My Friend Jim Warren

post date: May 24, 2011

Source: Chris Fabry blog.
My friend Jim Warren died yesterday after a long illness. Most people knew him as the founder and longtime host of Prime Time America on the Moody Broadcasting Network. For many years he was the voice of afternoon drive-time radio, speaking to the nation from the studios on the 8th floor of Crowell Hall at Moody Bible Institute.

I knew him as a personal friend, first and foremost because he served for years as the Music Minister at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park. Though I did not know it at the time, he came to the three-hour Q&A in late June 1989 when I candidated at the church. Later he told me, “I prayed you would become the pastor because you were the man we needed.” He said “we” because his heart was always at Calvary even though he had given up his staff position years earlier to make Prime Time America his fulltime calling.

I have a big bag of memories of Jim, starting with the first interview we did together, shortly after our family moved to Oak Park in August 1989. He had me on his program many times, often calling me at 2:30 PM to say, “Hey, Ray, come on down to the studio and help me do an interview today.” When Chris Fabry commented about Jim yesterday, he called him the best-prepared interviewer he had ever known. That much was true. It was also true that Jim was absolutely unpredictable. It didn’t matter what the interview topic was supposed to be, Jim would say whatever came to his mind at the moment, which made for great radio but often scared his guests because we never knew what to expect. 

One particular interview sticks in the mind. It must have been 1993 or 1994, and someone had given Jim a whiz-bang electronic gizmo that played the national anthem of every country on earth. This was long before the iPod, the iPhone, and all the other marvels we take for granted today. Jim wanted me on the air with him that day to help interview some expert on the phone about world missions. To spice up the interview Jim took that little gizmo into the studio and while we were talking on the phone to the expert, he started playing different national anthems. Only he didn’t hook it up through the main board. He just stuck the gizmo next to the microphone and said to our dumbfounded guest, “Hey, listen to this. Here’s the national anthem of Uzbekistan.” Out of the gizmo came a tinny agglomeration of notes that made a tune none of us had ever heard before. Maybe it was Uzbekistan, maybe it wasn’t. How would I know? Jim started laughing, then I started laughing, and the poor guy on the other end was speechless, which made it even better. 

Over the years he interviewed every Christian leader and most of the political leaders and thousands of others from all walks of life. Jim knew all the big names in the Christian world, wasn’t overly impressed by fame, and would talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime. He loved doing radio. It was his life, and he was good at it.

Of his personal kindness I could give many examples, but I will let this one stand for everything else. It was early on in our time in Oak Park, and we were hip deep in some controversy in the village. At that time Oak Park was on the front lines of the culture wars, and we were trying to do our part, and were taking a fair share of flack in the press as a result. During one particularly diifcult period, I heard a horn honk in front of our house. It was Jim and Jean Warren, riding in a convertible. When I came out to say hi, Jim gave me two pies from Baker’s Square. “Ray, I know it’s hard right now so Jean and I brought you two pies to cheer you up.” Handing me the pies with a big grin, he said, “Enjoy–and keep up the good work.” That was almost 20 years ago, and I’m still smiling about it. 

After he and Jean moved to Michigan, we didn’t see them very often. Then we moved to Mississippi and lost contact altogether. But last summer, when I was speaking at Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference in Muskegon, Michigan, John Tahl said to me, “Pastor Ray, let’s go see Jim Warren,” who was at a nursing home just a few miles away. Off we went. I wondered how my old friend was doing. And I guess I worried a bit, the way you do when you haven’t seen someone in a few years. 

I needn’t have worried at all. Though he was unable to move very much, Jim was thrilled to see us. Same voice, same enthusiasm, same one-liners. He even told me that he had been listening to my occasional radio work on the American Family Radio station in Muskegon. 

Then we talked for a long time, laughing and sharing and talking openly about his physical issues. Jim was not despondent even though he knew that he would likely never be healthy again. His only regret was that he couldn’t do radio anymore because, he said, he had some terrific ideas. Other than that, he was happy and content. 

When the time came to leave, we prayed together. Jim smiled and said, “Ray, that was a good prayer. I felt the Spirit moving when you prayed. That’s what heaven is going to be like. Only I’ll be doing better, and we’ll all be better then.”

So now my friend Jim has gone to heaven. If they have radio there (and who’s to say they don’t?), I have no doubt that he has lined up the Apostle Paul for the 3:30 PM slot, and he’s probably got a call in for Martin Luther at 4 PM because he found a jazzy version of “A Mighty Fortress” that he wants to play for the lead-in to the interview.

For Jim the battle is over and the victory won. We extend our love and prayers to Jean and to the whole family. A great man and a good friend has gone to heaven, and we all feel the loss.


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