Earl Freudenberg: Remembering Ben Haden And His Testimony At A 1971 Billy Graham Crusade

Wednesday, October 20, 2021 - by Earl Freudenberg
Ben Haden
Ben Haden

“Let’s talk about it”- those words quickly identify my friend, the late Ben Haden.  We lost Ben Oct. 24, 2013.  As we approach the eighth anniversary of the popular pastor’s death, I decided to reflect on our friendship that goes back to when the Haden family relocated to Chattanooga in 1968. 

Mr. Haden had a career with the CIA, he was an attorney, and a newspaper CEO before answering God’s call to the ministry. He pastored two churches, Key Biscayne Presbyterian and First Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga.  He was a friend of President Richard Nixon. The Nixon family attended his Florida church. Mr. Haden was a guest at the White House several times. 

Mr. Haden enjoyed radio and television as a medium for evangelism.  He succeeded Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse on the broadcast, “Bible Study Time.” Mr. Haden said during the two years of traveling to Philadelphia for the program, God was calling him to start his own radio ministry.  After coming to Chattanooga, he organized “Changed Lives.

I was working at WDOD radio in Chattanooga when Ben Haden became pastor of First Presbyterian Church.  Their Sunday morning service was the first radio program broadcast in the city dating back to 1925.  The established weekly radio program instantly gave Mr. Haden a pulpit and his Gospel messages became very popular.  It wasn’t long until he used those Sunday sermons to start his “Changed Lives” radio and TV program. By the early 70’s, Changed Lives had grown to international proportions. Changed Lives was picked up by the American Forces Radio and Television service and broadcast to service members worldwide. 

Most of the listeners and viewers who wrote to “Changed Lives” received a personal letter back from Ben.  He said, “If they take the time to write me, I feel I need to respond to as many as possible.”

I once told Ben, “I’ve heard more of your sermons than most of your members and never was there on Sunday morning in the auditorium.”  With a long pause and smile, he responded, “You had a front row seat at the radio station for the broadcast.” He remained pastor of the historical Chattanooga church for 31 years. 

Charlene Wood worked at a downtown restaurant when Mr. Haden became pastor of the Chattanooga church.  She served his breakfast during those early days.  Mrs. Wood said Mr. Haden didn’t talk much but enjoyed reading his newspaper.  For many years, Ben also ate breakfast at Wally’s on McCallie Avenue.  The server would write on the ticket “BEN” and the cook knew exactly what to prepare. 

Mr. Haden enjoyed being on my talk show.  He didn’t like to be called Reverend or Mr.  He told our radio audience many times, “I’m Ben.”

Although Ben Haden wasn’t my pastor, we became close friends.  There were lengthy telephone conversations.  He’d join Roy Morris and me many afternoons for coffee at the Waffle House on Signal Mountain Road.  “Move over boys, can I join you?” Ben would enjoy his traditional hamburger, meat on a bun, nothing else.  He’d talk with us about everything for about an hour while enjoying his black coffee.  “See you boys next time,” and Ben would leave.  He always had a kind word for the employees.  Roy and I felt good he’d call us boys.

Ben spent a lot of time visiting his members and friends in the hospital.  I remember it was nearing Christmas and my father was hospitalized at Parkridge Medical Center.  I saw Ben at the elevator and when he found out I was going to see my dad, Ben immediately followed me to the room and had prayer.  He was there nearly an hour with dad who told him, “You’ve given me the best Christmas present with your visit.”

Ben’s stories were endless.  We did a television interview in 2010 about his friends Billy Graham, George Beverly Shea, and Cliff Barrows.  Ben handled the news media for several Billy Graham crusades.  Ben resigned the church in 1998 to devote his time to “Changed Lives.”

When Ben stopped producing new programs, the ministry continued on several hundred radio stations including WDYN and WFLI in Chattanooga.  After Ben’s passing, his daughter Dallas took over “Changed Lives” to preserve her father’s programs and legacy.  

The ministry has compiled two devotional books, “One on One, a minute with Ben”.  Hundreds of these books were sent out to Changed Lives listeners. These one minute devotionals cover topics from “Grace” to “Forgiveness.” Mr. Haden authored over a dozen books that are available through Changed Lives.org. 

Mr. Haden said after his wife went forward in a Billy Graham crusade in Washington, D.C., God started dealing with him and 11 years later he told the Lord, “If you want me, you got me.”   Ben once said the greatest thrill in his life was seeing a person accept Christ as his or her Savior.  Because of recordings, that message of forgiveness still goes out over the radio every week across the United States.  Dozens of Ben Haden’s sermons can be heard on Changed Lives.org.

During one of our last visits, Ben gave me an audio recording of his testimony given at a Billy Graham crusade in 1971.  Thanks to Ben Cagle for posting on YouTube.  Those of us who knew Ben can never forget that famous laugh.    Ben Haden, Oct. 18, 1925-Oct. 24, 2013.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoKft7paMRo

 

 

 

 

Ben Haden with Bill Knowles
Ben Haden with Bill Knowles

The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints Invites Community To Christmas Music Celebration On Dec. 11

Live Nativity Event Bethlehem On Glass Will Be Presented Dec. 18-19

Bob Tamasy: Tools To Help Us Become Workers Who Need Not Be Ashamed


The Chattanooga Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will present its 2021 Christmas Music Celebration this Saturday at 6 p.m. at the stake center, 3067 Ooltewah Ringgold ... (click for more)

Bethlehem on Glass, a live Christmas nativity event located in the corridor of Glass Street, will be held on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 18-19, from 6-8 p.m. The public is invited to this neighborhood ... (click for more)

When my father passed away, I inherited his collection of tools. Unfortunately, unlike my dad who was a master mechanic and a consummate “Mr. Fix-It,” I don’t think I have a mechanical gene in ... (click for more)



Church

The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints Invites Community To Christmas Music Celebration On Dec. 11

The Chattanooga Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will present its 2021 Christmas Music Celebration this Saturday at 6 p.m. at the stake center, 3067 Ooltewah Ringgold Road in Ooltewah. The event is free. All are welcome. The choir will celebrate the birth and life of Jesus Christ through music. Special musical numbers include, “What Child is This,” “Carol ... (click for more)

Live Nativity Event Bethlehem On Glass Will Be Presented Dec. 18-19

Bethlehem on Glass, a live Christmas nativity event located in the corridor of Glass Street, will be held on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 18-19, from 6-8 p.m. The public is invited to this neighborhood effort to evoke the miracle of Christmas. It will be presented by Glass Street and East Chattanooga businesses, Grace Baptist Tabernacle Church and the East Chattanooga Community. ... (click for more)

Breaking News

City Council Approves Ordinance That Gives City More Leeway On Removing Homeless Camps

The City Council on Tuesday approved on second reading an ordinance designed to give the city more leeway in removing homeless camps or individuals camping out on city property. The ordinance says: "It shall be unlawful for any person to obstruct, vandalize, place or cause to be placed any buildings, erections, depositories, fires, or other obstructions, for private use, benefit ... (click for more)

8 Apartments Damaged And 17 Residents Displaced After Fire At Waterford Place Apartments Tuesday Evening

Eight apartments were damaged and 17 residents have been displaced after a fire Tuesday evening. Residents knocked on doors to make sure their neighbors safely escaped their burning apartment building. At 6:49 p.m., the Chattanooga Fire Department was called to the Waterford Place Apartments at 6220 Shallowford Road. The first company on the scene advised that heavy smoke ... (click for more)

Opinion

School Board Members Deserve The Raises

School boards serve any community in a variety of ways and the hiring of a superintendent describes just one. The school board serves as the fiscal referee as well on all finance matters - building services and all the many requirements running the individual schools. State rules and regulations must be followed. The budget that comprises all the expenditures is overseen by the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: School Board Folly

My friend and classmate Todd Gardenhire is sadly off base when he lobbies for doubling the pay of the school board. I don’t know which worm has gotten into him, but the fact is the school board doesn’t do anything to merit over $2,000 a month, must less exist. We could do away with the school board and not skip a beat and that's the truth. Please … all the school board does is hire ... (click for more)