So what would happen if Christianity Today magazine and its website simply shut down today? What if there was no more CT?"
For a moment, that question just hung in the room.
To be sure, we had asked ourselves that very question several times in the not-too-distant past. And not just as a hypothetical exercise. The brutal economic realities had given the question a painful sense of urgency.
But now, in the second half of 2012, here was that question again—this time asked by a respected consultant who not only understood the crises facing 21st-century publishing, but who also understood CT's own critical challenges in this ever-changing new normal.
Mark Galli, CT's senior managing editor, eventually broke the silence.
"Someone would try to build its replacement tomorrow!" he said—much to everyone's nodding approval. (Self preservation, after all, is a powerful motivator.)
"Really?" responded our consultant.
"Yes," Mark said. "The church needs what CT has to offer it. There is no other magazine that does what we do, let alone do it as well."
Good answer, I thought to myself.
But our now smiling consultant didn't seem to be buying it. "Really?"
* * *
As the afternoon passed, we, the interrogated, soon realized that our interrogator's one-word question was not so much a criticism of our existence as it was a call for us to boldly grab hold of the distinctives that have defined our communication ministry ever since Billy Graham launched Volume One, Number One 56 years ago last month.
Distinctives, I'm happy to say, that you our readers underscore for us in your encouraging (and, at times, challenging) reactions to the content found in each monthly issue of Christianity Today and daily on ChristianityToday.com.
Here are three "for instances":
Next spring, Christianity Today will be introducing Cristianismo Hoy—a digital CT for Latino evangelical leadership in North, Central, and South America. The idea came from the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), who, in acknowledging CT's own commitment to journalistic quality and content excellence, asked us to consider creating a publication like CT that could engage, encourage, and equip Hispanic pastors and influencers with the best in Christian reporting, commentary, and theological reflection.
We responded with an enthusiastic "yes!" And Cristianismo Hoy is today in full launch preparation. An editorial search is underway, led by Christianity Today editor in chief David Neff. And our chief strategy officer Keith Stonehocker is working closely with NHCLC's Gus Reyes on how to most effectively get Cristianismo Hoy into the hands—er, screens and tablets—of Hispanic evangelical leadership.
Then there's the global:church forum, a three-day conference held last month in Chicago and featuring a who's who of global South leaders updating and challenging Western church leaders with all God is doing in their midst. Christianity Today was asked to cosponsor this event (with the Chicago-based not-for-profit Resource Global) because of its "trusted reputation" and "convening power" among the participants.
Based on the success of this first forum, plans are now underway to schedule several 2013 events. In addition, tentative talks are underway regarding an ePublication that would regularly keep the global conversation going between events.
Finally, there's the reader reaction to September's investigative report on David Jang and the allegations that some of his followers identify him as the Second Coming Christ.
As expected, that piece (and the follow-up online) sparked both dialogue and controversy. But the vast majority of responses to these pieces have been positive.
E-mailed one CT reader: "There is no trusted source that I know of that does [this kind of] careful investigative journalism."
* * *
Editorial quality and balance in reporting, commentary, and theological reflection. A rallying point. Trusted. These are distinctives that you have identified as part of the CT ministry. And these are some of the very reasons CT's "call" remains as powerful today as ever. (What others would you add?)
Mr. Consultant, these are some ways Christianity Today brings an important and unique voice to our world!
With the days ahead in mind, I want to thank each of you for your continuing and faithful partnership in our ministry.
And I'd like to encourage you to consider strengthening that commitment through your ongoing prayers and financial support of some of the initiatives mentioned here. Stop by ChristianityToday.org and see in more detail where your tax-deductible dollars can expand CT's reach in the days ahead.
Thank you. And to God alone be the glory.
President and CEO
Follow me on Twitter @HaroldSmithCT