He knew then it was a publication devoted to winning souls to Christ.
“Now that I am a pastor, it is a tool I use in keeping people stirred up for the Lord,” Norris, 49, said.
When he was a child, Norris had no idea the Lord would lead him to pastor a church in the same town where the Sword of the Lord newspaper is published. Norris serves at Franklin Road Baptist Church.
Evangelist John R. Rice founded Sword of the Lord Publishers in 1934 in Dallas. The first printing consisted of 5,000 newspapers that were handed out on the Dallas streets. Operations moved to Wheaton, Ill. in 1940 and remained there for 23 years before moving to the current location at 224 Bridge Ave. in Murfreesboro in 1963.
The newspaper is considered by many America’s foremost revival newspaper.
“It is a newspaper that is really a clarion call to bring people back to fundamental conservative views,” Norris said.
Circulation of the conservative newspaper has dwindled some over the years as political and religious views across the country have changed.
Sword of the Lord President and Editor Shelton Smith said there was a time when pastors and other religious leaders were the “movers and the shakers” in the country and conservative Christian values were at the forefront of society.
“We are having to fight for that now,” he said.
Sword of the Lord has received some criticism for its stance on current affairs.
“When we stand up and say abortion should be illegal, then there is going to be people against us,” Smith said.
The Sword of the Lord newspaper is printed bi-weekly and has a circulation of 100,000. The company employs 55.
Newspapers are mailed to every state in the nation and to 151 foreign countries.
Religious tracks and pamphlets, books, audio recordings and sheet music are printed at the Sword of the Lord complex. They are sold at the onsite bookstore and through the Internet.
Sword of the Lord receives revenues through the sale of subscriptions and newspaper advertisements, books and other religious materials and donations.
The publishing company recently invested $4.6 million into its print shop to construct a new 11,000-square-foot building and to purchase two state-of-the-art color presses, which enabled the newspaper to be printed in color for the first time.
The key audience for the newspaper is pastors — predominately independent Baptist —and other church leaders.
Each newspaper features sermons from pastors teaching conservative values, lists of upcoming church revivals and a column on current issues and trends and how they relate to Biblical scripture.
“We have an agenda that drives what we do, and we are working out ways to meet that agenda,” Smith said. “We are trying to get the gospel out to win people to Christ. We take a strong position for the authority of the Bible.”
Norris recommends his membership subscribe to the newspaper. He suspects most of the church’s membership does subscribe.
“It is a good piece of literature that helps support what I am trying to do as a pastor,” he said.
Norris said the newspaper has created a network of pastors across the nation in all 50 states.
Stances the Sword of the Lord takes on current affairs actually forms a rallying place for pastors of like mind, he said. He has made friends with pastors in all 50 states through the newspaper and its national conference held each July usually in Walkertown, N.C.
Yearly subscriptions to the Sword of the Lord newspaper are $15, but the company provides free subscriptions for missionaries living overseas and other poor communities.
“I work at raising money so we are able to do that,” Smith said.
He said it is a mission of Sword of the Lord to do outreach and provide the newspaper where it is needed.
“The paper becomes almost a Bible college education for a lot of these men,” Smith said.
Like Norris, Smith is a product of the newspaper. He was sent an anonymous subscription to the newspaper in 1963. The teachings in the newspaper changed his life and ministry.
Smith took over the leadership position in 1995 after 34 years in ministry when the previous editor Curtis Hanson passed away.
He travels most of the year preaching and teaching at churches across the country.
Erin Edgemon can be reached at 869-0812 and at email@example.com.
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Did you know?
Sword of the Lord Publishers prints 800,000 gospel tracks, 700,000 books and pamphlets and more than 2 million copies of the Sword of the Lord newspaper a year.
The Sword of the Lord newspaper is mailed to all 50 states, every province in Canada and 151 other countries. The newspaper also is mailed to 600 prisons and jails across the U.S.
It takes more than 13 rolls or 7 tons of paper and 200 pounds of ink to print one edition of the Sword of the Lord newspaper.
Sword of the Lord radio messages are broadcast each morning on 243 radio stations across North America and the world.
Tours of Sword of the Lord operations are conducted weekdays between 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. No appointment is necessary.