Dr. Teresa Hairston, founder and publisher emeritus of Gospel Today magazine, spoke with Faithfully Magazine about her pioneering publication and her ongoing work to shape the future of gospel music. The interview took place on account of the release of Hairston’s new book, Unstoppable: The Incredible Journey of America’s #1 Christian Lifestyle Magazine.
Hairston started what would become Gospel Today magazine with just $300 in 1989. At the time, she was a divorced mother of three children and holding down multiple jobs, including one in the music industry. At its height, Gospel Today was the magazine of choice for many Christians, especially African Americans. It also had an international audience. Over the years, a list of who’s who in Christianity graced its cover, including T.D. Jakes, Rick Warren, Joyce Meyer, and Tia and Tamera Mowry among many others.
Hairston was awed by how many readers embraced the publication—whose prominence brought her invitations to the White House and to the board of the Gospel Music Association (responsible for the Dove Awards). But not everyone embraced Gospel Today’s inclusive approach. In 2008, Lifeway Christian Bookstores, its leading distributor, instructed retailers to pull the magazine from shelves and keep it out of sight. The publication’s transgression in the eyes of the Southern Baptist Convention entity: putting female pastors on its cover.