My Most Unforgettable Copy Writer

By Neil Earle and Roger Lippross

Terry Warren 1943-2019

The church in which I worship and serve is known as Grace Communion International. Before that it was known as Worldwide Church of God, and even earlier, “Radio” Church of God.

You can see by that original descriptor why I explain to inquirers that despite our smallness of size our origins lie in an impressive media ministry. Under the Holy Spirit, the mass media of radio and print were the main tools used to impact people from Denver to Dacca and help create a workable worldwide band of thousands of loving warm-hearted people.

In that massive media outreach there were some people who stood out. One of them was a talented, mercurial, hard-driving, utterly sincere copy-writer and graphics genius from Covington, Kentucky named Terry Warren.

Graphics and Grit

Terry studied Bible at the church’s college in Pasadena, California before being appointed as supervisor of the Ambassador College Art Department by 1969, a position suited to his natural talents and skills. By that time the media work flowing out of our then headquarters at Pasadena, CA was reaching an estimated 150,000,000 people worldwide. This was spearheaded by 39 TV stations and 355 radio stations worldwide in five languages. A vital arm of all this activity – which would grow much much larger – was the Publishing Department. By 1969 it was generating 2,500,000 magazines each month when Terry ran the vital Graphics department that created the captivating ads and copy that affected so many around the world.

This included such early bird environmental productions as “Our Polluted Planet,” timely calls to personal change such as “Hippies, Hypocrisy and Happiness,” or “The Seven Laws of Success.” By 1977 the media work had included hundreds of TV stations which was where I first noticed Terry. An article in one of our 1977 in-house publications showed Terry receiving an award for the innovative and quality TV ads that were coming out of Pasadena.

1984 PLAIN TRUTH: Though the editorial content was to change dramatically, the Graphics folks gave us some arresting covers.

Meeting the Man

As a church pastor in Canada and a would-be writer I admired the skill of our ad people and finally got to see who one of the leaders was behind the effort. We soon struck up a personal friendship on my occasional visits to Pasadena and enjoyed many stimulating conversations on writing and holding people’s attention.

One of our discussion topics was a small 1971 production titled Teaching Techniques of Jesus by Herman Horne. The author showed how Jesus communicated his message with the skilful use of questions “If salt loses it savor how can it be salted?” or concrete illustrations (“Show me a penny” versus “attention to civic duties”). For Jesus divine trust meant “Behold the birds of the air.” False prophets were, famously, “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Christian service meant “a cup of cold water.”

Terry loved these conversations because as would-be communicators of the Gospel as we then understood it, there were definite principles that worked. Terry lamented how little time our enterprises spent on teaching these strategies. One who understood was his eventual supervisor and co-worker Roger Lippross who knew him well.

“Terry could write ad copy with very few changes needed. I saw him do it many times. His biggest ad was the huge wall banner about 30-50 feet across in the lobby of Grand Central Station, New York.” At the time Roger was supervising a massive newsstand program giving away free samples of what was then the church’s flagship, The Plain Truth magazine.

“Below the banner were newsstands for the travelers that moved through the gates. The New York churches kept the newsstand boxes fully stocked. No wonder at 500 magazines going out each day. Terry was a man who understood what caught people’s eye – the color red with yellow background and the word ‘FREE.’”

EIGHT MILLION AND COUNTING: Terry designed the basic color scheme that made this 1980s program so effective as here at Grand Central Station.

“The Spiritual Ironside”

Even though finances and corporate retrenchment had played havoc with this effort by the downsizing 1990s, Terry never lost his zest and joy in getting the word out to any who would listen. He pastored two of our GCI churches in Arkansas and when personal health declined he shared his deeper understanding of God's grace to young people and church groups in his area through interacting with Christian churches and colleges. Some of these sent representatives to his funeral. He wrote copy for mission literature going into China while, by this time, confined to a wheelchair. I called him the “spiritual Ironside” after the TV program of the name.

He could not be deterred for his passion for communicating the truth of God as he saw it. That fire burned brightly within. This intense passion got him “in trouble” many times. He was the classic instance of a highly creative dedicated individual trying to succeed in often stifling corporate environments. His wife Madeline was a great aid and comfort to him as he tried to squeeze out the last drop of energy and enthusiasm he had for sharing the Gospel.

What a way to go. He would have loved us saying “He died with his boots on.”

“Over the last 20 years we talked often about his love for all his lost work mates such as Ron Taylor and other close friends,” Roger Lippross concludes. “He said to pass on his love to any of those who might remember him. It was truly an honor to work with him and even know him.”

Terry Warren. Truly my most unforgettable copy writer, but also a lively inspirational presence in my life and the life of his children, Michael, Melinda and Colleen. We will really miss him.