“Just as it is for every sinner, mine is a story of what God has done for me—not what I have done for Him,” Joel Belz wrote in a 2021 WORLD Magazine column.
The founder of WORLD News Group died on Sunday at home in Asheville, North Carolina. He was 82.
Mr. Belz was born in central Iowa in 1941. His parents, Max and Jean Belz, taught their eight children about God and His word.
“We took notes on the sermons we heard. And we memorized Scripture,” Mr. Belz wrote of his childhood. “All these years later, 20 or more entire Psalms are still stashed away in my increasingly [wobbly due to Parkinson’s disease] memory.”
Mr. Belz graduated from Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, with a degree in English. He earned a master’s degree in mass communications and journalism from the University of Iowa.
Mr. Belz helped found Lookout Mountain Christian School in Georgia. A few years later, it moved across the state line into Tennessee. Today it is called Chattanooga Christian School. For decades, Mr. Belz served on the board of Covenant College.
In 1975, Mr. Belz married Carol Esther Jackson. The couple raised five daughters. In 1977, the family moved to Asheville. Mr. Belz worked for a Christian magazine called The Presbyterian Journal.
In 1981, Mr. Belz launched It’s God’s World. The weekly newspaper was for middle school students. He later added papers for other age groups. Today, God’s WORLD News has three magazine editions for students. Those are God’s Big WORLD, WORLDkids, and WORLDteen.
Soon, adults wanted their own version of the paper. WORLD Magazine got its start in March 1986.
Most new magazines fail, Mr. Belz wrote in a 1997 WORLD column. “Yet . . . God let WORLD survive.”
Carol Esther Belz remembers the early demands of WORLD. To spend time together, Mrs. Belz and her daughters packed lunches. They rode the bus to the office for picnics. She cleaned while the girls helped prepare WORLD publications for shipping.
The news can be discouraging. But Mr. Belz pointed readers to hope. “For those who have come to trust their future to the God of the Bible, there’s no such thing as ultimately bad news,” he wrote in 2001.
Friends remember his kindness, humility, and sense of humor. “I knew that he was a busy man, but he never failed to . . . talk with ‘little ole me’ and made me feel like he had nothing more important to do than see how I was. This never changed through the decades,” wrote family friend Angie Case Suich.
Mr. and Mrs. Belz often hosted people in their home. During hymn sings, they passed out hymnals and bowls of popcorn. “Joel and Carol offered the best company, conversation, and Christ-exalting songs after dinner,” wrote WORLD staff member Caleb Bailey. “I know he’s getting to do a lot of that singing now.”
Today, WORLD News Group has more than 100 employees. It offers news for children and adults in print, digital, audio, and video form. Most of the estimated 500,000 readers and listeners never knew Mr. Belz personally. But because of him, they know more about God and His world.