Happy Birthday: The Christian Index turns 200 years old

A framed commemoration of the birth of The Christian Index hangs on the wall of the newspaper's office.
A framed commemoration of the birth of The Christian Index hangs on the wall of the newspaper's office.

I wanted to take a moment to give a birthday shoutout to an incredible friend, one who has proven invaluable to generations of Georgia Baptists.

It’s not often that a friend comes along who will stick with you in good times and bad, who always seems to have just the right words, who is there to help you make sense of what’s going on in the world.

The Christian Index is such a friend.

So I thought you might like to join me in offering 200th birthday greetings to the voice of Georgia Baptists.

The very first edition of what’s now known as The Christian Index rolled off the press on Feb. 2, 1822. It’s mindboggling to think of the history the publication has chronicled since then.

The Index was there for the birth of the Cooperative Program, the Southern Baptist Convention, the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, the Woman’s Missionary Union, all seven of the SBC seminaries, the Georgia Baptist Convention, Georgia’s three remaining Baptist colleges, and nearly every Baptist church in the state.

During the Civil War, Georgia historian Charles Jones tells me, the Index not only published dispatches from the frontlines but also included devotionals for the soldiers.

Throughout the years, the Index has championed the cause of Christ by encouraging pastors, strengthening churches, and crusading for change when change was needed.

Luther Rice, the visionary journalist, missionary and educator of yesteryear, recognized the importance of a publication to serve the nation’s churchgoing population and he set about to create one. His creation has survived longer than any other religious publication.

In the heyday of journalism, the Index had a circulation of 134,000. The newspaper was mailed weekly to subscribers in every corner of the state and beyond.

The Index certainly has a proud past, and, I believe, a bright future, because keeping Baptists informed and inspired is no less important today than it was two centuries ago.

So, to the friend who has stood with us through thick and thin for these 200 years, happy birthday to you.