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Practical humility

A final 40th anniversary remembrance: In recognition of putting mission ahead of men


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How does a man give up control of something he built through the expenditure of his own sweat and tears, the extreme effort of many family members, and years of sacrificial giving of, well, pretty much everything he had?

I asked Joel Belz that question a few weeks ago. I was thinking about the moment, now nearly 30 years ago, when he turned over control of WORLD Magazine’s editorial content to Marvin Olasky. I assumed he must have struggled mightily, watching his baby go off in a new direction—a direction he might not have thought of taking it.

Specifically, I asked Joel what he felt when he finally relinquished the editorship to Marvin. His answer: “Relief.”

I wonder if Joel did struggle in quiet moments with turning over something so important to him.

The context of those days helps explain that answer, and so does Joel’s theology of stewardship.

The context: Joel and the staff struggled to publish the weekly magazine. He struggled to do the reporting, to make payroll, to find subscribers—there’s a theme here. To that struggling team, Marvin was, literally, a God-send.

Joel’s theology of stewardship: He viewed his leadership of WORLD’s mission as both a loan and a gift from God, a “talent” to be invested. When he found someone who could make that investment grow, he jumped at the opportunity.

And why wouldn’t he? The mission was the thing, not the man.

Even so, I wonder whether Joel did struggle in quiet moments with turning over something so important to him, that his own effort and vision had brought into being. If he did, he never let it show. He supported Marvin’s editorial leadership unreservedly, through many more years of struggle. Considering all Joel has done for this organization, that practical example of Biblical humility may have been his most important contribution to the work.

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