With this issue, we begin our celebration of the 25th anniversary of Preaching magazine. Given that most publications don’t survive five years, we figure that survival ought to be worth at least a nice birthday cake. (I’ll take chocolate, a corner piece, please.)
According to The New York Times, 231 new magazines were created in 1985; that compares to the record of 832 in 1994. Of the 1985 startups, just three in 10 were still around a decade later. Given the financial stress the magazine industry has experienced during the past several years, it would be interesting to know how many of our 1985-born kindred are still around. (Actually, it might be more comforting not to know how many bit the dust.)
Nevertheless, here we are, celebrating 25 years–I’m ready for that piece of cake, by the way–and I thought a nice way to kick off the anniversary party would be to look back over significant events in the life of Preaching magazine. Such as…
• 1985 Al Mohler and I stood on the sidewalk outside the Dallas site of the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention handing out copies of the brand new publication to pastors as they passed. (Al was the associate editor in those days.) We started out inside the building, but the SBC’s business officer kicked us out and made us stand on the sidewalk outside. (I guess that’s when I fell in love with denominational work.)
• 1985 was also the year we did that first big mailing to pastors, inviting them to become charter subscribers of this brand new publication about preaching. We mailed 103,000 direct-mail letters and received about 2,500 checks for $15, thus making the publication possible. If you were among that first group, thanks again! You sure made a difference in my life for the past quarter century.
• 1986 was when the computer crashed for the first time and we discovered the value of backup files (mostly because we didn’t back up at the time.) We ended up re-entering a few thousand subscriber records; and from then on, every night we ran a backup file. Experience really is the best teacher, isn’t it?
• 1989 The first National Conference on Preaching was held at First Baptist Church of Tampa, Florida. Among the speakers were Lloyd John Ogilvie, Calvin Miller, William Willimon, Stuart Briscoe and a host of others. (Come to think of it, that still would be a pretty good conference line-up.) In those days, we were one of the few such events around; these days there’s a major pastor’s conference somewhere in the nation at least once a week. (Sometimes more often.)
• 1996 Preaching hit the World Wide Web (that’s what all the cool kids called the Internet back in those early days just after Al Gore invented it) at Preaching.com. (If I’d been smart, I also would have grabbed Sermons.com, church.com and all those others that were available. Who knew that domain names would be something you could sell? I heard that some guy named Rick Warren bought the domain Pastors.com, but I doubt it amounted to anything or we’d have heard of him by now.)
• 2002 For the first time in many years, I became a full-time editor as Preaching moved to Nashville when it was sold to a larger company–a company that almost immediately afterward went bankrupt. (Don’t contact me for investment advice.) I bought it back (it only cost all the salary they had paid me since the sale) and we formed a new company to publish the magazine.
• 2006 Recognizing the future of Christian magazines is with larger organizations, Preaching was purchased by Salem Communications, which already published magazines such as YouthWorker Journal, CCM and Singing News. Nashville and Salem Publishing continue to be the happy home of Preaching, even as the editor has wandered off to South Carolina to wear an academic hat along with his Preaching hat. (Thank goodness for e-mail.)
• 2010 Preaching celebrates its 25th anniversary of serving those who proclaim the Word.
So let the party commence. And would someone please pass me a piece of that cake?