It was a number of years ago and Keith Stonehocker was floating down the Amazon River with several Americans and a Brazilian pastor. A long-time executive at Christianity Today, Stonehocker had traveled to Latin America for a missions trip. At one point, the pastor learned who Stonehocker's employer was.
"When he heard I worked at Christianity Today," Stonehocker said, "the pastor ran to his cabin and came back with his well-read copy of the magazine and thanked me for the important role CT played in his life and ministry."
"In my many contacts with church leaders around the world, I was amazed at how many were familiar with CT, and appreciated that CT led the conversation in many of the theological and cultural issues facing the church today."
In his own way, Stonehocker is a testament of CT's long-time global vision. He came to the States in the 1970s from the University of Saskatchewan to study at Wheaton College.
"Christianity Today sent free gift subscriptions to graduates from seminaries and Christian liberal arts colleges," he said. "I signed up and my wife Carolyn and I began reading CT."
After finishing graduate school, Stonehocker met then CT CEO Harold Myra when they worked together on a project. It wasn't long until Stonehocker was hired by Myra as CT's circulation director.
"After hanging up, I told my wife Carolyn the good news and one of her first questions was 'Where is Christianity Today?'" said Stonehocker. "In my enthusiasm, I had forgotten to ask so I ran to the closet and opened a copy of CT. 'Washington, DC' I said. 'I guess we're moving to Washington, DC!'" (CT offices were moved to Carol Stream, IL in 1977.)
In nearly 40 years at CT, Stonehocker had a number of roles with the ministry. His favorite season: the years he was responsible for CT's research and development and new product development.
"Whenever we launched or acquired a new magazine, I served as publisher until the magazine was integrated and then passed it off to an ongoing publisher," he said. "I was also involved in getting CT online when we launched with AOL in 1994."
"Whenever there was something new and exciting going on, I was usually right in the middle of it and thoroughly enjoyed being on the ground floor of these new directions."
As part of boosting CT's online ministry, Stonehocker also launched the Global Christian Internet Alliance (GCIA), with the goal of developing strategic partnerships around the world and launching indigenous magazines in other languages, including CT Brazil, CT Korea, and Leadership Journal in Brazil and Kenya.
"GCIA grew to a total of 28 partners that represented leading media ministries in 14 major languages around the world," he said. "Each year we gathered for an annual conference hosted by one of GCIA's partners in Europe, Asia, and South or North America to share best practices and learn from each other."
Finding ways to make CT's influence global had long captured Stonehocker's heart. During the 1990s, he trained publishers in Hungary and Romania trying to create publications in their own countries.
"It was truly inspiring to see the vision and dedication of these publishing pioneers," said Stonehocker. "With very little training and few resources—but an unwavering sense of calling—they were committed to reaching their nations for Christ."
Stonehocker retired in 2013, but he remains passionate about CT's ministry.
"I have always appreciated CT's irenic, balanced perspective—speaking the truth in love, as Billy Graham said—which is now embodied in the ministry cause of Beautiful Orthodoxy," he said.
An outgrowth of that vision will be the launch of CT Global in 2019 that seeks to 1) dramatically expand CT's engagement with the growing global church, and 2) engage, report on, and learn from North America's communities of color.
"With the advent of the internet over 20 years ago, CT's global reach has already grown exponentially, and it is important that CT's perspective become even more intentional in reflecting the global diversity of the church," Stonehocker said. "My dream would be that CT Global could find an effective way to encourage dialogue and mutual learning between Christian leaders from America and other parts of the world. We have as much to learn from the global church as it has to learn from us."
Stonehecker's love of CT's past, present, and future work inspired him and his wife, Carolyn, to include the ministry in their estate planning.
"The 1956 Society is a good name for those of us who believe in CT and its mission," he said. "It points back to Billy Graham's original vision for the magazine in 1956, and forward to Christianity Today's expanding global influence in the years to come."
If your Christian life has been influenced in meaningful ways by CT, like Keith and Carolyn, you can shape the ministry's future and help CT reach the next generation of Christian leaders globally.
For example, to leave a gift in your will or living trust, simply share this sentence below with your attorney or financial planner:
Morgan Lee is associate digital media producer at Christianity Today.