Former Wheaton College trustee, Christianity Today editor remembered

V. Gilbert Beers and his wife were traveling the English countryside with a fellow Wheaton College graduate when they all stopped for lunch.

Beers soon found himself preaching, off the cuff, in front of Billy Graham, the world-famous evangelist, at his request.

“Billy Graham handed him a Bible and said, ‘So Gil, teach us a sermon.’ On the spot, he had to — I could never have done that,” his son, Ron Beers, said. “But he was very good at impromptu things like that.”

If anyone could rise to the challenge, it was Beers, a former senior editor of Christianity Today, the magazine founded by Graham in 1956.

Beers died on Feb. 28. He was 95.

Family and friends say Beers, who had a doctorate in theology among an armful of degrees, had a writing style that allowed him to help people — especially young readers — understand matters of faith.

Beers was able “to communicate in a very practical, measured, accessible way,” said Wheaton College Trustee Dr. David Gieser, who served with Beers on the school’s board.

“And that is a unique combination: the academic who was a fine communicator, which reflected his capacity as a writer,” Gieser said.

An incredibly prolific author, Beers wrote more than 200 books that have sold millions of copies. David C. Cook Publishing — Beers developed its children's curriculum — described his storybook, “The Toddler’s Bible,” as a perennial bestseller.

“Even though he had a doctor of theology and a doctor of philosophy and three masters, he would tell you that his most significant professional books would be his children's books,” Ron Beers said.

He attributes his father’s work ethic to growing up on a crop farm in central Illinois. Victor Gilbert Beers went to a one-room schoolhouse just outside of the village of Sidell. His family had no electricity or running water in the house until he was a teen.

“He came from the most humble beginnings to having a global perspective,” Gieser said.

Beers graduated in 1950 from Wheaton College, where he met his future wife, Arlisle, at a choral concert. He saw her on the stage singing and said to himself, “I’m going to marry her,” their son recalled.

They raised their family in Elgin, out in the country, on about five and a half acres with oak trees and a pond. They called it Lothlorien. Beers loved J.R.R. Tolkien.

He and his late wife of 72 years visited every U.S. state and 90 countries from their home base, his obituary notes. Their family cabin in the Adirondacks had gas lanterns.

“This fellow who was a world traveler, world published, meeting people of remarkable capacity and accomplishment was most content being in a log cabin for a couple of months in the summer without electricity,” Gieser said.

He remembers Beers as a creative soul, wise, thoughtful, gentle, but forthright.

“He was very present … wanting to understand who you are, what you’re feeling, and a spirit of how can I take care of you today? How can I serve you?”

His loved ones felt that spirit, even amid all his professional obligations. Every evening, after dinner, he would create a story, on the spot, for his children based on the Bible. Beers and his wife prayed for their close and extended family members — now 53 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren — each one by name.

“He really did have this unique ability to make everybody feel special,” his son said. “When he was talking to somebody, he would really look at them and tune everything else out. He just had a unique ability to make everybody feel like they are the most important person in the world.”

A memorial service is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday, April 20, at Chapelstreet Church in Geneva, with visitation at 9:30 a.m.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.