Hi, I’m Dr. Teresa Hairston, founder and publisher emeritus of Gospel Today Magazine; which I started in 1989 as a four-page newsletter. At the time, I was a divorced mother of three young children, working two jobs and was only able to scrape together $300 to invest in my “dream” of becoming a publisher. That’s it… $300, three young children, no husband and a dream.
The miracle of Gospel Today and all that transpired is the story of ‘daring to dream and doing what you dreamed about!’ I had no experience in the area of publishing; or any financial backing; but I had faith.
With no investors, no background and no plan B, within six months I was struggling to pay my personal and professional bills and was unable to move forward (or so I thought). I wanted to quit and simply acknowledge failure, but somehow, I held on and believed and didn’t give up. In fact, I decided to leap forward—turning the newsletter into a glossy magazine.
In that act of faith God proved Himself. He made a way out of no way! People began to call and find me to buy advertising. In one month, I was able to raise the capital to pay my past bills and move forward.
GT became a fixture among progressive ministries and Christians who wanted inspiring reading material. The magazine became the official publication for a host of leading Christian organizations, and published “special issues” and souvenir journals for organizations: Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship, Woman! Thou Art Loosed (Bishop T. D. Jakes), Gospel Music Workshop of America and several top grossing Gospel music tours.
Over the course of the next 23 years, Gospel Today Magazine and its sister publication, Gospel Industry Today expanded across the globe; I also launched and hosted Gospel Today TV Show (on the Word TV network via DirecTV) for 10 years. As well, I pioneered a weekly “Gospel Today Update” (which ran on the ABC Radio Network and “The Light” Radio Network).
In September, 2008 Christianity Today Magazine reported:
Gospel Today was snatched from more than 100 Lifeway Christian Bookstore racks because the women on the cover are church pastors, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Chris Turner, a spokesman for Lifeway Resources, which runs the stores for the Southern Baptist Convention, told reporter Christopher Quinn, “It is contrary to what we believe.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported:
Gospel Today, the Fayetteville-published magazine, was pulled off the racks by the bookstores’ owner, the Southern Baptist Convention. The problem? The five smiling women on the cover are women of the cloth — church pastors. Southern Baptist polity says that’s a role reserved for men. Teresa Hairston, owner of Gospel Today, whose glossy pages feature upbeat articles about health, living, music and ministry, said she discovered by e-mail that the September/October issue of the magazine had been demoted to the realm of the risque.
“It’s really kind of sad when you have people like [Gov.] Sarah Palin and [Sen.] Hillary Clinton providing encouragement and being role models for women around the world that we have such a divergent opinion about women who are able to be leaders in the church,” Hairston said. “I was pretty shocked.” Chris Turner, a spokesman for Lifeway Resources, which runs the stores for the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “It is contrary to what we believe.” It bases those beliefs on their interpretation of New Testament Scriptures.
Monday, October 31, 2011 at 10:09AM
by Diane Richardson, EEW Magazine Editor
In a day and age where influential black women in media, particularly women of faith, are few, EEW Magazine has learned that Gospel Today Magazine Founder, Dr. Teresa Hairston, is stepping down from her post. But Hairston’s retirement does not mean the publication will join hundreds of ill-fated magazines forced to fold in this tumultuous economy. Her duties will simply be transferred over to her 31-year-old son, Roland T. Hairston, II. Perhaps he is able to breathe new life into the magazine and improve sagging sales.
Although this major transition may come as a surprise to some, many have long been aware of the 2008 shakeup that destabilized the publication’s sales and operations. Some kind of change was bound to happen if Gospel Today was expected to survive. It all started when Lifeway Christian Bookstores, once Gospel Today’s largest distributor, abruptly snatched thousands of magazines off its store shelves after the publication featured women pastors on its cover. The shocking move eventually culminated in a complete severance of business ties between Gospel Today and Lifeway.
The crippling breakup led to Gospel Today’s temporary suspension of all print publishing back in 2009 (though the magazine resumed print publishing a few months later in June). Shockingly, as of May 2010, in an exclusive interview with EEW Magazine Founder, Dianna Hobbs, Dr. Hairston said, “to this day they have never honored any of our calls, or anything, or any requests for meetings—nothing.”
Due to the devastating loss of revenues, Gospel Today continued feeling the impact of the financial blow. Then, in December 2010, the struggling magazine found itself embroiled in controversy once again by featuring the legally-embattled pastor, Bishop Eddie Long (chairman of the magazine’s board) on its cover.
Yet, the tough-as-nails businesswoman refused to throw in the towel. “I think the end of the story will be greater; it will be better; it will be bigger and we will see God’s hand prevail,” she said. “I’m not gonna give up.”
Although Dr. Hairston is giving the reigns over to her son, she will still serve in an advisory capacity and have a say in the direction of the magazine she launched in 1989 with only $300.