The late John Vernon McGee was born in Hillsboro, Texas, in 1904. As a student pastor, Dr. McGee’s first church was located in Midway, Georgia. It was there that he received what he believed to be his greatest compliment from a country boy. Pastor McGee spoke of this incident fondly recalling the words of the young boy and their interaction together:
“‘I never knew Jesus was so wonderful!’ He started to say more but choked up and hurried out of the church. As I watched him stride across the field, I prayed, ‘Oh, God, help me to always preach so that it can be said, I never knew Jesus was so wonderful.'”
After completing his education earning his A.B. from Southwestern University in Memphis, Tennessee; his B.D. from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia; his Th.M. and Th.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and after pastoring Presbyterian churches in Decatur, GA, Nashville, TN, and Cleburne, TX, he and his wife moved out west making Pasadena, California their home.
Pastor McGee accepted an opportunity to serve at Lincoln Avenue Presbyterian Church in Pasadena. He often said that was the happiest time in his life, with a young family and a young congregation whom he was devoted to and loved. However, Dr. McGee’s greatest pastorate was at the historic, Church of the Open Door in downtown Los Angeles, where he served from 1949 to 1970, leaving his home in Pasadena behind and for a new home in Los Angles. It is there that he began his very first daily radio broadcast called High Noon Bible Class on a single station. Dr. McGee also served as chairman of the Bible department at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (a.k.a. Biola University) and as a visiting lecturer at Dallas Theological Seminary.
In 1967, he began teaching on Thru the Bible Radio Networkprogram. In a systematic study of each book of the Bible, Dr. McGee took his listeners from Genesis to Revlelation in a two and one-half year “Bible bus trip,” as he termed it. His radio ministry quickly grew. After retiring from the pastorate in January, 1970, and realizing that two and a half years was not enough time to teach thru the Bible, J.Vernon McGee completed another study of the entire Bible in a five year period. Today the program airs on over 400 radio stations each day in the U.S. and Canada, is heard in more than 100 languages around the world and is also broadcast via shortwave and the Internet. Thru the Bible is currently broadcast on Trans World Radio in the UK and throughout the world every weekday.
During his last few years, failing health demanded the cancellation of many speaking engagements. This was extremely distressing to him. There was no recurrence of an earlier bout with cancer during this time, only a weakening heart. Back in 1965, after radical surgery, the doctors had given him six months to live. The Lord gave him twenty-three more years!
Dr. McGee and the Board of Directors wisely planned in advance how the radio program would continue when Dr. McGee’s time came to be with the Lord. They determined that the message would remain the same and the “voice” of Thru the Bible Radio would continue to be Dr. McGee through the use of the taped five-year program, except for those foreign language broadcasts, where the producers use the printed five-volume Bible study to translate and produce the program.
On the morning of December 1, 1988, shortly after a meeting with the then Associate Director of Thru the Bible Radio, fully alert and in focused conversation centered around his concern for the continuance of the radio ministry, Dr. McGee fell asleep in his chair and quietly passed into the presence of his Savior. Dr. McGee’s ministry was and continues to be one of the great milestones for the cause of Christ.