Five Words on the Death of the Nazarene Publishing House

1) Sadness
I am saddened for the hard working people who work at the publishing house. It was 29 years ago (the same year the Royals won the World Series) that I started working as a “Cleanliness-is-next-to-Godliness Enforcement Engineer” (janitor) at NPH. During my first two years of seminary I scrubbed floors, toilets and any other grime that stood in the way of the scriptural holiness being placed on a printed page. Even as a janitor I thought that I was playing a role in the mission of the church. I have no doubt that those employees who will no longer be working at 2923 Troost (whether they are an editor, phone operator or warehouse employee) feel the same. Working at NPH for me was more than a job; it was part of the mission of the church. I am sad that the dedicated employees of NPH are no longer able to serve in this capacity.

2) Reality
The reality is that it is tough to be in the publishing business these days. Newspapers are closing left and right. Publishing companies (some much larger than the Nazarene Publishing House) have merged with other companies or closed their doors. The General Superintendents’ pastoral letter on the NPH crisis correctly assessed the situation when it stated, “Recent years have been more financially difficult. Due to shifting cultural circumstances including changes in the church, NPH has found itself having to adapt to new paradigms in order to maintain financial stability and sustainability.” Everyone I know involved in the NPH demise freely admits that it was going to take a not quite “turning–the-water-into-wine” type of miracle but something close to save NPH. Jesus did not turn the debits into credits. The reality is—the publishing business is a tough gig.

3) Understanding
Leaders make decisions and sometimes those decisions are wrong. The General Superintendents stated in their letter:

In 2012, with the election of a new leader for NPH by the General Board, plans were laid for yet another change in paradigm for NPH, including the acquisition of a new business unit for NPH. This was done with the sincere hope that NPH would be set on new trajectory and ultimately be stronger. Simply put: it did not work. It was a miscalculation on many levels. While it was obvious that the business model for NPH needed to change, we now know that these decisions likely hastened the crisis.

I’ve made bad decisions, dumb decisions, and “not-thought-through-all-the-implications” decisions too. I don’t believe any of the decisions were made with malice or done to purposefully harm the church or NPH. I am no conspiracy theorist (I think Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy too). In other words, I believe the General Superintendents when they write: “we do not believe anyone has made intentional decisions to hurt the church.”

I just think that our leaders saw that the NPH ship was sinking; tried to save it; and what they tried didn’t work. I refuse to be a Monday Morning Quarterback with less than all of the facts and make judgments on people that I have respected for many years. Instead I wish to offer them grace and understanding.

4) Change
Obviously, our methods of communication, evangelism and making Christ-like disciples must change. While at the same time, our message is more important than ever! Our impure world needs the message of heart purity. Our increasingly unholy culture desperately needs a people proclaiming the message of Heart Holiness.

Just a quick survey of the largest churches in the USA indicates that in the past year the overwhelmingly majority had their attendance decline or at best remain virtually unchanged (sadly, the church I pastor included). With the demise of our publishing arm and with our “strongest” churches in decline, the time is now (actually the time was ten years ago) to recognize that what we’ve been doing isn’t working. We need to prayerfully, creatively, courageously, diligently test new methods and new strategies to reach our world. We must come up with new ways to educate, disciple and provide new voices for the holiness message.

The methods of former NPH leaders like M.A. Lunn, Bud Lunn, Bob Foster and even Hardy Weathers might not work today—but that does not mean that the message must also go away. Our world needs holiness more than ever! Purity in heart and life is vitally relevant in our increasingly impure world. We must change so the world will know that God calls us to be holy!

5) Hope
I still have hope! I believe God can do a new thing. In fact, if it is not us, then I believe God will raise up someone else to call people to live holy lives. I just want it to be us. And I am hopeful that it will be! We still have thousands of committed people that desperately want to see God spark a new wave of revival fires. I know many young people who are willing to give themselves to a genuine movement of God. I believe that God is up to something and is ready and able to answer the prayer that he taught us to pray: “on earth as it is in heaven.”

We are called to make Christ-like disciples in the nations—let’s creatively and courageously move forward to fulfill God’s purpose for the Church of the Nazarene!

17 thoughts on “Five Words on the Death of the Nazarene Publishing House

  1. Robert lane cheek

    The Nazarene church has the best tools and message for a dying world, but it’s people are to in tune with tradition or the way it used to be that it is being rendered useless.. I am an ex nazarene looking for the right way to do church..

  2. rprince233 Post author

    Robert (I’m a little biased) but I think there are Nazarene churches who are very much attempting to make a difference for Christ in their communities. It’s why I am in Flint, Michigan. I believe God has great things in store for Flint and we have been praying “that His Kingdom would come and His will done in Flint as it is in heaven.” I hope you will find that type community of believers in your town (whether Nazarene is on the church sign or not)– where the Bible is preached, lives transformed and the community forever impacted.

  3. Cami

    Beautiful letter! You stirred up fond memories of growing up in Kansas City with all the wonderful ministry flowing from the pub house, head quarters and more. You also spur us on to keeping the message of Jesus real while looking for the new bait that will attract those who can’t quite see past our traditions, our culture. We need to grab hold of new ways to share God’s love, hope and truth. The message has not changed-and never will, but to be effective, we must change our bait to catch some more fish.

  4. John Hanna

    This wasn’t just a wrong or dumb decision. This was a most egregious series of miscalculations with global implications. I received today at the church what was most likely our last package from NPH, and needless to say, my heart was / is heavy.

    1. Tony Harrison Hollon

      I would agree and have indicated basically what you said. If other issues are handled w/ such a lack of understanding, there will be many additional problems. I know that Jim Van Hook was brought in to assist and give his input. He was brought in to hold the funeral service. My questions are numerous. Was he asked to review the “gift” prior to the acquisition? Who were the business folks to assist in such an acquisition. Who did the break even cash flow, the planned sales, the gross margin etc. and the business plan prior to purchase. I question that everyone knew everything. Were the GS’s aware that the debt service on the building was $25,000 per month and that even w/ a Triple net lease that the Church would pay $36,000 per month. Certainly I know they knew the length of the lease and shockingly the terms. An individual needs to fully understand that type of lease. If they did, which since it was a contract, it was in front of them. I’m shocked anyone thought they’d gotten a terrific deal. Just how much volume outside of the Nazarene Church did Premier do. How good was the cash flow, what was the volume, and it’s bottom line over the last 5 yrs.? Last, just who came up w/ such a plan? It didn’t just pop out of the blue not everyone at one time was inspired to say….”.Oh, let’s do a 10 yr Triple Net lease” that was done by one or two people then presented. Just who’s idea was it? Those are not just comments, i genuinely believe those questions need to be directly answered! They basically paid to have Mr. Smith come on board approximately 6 million dollars! I’d say that made him the best paid Nazarene ever to work for the church, even if it was less than 2 yrs.

    2. DKButler

      I completely agree with you John. I want belabor the points made in my response to the “Pastoral Letter,” however I sincerely hope those appointed to the “crisis management team” include none of those embroiled in the original tragic dealings and naiveté which lead to this tragic time. Also, I hope this is not an effort by a more fundamentalist group of leaders and members to stop (censor) the free publication of materials by whatever publishing venue is finalized.

  5. fushiacat

    I felt very sad when I read of the closing of NPH, for all the reasons you stated. I definitely viewed all the people who worked there, in whatever capacity, as being part of a ministry. So loosing that outlet is unhappy news.

    I am not at all familiar with any of the attributes that led to the NPH closing. But as someone who has done book reviews for a few years, I have witnessed many publishing houses either close their doors, or try to band together with other publishing houses to try to stay solvent. The popularity of E-books have really hurt the sales of hard copy, printed books. The internet has also hurt magazines and newspaper. Which, as you have said, has caused many to go out of business in droves. The ones still in business are still on shaky ground.

    I always appreciate your input. As usual, it is very well-said.

    God’s blessings,

    Becky Isaac

  6. Barbara Jean Shipman

    Jesus is the way,the truth,and the life! The gospel doesn’t change! We build bigger buildings! Bigger ministries! K-church? Pay bigger salaries! Bigger pensions! Hire other denominations to teach us how? Oops? God forgive us! I no longer attend the Nazarene church after 40 years! Sad a third generation Nazarene! Today seems to be a personality contest and the cross is left out! Sad! Our current pastor offers salvation during every service! He gets a lot of hate mail but stands true to the gospel! God forgive us! Sid shipman

  7. Diane Moore

    What a wonderful message of grace. The Church of the Nazarene NPH has been a lighthouse in the world for so many years and as we know most lighthouses have been turned off. Our God is able to make our communications of the Message of Christ be stronger than ever, if we let Him lead the way. Thanks for the message, Rob.

  8. Shirlene Braswell

    Thank you for a very well written message about NPH. I can not imagine life without the publishing house, but I’m sure God can! I believe He has an answer for this problem.

  9. Wdale Martin

    Having been a minister n the church for well over 55 years now, I have seen a lot of changes and also a lot of changes on the horizons coming just because of age(80) and experience! I love my church of the Nazarene and will always!! But how much cutting, carving, and slicing can one do on an organization till there is nothing left but bones! The Retired ministry fund has been cut to the bone with no raises n years while men and women are going hungry because of decisions made by incapable people!!! We built a new headquarters building (not needed) by incapable people, that soon their people will be out of work and their retirements will greatly be n danger!! Lets wake up church, no real revival, churches being closed, attendance slipping by the thousands, As a retired Evangelist we need a REAL REVIVAL OF HEART HOLINESS!! WHERE IS THAT CALL GOING TO COME FROM????

  10. Mildred C. Holcomb-Allen

    I am very sad to learn about the closing of the NPH. Actually, I was puzzled as to why the NPH was not selling Bibles at the last General Assembly in 2013! The Bible is what tells us about Christ and His plan of salvation, in other words, it is the foundation of our church! In addition, I was surprised to view such an insignificant version of the cross on the new official logo of our church! When I compared the new logo with the official seal of the church, I was actually shocked to see that the cross is not even represented! Let us start a revival and let it sweep across the entire world with the best news there ever was…the hope of eternity through the redeeming power of salvation through the blood of Jesus, who gave His life for us! The world is in desperate need to hear this great news!

  11. marsha Cerra

    Yes we all have made mistakes. There has been a changed within the church in general. And if you stand up, you are looked upon as the problem. When you question the leadership, the direction in which some is giving a false security of salvation, not following through with our belief of holiness. Which, I sat in a SS class and was told we could not live a holy life. No not on only our strength but with God. And still was told no we couldn’t. When you take a 325-350 size church down to less than 110. Or another large church on the same district lose over 500. Or a pastor speaks at seminary on how to manipulate you congestion but if you can’t, how to got rid of them. And the local DS saids to the board at a local church he wishes he had 50 more just like him. And the leadership is scratching their heads wondering what going on, when you lose people not just from the church but to the Church of the Nazarene. The heart beat of the church should be God’s heart beat. Not of leadership, and self agenda’s of said leadership.
    As to your statement we have all made mistakes yes we do. What is happening within God’s church, I would expect to see within the world. Not within God’s church. But this happens with self agenda’s get ahead of God’s plans. Some have said it for years, God’s church needs a revival. As God’s children we need to get done on our knee’s ask forgiveness first to God then to each other. About 5 years ago I was told by a new pastor, that within 15 years there would be no Nazarene church. Time is a ticking away people. We need to get back to what we believe in, stop the water down word of God. We didn’t set the rules in holy living GOD did, We are to live it, make disciples and bring the lost to God. It is not about us, our title, how big is our church, it is repenting of our sins, changing our lives and bringing the lost into the Kingdom of God.

  12. Ron

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR WORDS. I am an old part of the church, grew up on the north side of Kansas City with seminary graduates as pastors, their first church, and was blessed by each of them Norman Howerton, Neil b. Wiseman and James MARTIN. I enjoyed having church leaders, missionaries, evanglists and of course our pastors at the Sunday dinner table. I graduated from Bethany Nazarene College and Nazarene Theological Seminary. My father’s mother joined the Church of the Nazarene after hearing their singing as she walked home from Sunday morning mass. My dad was a Nazarene who served the local church all his life as did my mother. I served as pastor for 20 years before becoming a hospital chaplain in a children’s hospital. I simply say this because I believe I, like Paul, can speak with boldness.

    When we are not involved in the actual dirt and grime of leading a business and keeping it afloat it is pretty easy to point fingers and to even complain about it. I will not judge nor will I condemn anyone as being at fault. I will not throw dirt and I will not second guess our leaders. I will not leave or withdraw from the church because it is changing or is going through tough times. It is a tough world out there and all our old pat answers simply don’t hold water for this new generation. Yes we need renewal and revival but continuing to be hyper critical and judgmental isn’t the answer. Prayer and love is what we need today. God has not changed nor His will and desire. If we are going to reach this generation it will be because we love each other, we accept each other with flaws and defects.

    I am always disappointed when I hear the “old-times” vent while forgetting we are called to live the example of love, brotherly love, the proof of being His disciple, “By this will all men know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Just could not pass by without saying so after reading some of the comments….thanks.

  13. Jeanne Christensen

    Only a Nazarene for a year. If all Nazarene churches were like the one we attend there would be no decline in growth but only the opposite. Our service was so filled with the Spirit this morning we had the alter full before Pastor Larry preached. We get to Sunday school at least 30 minutes before it starts because of fellowship. Sometimes Sunday school lesson is like a sermon in itself. Awesome teachers. Praise God we found this church.


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