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.
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.
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.
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!
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!