Mr. Langerak is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Walker, Michigan and retired secretary of the RFPA.
Friends and Members of the Association, tonight marks the completion of the 79th year of producing the Standard Bearer and the 36th year of book publishing for the Reformed Free Publishing Association. We report to you the organization’s principal activities that have occurred throughout this year.
Eight years ago this association merged the permanent book publishing arm (PCPPRL) with the RFPA, creating one organization and one board publishing both the Standard Bearer and books. Today the work of the board and its committees is a balance between these two endeavors. Four board members work closely with our book manager in the planning, preparation, and production of every new book and reprint. Four board members work with both business managers to develop and implement advertising, marketing, and promoting of the SB and books. Three board members are responsible for the planning and oversight of all day-to-day operations of the RFPA through the business managers. The board president divides his time between the activities of all three committees.
The year has been another busy and productive one for book publishing. It can take several years for a new book to develop from an idea to publication. This year three new books were finished and printed: Volume 3 of Unfolding Covenant History, our series on Old Testament History; Sin & Grace, Revs. Hoeksema and Danhof’s refutation of common grace; and Common Grace Revisited, the first in the Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth series. Studies in I Peter, by Rev. Cornelius Hanko, was released as well. We plan to release one new study guide per year if good group Bible study material is available. In addition, Saved by Grace and Whosoever Will were revised and reprinted to replace sold-out inventory.
Book club members are critical to our book publishing success.Because of their willingness to purchase every new book (at 35% off the regular price), we are able to pay the initial production costs and to produce more new books. We are very pleased to see the number of book club members steadily increasing each year, so that we can report having 1,020 members at this time. Thank you, loyal book club members! Thanks also to our book club agents who have been instrumental in this increase. We ask you to encourage family members or friends to build their library with good Reformed literature by joining the RFPA book club.
Several book projects are in various stages of completion. This coming year we plan to publish two more books in the Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth series, on the topics of Reformed worship and providence. We are on track to release the fourth volume in the Unfolding Covenant History series, this one covering the wilderness wanderings and the conquest of Canaan. In the area of educational material, art curriculum books for grades kindergarten through sixth are being prepared. This curriculum, originally developed by Connie Meyer for our Protestant Reformed schools, has been well received by the teachers who have used it in their classrooms. The RFPA publications will make this valuable educational resource available to a broader market of schools and homes. Another book being worked on is a compilation of 240 Reformed doctrines, each explained briefly by Rev. Ronald Hanko. This book will be a useful tool for instruction in the home and preparation for catechism. Some reprints being revised for future publication are Calvin’s Calvinism; Rev. Herman Hoeksema’s Reformed Dogmatics; and We and Our Children and Mysteries of the Kingdom by Prof. Hanko.
There are those who discover our writings and request the board’s permission to translate them into their native tongue. The Reformation Society associated with the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Russia recently published a Russian translation of the first part of Voice of Our Fathers, which treats Head 1 of the Canons of Dordt. Pastor Jan Sicula of the Slovak Republic has translated into Slovak and published Prof. Engelsma’s Marriage, the Mystery of Christ and the Church.
Standard Bearer and Books—Sales and Promotion
Book sales this past year were good, at 8,026 volumes sold, down 8% compared to last year. 358 new customers purchased books this year, 124 of whom agreed to become book club members. Standard Bearer subscriptions remained steady at 2,648 subscribers, down 53 subscribers compared to this time last year. The fact that our literature is sharp and uncompromising in setting forth the truth and refuting the lie severely limits our market, especially in this age of apostasy and compromise. Nevertheless, the message we proclaim is the everlasting truth of God’s Word. Therefore we are working harder than ever to promote both the books and the Standard Bearer magazine.
A number of successful promotional activities continued this year: publishing the semi-annual Update newsletter, sending new books for review in religious periodicals, and offering to PRC consistories free one-year subscriptions to the SB for their newly wedded couples and new members from outside the PRC.
In addition, many new activities were implemented. This year your board carried out an aggressive advertising program through World magazine, the nation’s fourth largest weekly news magazine, with 125,000 paid subscribers. Several ¼ page ads, attractively designed in color, were placed in the books’ showcase section. Two ads, specifically promoting the SB by offering a free copy upon request, resulted in 91 requests and 11 new subscriptions. A multi-book ad designed to promote the RFPA organization in general offered free shipping on all Internet orders and directed interested persons to the website for more information on our publications. Look for this ad to appear again in the October 4 and November 8 issues of World, just in time for Christmas ordering. Our website customer survey results indicate that many are finding us through these ads.
Our website continues to be a sales and promotional tool for the RFPA. People throughout the world are finding rfpa.org through our World ads and various Internet search engines. We are nearing the point of releasing an enhanced version of the website. The many benefits with this new version are largely behind-the-scenes features that will allow RFPA staff, who have limited computer skills, to keep the site current and fresh by adding books, offering special promotions, and making changes to the on-line catalog. Also, in the development stages is a plan to add all the SB archives on the website along with a search engine and an index. Not only will this make available to a worldwide audience this valuable study resource, but also it will enhance our site, and bring increased awareness of our publications available for purchase online.
Currently about 20% of book sales are to bookstores and book distributors. Getting more of our books sold through this distribution channel continues to be of great interest to the board. With this in mind, the board maintained its membership in the Christian Bookseller’s Association (CBA) and sent two board members to observe the annual CBA convention in Indianapolis in February. Based on their report, the board decided to apply for a booth at the 2004 International CBA Convention to be held June 28-July 1 in Atlanta, Georgia. Although the costs for this venture could reach $6,500, we believe this is a necessary and effective way to get our books into bookstores throughout the world. Our staff will begin working on an updated edition of the publications catalog to be released by spring 2004. Prior to the convention, we will mail catalogs and invitations to the CBA member bookstores inviting buyers to meet us at the RFPA booth.
Book club members and SB subscribers received Common Grace Revisited free to promote the new series and to express our appreciation for their continued support. Evangelism societies that want to make use of the book in their work are able to buy copies at cost. In addition, the Engelsma/Mouw debate provided a unique opportunity to promote this book, as well as our other publications. Many individuals were introduced to the RFPA, numerous book catalogs and introductory SBs were distributed, and over 40 books were sold.
The introductory issue of the Standard Bearer is now available from the SB office at no cost to all who desire to use it in witnessing. This special issue was designed to be given to those unfamiliar with the magazine and introduce them to its content. A copy and an introductory letter were sent to all SB subscribers and PR evangelism societies.
Operationally, we continue to experience financial stability for both Standard Bearer and book publishing. This is attributed to the overwhelming financial support we continue to receive through church collections and individual gifts. This year, gifts totaling $44,000 were given to the Standard Bearer and $44,000 to RFPA books. These generous gifts we will use for publishing additional works and promoting our material this coming year.
Several changes have taken place this year. Due to his demanding work as an elder in Grandville PRC, then vacant of a pastor, Tom Bodbyl reluctantly resigned his board membership. As spelled out in the constitution, the board proceeded to replace him by appointing Jon Rutgers to fill Tom’s term, which ends this year.
A change occurred in the book publishing office when Suet Yin, wife of seminarian Paul Goh, returned to Singapore following Paul’s graduation in June. We thank her for her faithful labors on behalf of the RFPA as a volunteer during their stay here. Last October, Paula Kamps was hired to work part-time to invoice and package all book orders as well as to assist in numerous other office tasks. Mindy Bergman was hired to help edit our books in preparation for printing.
Next year we plan to add more staff. Due to the large amount of promotional work that needs to be done, the board recently approved advertising for a part-time person or persons to work with the MIE committee in the advertising and promotion of the SB and books.
This year Professor Engelsma informed the Standard Bearer editorial staff and the RFPA board that he desires to be relieved as editor beginning October 1, 2004. He has advised the SB staff to appoint a committee to find a man who will take over the editorship at that time. We express our sincere appreciation to him for his diligent labors for the past 15 years. Evident in each of his editorials is his love of and uncompromising commitment to our distinctive Reformed faith, which he has faithfully defended and developed as editor-in-chief.
For many years the Theological School Committee of the PRC has graciously provided accommodations in the seminary for our operation. However, this year the TSC requested that the book division relocate in the next one to two years so that this space in the seminary basement can be used for seminary and denominational needs. The timing for this is right for the RFPA since the book division has outgrown its present warehouse and office space in the seminary basement, and the need for space continues to increase as we add titles to our catalog. To work towards this, the board has directed the finance committee to develop a proposal for the RFPA to acquire its own building. Once approved by the board, we intend to present a proposal for your approval at a special association meeting sometime this coming year.
We say thank you to those whose faithful labors have contributed to the publication and distribution of our magazine and books this past year. These include our writers, business managers, department editors, secretaries, proofreaders, and volunteers. With you we confess that to labor as Christ’s servants in this work is a great blessing.
We close with an encouraging quote from a reviewer of the book Righteous by Faith Alone. He writes: “Like all the publications of the RFPA this book is excellently produced, and [a] good value for [the] money. Those who invest in a copy will, I believe, come to treasure it as a choice blessing from the Lord.”
As we begin a new year of witnessing to the Reformed truth, we pray for grace to continue faithful and unwavering in the work, and that God will continue to use the RFPA for the building up of His kingdom and the glory of His name.