Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Worth of Publishing

D. S. Warner succeeded as an itinerant evangelist, but had he not joined the spoken word with the written word, there would be no Church of God Reformation Movement today.

Former Editor Harold Phillips--Miracle of Survival/44--pointed to Warner’s role of pen-preaching: “he wed them into powerful instruments for the spread of the truth to which he was committed.” That marriage produced a people that was no people. Volunteers became “flying ministers” in voluntary cooperation until they became successful publishers as well as viable reformers!

The printed Gospel Trumpet became a variety of in-house curriculum materials consumed by the growing church. To sustain this ministry, GT Co. developed the large retail business we remember--greeting cards (Sunshine line), worship folders, books et al. After 116 years, Vital Christianity (Gospel Trumpet) expired and the company downsized under Church of God Ministries.

E. E. Byrum, put Amos Radabaugh on the road early selling the books they published. Byrum & Company grappled with the need for subsidizing publishing needs, knowing the reformation was not financially sustaining itself. They developed and sold more products than the Movement could buy, to subsidize church publishing needs. God blessed. The church grew. The Publishing Company thrived. But, attitudes changed!

That 1971 audience at the Anderson School of Theology Lectures failed to grasp the significance of the question when T. Franklin Miller asked, “In this closing decade of our first century as a movement, [h]ow do we see the future of the use of literature? . . .In the last three or four years , several large Religious bodies have found it necessary to discontinue publication of their official journals and magazines (emphasis added), some of which were in Publication for many, many decades (“Projections”/11/1971).

Miller pressed his point: “What do we see in the future of the publication of VITAL CHRISTIANITY And the Church of God? How do we see the future of book publications? Are the destinies of our church’s publishing house to be determined by whatever attitude we take toward freedom of independent action and loyalty to the movement?”

Editor Phillips cautioned readers. Editor Newell reprinted an editorial from the 1928 GT with this suggestive title: “Voluntary Cooperation or Disintegration.” Reformation Review later reprinted that editorial again--peeking into our past--without comment.

For my part, I heard and made a few complaints over the years: “They sell Holy Trinkets!” … making “gobs of money” … taking advantage of the church … Agency in-fighting … salary rivalries like common CEO’s. Some pastors complained that the General Assembly made for useless business meetings - a “waste of time!” I never thought God’s business a waste of times, but … what do I know?

Intentional Bible-based “cooperation” replaced practiced voluntary “disintegration.” Free-wheeling independence reigned supreme. Freedom of choice was in. Institution was out. We lost our passion for Publishing our message. We lost sight of how the Publishing House filled the that launched and nurtured us for those first 75 years. No longer appreciating the sacrifices of our elders, we ignored the benefits to our children, youth, families, congregations, outreach, et al.

National reorganization produced more efficiency on our bare-boned skeleton, but we only swapped one administration for another. Our legacy lasted this long because D. S. Warner followed his commission from God to proclaim unity and holiness--spoken and written, and because others of us volunteered--sacrificed--gave until it quit hurting.

Our 20-20 rear view is better but, our foresight is still self-centered and non-visionary. Can we fill our niche in God’s world without correcting our failures? Can we fulfill our mission without the passionate publishing that birthed us and now attempts to proclaim--minister through supplementing individual and congregational witness? Consider the contract D. S. Warner wrote out to God, December 13, 1877:

In signing my name to this solemn covenant I am aware that I bind myself
to live, act, speak, think, move, sit, stand up, lie down, eat (underlined
twice), drink, hear, see, feel and whatsoever I do all the days and
nights of my life to do all continually and exclusively to the Glory of God.

He would wear nothing but what honored God. He would have nothing in his possession or under his control but such as he could “consistently write upon ‘Holiness unto the Lord.’”

It might help us if we wrote out our contract with God, but we might need to revise it to “Whatever it takes” … may we again become the committed global fellowship that our Lord envisioned.

We still have Chog Ministries, we still have a mini-sized Warner Press, we have Reformation Publishers, and we have numerous State Papers (which we don't utilize as well as we could). We have more methods of communication than anytime in history. Our world is a global neighborhood--wired online. We need the best of online communications as well as the best of printed publications. Will we today use what we have as well as our forefathers used what (little) they had … or, will we fail in our mission?

The printed page may not compete time-wise with online publications, but there is a real need for the printed page--if we have the passion. Without it, we will neither restore the “move” to the Movement or be prophetic. It is a great time to be alive; but, it is up to us!
* For a detailed account of our publishing history, read Steven V. William’s Religious Publishing and Print On Demand, available at Reformation Publishers, $20.

From Warner’s World, this is

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