The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
I was attending a planning meeting for the National Missionary Convention a year ago. Near me sat my friend Ben Zeigler, business manager and missions director with First Christian Church, Kernersville, North Carolina. During a break Ben said, “Shawn, I have something that might interest you, and if you’d like, I’d be glad to give it to you.” Ben explained that he owned a small wooden writing desk that had been passed down through three generations of his family. He received it from his parents, Roy and June Zeigler, who received it from his grandparents, Colonel Dana and Marie Love.
The little desk is just 30 inches high with a 15 x 13-inch writing surface. An 18-inch stool with an 11-square-inch seat rests snuggly inside the larger piece.
It would be a pretty unassuming piece of furniture, if not for one fact. It belonged to Guy Leavitt, former editor of The Lookout. As I understand the story, nearly every lesson, sermon, and editorial this prolific and resourceful Christian leader produced—for more than three decades—was composed using an
old-fashioned typewriter at this desk.
Guy Leavitt served as editor of The Lookout for 31 years, from September 20, 1925 to September 30, 1956. He was handpicked to fill the position by his predecessor, Dr. James DeForest Murch, and history indicates he wasted no time using his new position to build up the body of Christ. Guy was a gifted teacher and leader. A tireless advocate of Christian education, he became known throughout the country as “Mr. Sunday School.”
A notable campaigner, Leavitt constantly sought out new ways to make the Sunday school attractive and effective. He launched one of his earliest efforts in the spring of 1929, calling it the “Pentecost-to-Pentecost Campaign.” He challenged Sunday schools across the country to achieve the highest one-year average attendance in their church’s history. Other aspects of the campaign encouraged Sunday schools to conduct a Bible-training class with at least 80 percent of their teachers attending and to win as many students to Christ as they could that year. Thousands of Bible schools joined the campaign—making it possible for thousands upon thousands of Bible students to grow in their knowledge of the Scriptures.
Leavitt’s longevity at Standard Publishing made him a leader in the company as well. He was the one who coined the phrase, “True-to-the-Bible,” a tag line still used to describe Standard Publishing products.
Upon his retirement from The Lookout, Mr. and Mrs. Leavitt moved to Florida. Through their mutual connection with a local church, they became friends with the Loves. After Guy’s death, his widow gave the desk to their dear friends who passed it down through two more generations.
Today Guy Leavitt’s desk sits in an aisle less than 10 feet from me at Standard Publishing. I’m glad it’s there. When I’m struggling to write a meaningful editorial for The Lookout, using all the modern conveniences our technological age affords, I push back in my chair and turn my head to look at the little desk. I think about a man who did much more with much less, and I feel challenged to work harder.