19 May, 2024

‘One Body’ Marks 40 Years of Promoting Christian Unity

by | 19 September, 2023 | 3 comments

THE FIRST ISSUE OF “ONE BODY” MAGAZINE FROM 1984

By Rick Cherok 

“At the 1983 North American Christian Convention in St. Louis, Missouri,” says Victor Knowles, “I had a life-changing meeting with Don DeWelt.”  

As the two men gathered over lunch at a nearby restaurant, DeWelt, a professor at Ozark Bible College and the publisher at College Press Publishing Co., shared an idea he had for developing two new periodicals that would focus on prayer and preaching. DeWelt proposed that he himself would serve as editor of Intercession, the forthcoming magazine on prayer, but he asked Knowles to consider taking on the editorial duties for a preaching magazine to be known as Preaching Today.  

As the long-tenured editor of Vanguard magazine, which he knew he would have to “put to bed” if he accepted DeWelt’s offer, Knowles requested time for prayer and consideration of the opportunity. By the time DeWelt returned to his home in Joplin, Mo., however, the idea for two new magazines had morphed into a single periodical to promote Christian unity that would be called One Body, with DeWelt as publisher and Knowles as editor. 

DeWelt’s attention had turned to Christian unity after experiencing two heart attacks on the morning of April 16, 1982. Having essentially passed away that morning, DeWelt almost immediately began to ask why God had allowed doctors to revive him as he knew it would be much better to be at home with the Lord.  

After his release from the hospital a few days later, DeWelt resumed his daily routine of personal Bible study, and discovered the place in Scripture he had left off was at the Lord’s prayer for unity in John 17:21-24.  

“The impact of that text had never before hit me with the force I now believe the Lord intended,” DeWelt later wrote. DeWelt was convinced this pursuit of Christian unity was the reason God had brought him back.  

WHY VICTOR KNOWLES? 

As for why DeWelt called upon Knowles to serve as editor for the proposed magazine on Christian unity, Knowles admits, “I don’t know.” Knowles, who was ministering at the Oskaloosa (Iowa) Church of Christ at the time, had met DeWelt on a previous occasion, but they were certainly not close associates.  

“I was essentially a nobody when Don invited me to become One Body’s editor,” says Knowles. Perhaps DeWelt extended this offer, Knowles theorizes, because “I had published an essay entitled ‘Division, the “Acceptable Sin”’ in Vanguard.” Regardless of DeWelt’s reasons, Knowles accepted the position and has now served as One Body’s only editor for 40 years. 

The first edition of One Body emerged from the presses in February 1984, with a masthead that read, “A National Biblical Tabloid Published to Promote Unity.” Knowles explains that DeWelt modeled the initial appearance of the tabloid after the USA Today newspaper, which was also first published in 1984. For its first seven years, One Body was published as a tabloid, but in 1991 the format was changed to a full-color magazine. 

The publication has promoted the unity of all Christians for the sake of world evangelism (as Jesus prayed for in John 17:21) for 40 years, but its focus has been on unity within the Restoration Movement among the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and the a cappella Churches of Christ. 

Although DeWelt was the “driving force” behind One Body, according to Knowles, “he gave the editorial responsibilities totally to me.”  

Initially Knowles’s editorial efforts were performed alongside his congregational preaching ministries, but in 1992 the quarterly publication of One Body developed into a full-time ministry known as One Body Ministries, which was renamed Peace On Earth Ministries (POEM) in 1996.  

Through POEM and One Body, Knowles has both traveled the world promoting Christian unity and assembled a “great staff” of columnists “from both sides of the keyboard” (i.e., from instrumental Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and noninstrumental Churches of Christ) to write essays that he describes as “Christ-centered and people-pointed.”  

Among the greatest accomplishments of One Body’s run, Knowles says, is a “huge change in attitudes” and the elimination of many “mythconceptions” (as Knowles calls them) about our brothers and sisters on the varying sides of the instrumental music question. 

Knowles, 77, intends to continue serving as One Body’s editor for as long as the Lord allows him to do so, but Jim Tune, the magazine’s associate editor, is fully equipped to take on the editorial responsibilities when needed. Moreover, Knowles is confident that the magazine will have an enduring future.  

“Concern for answering Jesus’ prayer for unity,” Knowles explains, “is a timely theme for every generation.” Furthermore, he insists, “people are tired of denominational feuding, so One Body will continue to serve as a light for unity and evangelism in response to Jesus’ prayer in John 17.”  

Richard J. Cherok, PhD, serves as professor of history at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Mo., and as executive director of Celtic Christian Mission. 

_ _ _

Related Article: 

“A Passion for John 17: The Legacy of Don DeWelt” from the May/June 2022 issue of Christian Standard. 

THREE SUBSEQUENT ISSUES OF “ONE BODY” MAGAZINE: (from left) THE 10TH, 25TH, AND 40TH ANNIVERSARY ISSUES.

3 Comments

  1. Victor Knowles

    Thank you, Christian Standard, for publishing this article about a sister publication not nearly as old as you! In the “good old days” (which were not always that “good”) it is refreshing and encouraging to see one Christian publication reporting something good about another publication.” This demonstrates to the reading world the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We are here to complete one another, not compete with each other. Editors in the history of the Restoration Movement were sometimes referred to as “bishops.” One observer said, “Methodists have bishops but the Christian churches and churches of Christ have editors.” At One Body, we endeavor to live out President Lincoln’s famous words and gracious spirit (“With malice toward none with charity for all”) in our editorial endeavors as we, along with Christian Standard, strive to “bind up our brotherhood’s wounds” of division in the past. This helps fulfill Jesus’ prayer, “That they all may be one … that the world may believe” (John 17:21).

  2. Christian Standard

    Very well put, Victor! It’s an honor to serve in ministry with you. Congratulations on One Body’s 40-year anniversary!
    Jim Nieman
    Managing Editor
    Christian Standard

  3. Jerry Harris

    I was a student at Ozark when brother Don had his heart attack and remember when he came back to class casting a vision for unity within the streams of our brotherhood, particularly the non-instrumental Churches of Christ. I have to admit that I was too immature to catch the incredible value of that vision at the time, but since then, I have learned the priceless potential that comes from that unity. We at Christian Standard Media are so thankful for the painstaking work of Don DeWelt and Victor Knowles and are committed to follow their leadership, joining them in this noble effort of seeking to fulfill Jesus’ passionate prayer in John 17.

    Jerry Harris, publisher, Christian Standard Media

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