "this is the only broadcast of its kind offered on a radio program, and all who teach Sunday school classes are invited to tune in to this class and avail themselves of the opportunity offered each week." In other words, by means of radio Charles Fuller was seeking a ministry that would center not just around Calvary Church but would include Sunday school teachers in other churches.
Early in 1932 he dropped the words "Calvary Church" from the name of the program and called it simply "The Radio Bible Class." This indicates more of that trend in which Charles Fuller's ministry was shifting away from Calvary Church. He continued to originate the two broadcasts on Sunday from the the church, but he was now finding more sympathy and support at Long Beach for his vision of preaching the Gospel by radio.
Churches need a leader who is basically a pastor. Charles Fuller,
however, was never content simply to be a pastor. His heart was in heading up a mission to spread the Gospel by radio. But Don Milligan, the youth director, loved to visit people, and gradually the church shifted their allegiance to him.
In the fall of 1932, Charles Fuller realized that his days as pastor of Calvary Church were drawing to a close. He decided to make his exit with the grand finale of having evangelist Mel Trotter hold a three-week series of meetings beginning in the middle of February, 1933. The evening after Mel Trotter's final message (March 5, 1933), my father preached his last sermon at Calvary Church, entitled "The Only Foundation," and then it was announced that the board of trustees had granted Charles Fuller an extended leave of absence. That week the newspaper reported that "the Rev. Mr. Fuller, after a period of rest, plans to do evangelistic work on the Pacific Coast, and is arranging to hold conferences in out-of-the-way places. At the present time, the Rev. Mr. Fuller and his wife, and his son, Dannie, are residing at Palm Springs." A later newspaper article reported that the board of Calvary Church had unanimously voted in the Rev. Don Milligan as pastor. It continued, "Voting to put the church program on a basis of strict economy, members of the board decided to discontinue the radio broadcast of the morning and evening services, as well as the midweek broadcasts of the Bible lessons." Charles Fuller's constant urge to extend his ministry had finally made it impossible for him to work from a church as his base of operations.
Chapter 6 || Table of Contents
1. Charles Fuller received his honorary Doctor of Divinity from this school in June, 1931.
2. John M. MacInnis, Peter, the Fisherman Philosopher (New York: Harper Brothers, 1930), p. x. The only copy of this book that is available to me is this 1930 edition which according to the foreword is no different from the original one published in late 1927.
3. Ibid., p. 76.
4. The Sunday School Times (May 5, 1928), p. 282.
5. Charles Trumbull was noted for championing the Keswick teaching regarding the Victorious Life on the platforms of many Bible conferences.
6. It was this broadcast which my father used for counting the number of years he was on radio. Though he did not have a regular broadcast until early in 1930, yet he had spoken from time to time on Biola's radio station whose call letters, after September, 1925, were KTBI.
7. John Wanamaker's station WOO in Philadelphia began on August 10, 1922. WMBI began on July 28, 1926.
8. The King's Business (September, 1923), p. 901.
Chapter 6 || Table of Contents