Do You Remember Herbert W. Armstrong?

From the February 2015 Trumpet Print Edition

Herbert W. Armstrong was the world’s leading televangelist and one of the most prominent religious leaders of the 20th century. In 1953, his radio program The World Tomorrow began airing on Radio Luxembourg. It marked the beginning of a significant work in Britain and Europe.

In autumn 1954, Mr. Armstrong conducted his first public appearance campaign in Britain in order to speak directly to his radio listeners. About 3,000 traveled to hear him speak. In 1955 he opened the first Worldwide Church of God office outside of America in London. In 1956, after holding two weeks of public meetings, the wcg’s first congregation inside the British Isles began in London.

Mr. Armstrong was unhappy with The World Tomorrow’s broadcast schedule: The best time Radio Luxembourg offered was 11:30 p.m. Monday night, a poor time for attracting regular listeners. Radio Luxembourg’s signal was also weak and patchy in much of Britain. The Church’s growth was steady, but slow.

Then, in 1959, the Church purchased a building for a small college in Bricket Wood, near Watford, just north of London. Then the work surged. Mr. Armstrong advertised in Reader’s Digest, and the work hired three extra staff members to cope with the response. Public campaigns added many new Church members. In autumn 1960, Ambassador College-Bricket Wood opened with 33 students. The following school year, 67 students were enrolled. The year after that, the student body exceeded 100.

Finally, in 1965, a door opened for the broadcast to go out daily, at a good time slot and on a radio channel easily accessible by most of the country. Mr. Armstrong called it “the biggest news that ever happened in the history of this work.” The broadcast went out on Radio London, a “pirate” radio station off the coast of southeast England. Soon, more of these “pirate” stations were added. Mr. Armstrong estimated that 7 to 8 million people were listening to the program via these stations.

The college helped the work expand to Europe. During the 1960s, offices opened in several countries including Germany, France and Switzerland, with staff largely made up of Bricket Wood graduates. Advertising campaigns were conducted across Europe.

But Mr. Armstrong’s time on daily radio was short-lived, lasting only 2½ years. In 1967 the British Parliament outlawed these “pirate” radio stations, and the World Tomorrow broadcast stopped.

In July 1971, the wcg began the newsstand program. Plain Truth magazines were distributed on stands for people to pick up and read, first in England and then across the world. By the summer of 1972, 70,000 copies of the Plain Truth were going out each month on newsstands. By 1973, more than 400,000 people in the UK were receiving the Plain Truth.

Due to costs and other considerations, however, the Bricket Wood college campus had to be closed. The last-ever Bricket Wood class graduated in May 1974. The newsstand program across Britain and Europe was canceled. The sudden disappearance of the Plain Truth from newsstands across the country was so dramatic that the British press wrote about it.

Later, however, Mr. Armstrong revived the work in Britain. Plain Truth subscription hit a new peak in 1984.

Do you remember the work of Herbert W. Armstrong? The Philadelphia Church of God has picked up the mantle that was dropped after his death in 1986. The Trumpet reports on world news in light of biblical prophecy, using the Plain Truth as its model—but with greater urgency because of the shortness of the time. In the Key of David program, presenter Gerald Flurry follows in Mr. Armstrong’s footsteps (visit Herbert W. Armstrong College has just opened a new campus in England to resume the labor that ceased with Ambassador College-Bricket Wood’s closure. There is much work to be done in a short amount of time!