The permanent Committee for the Publication of Protestant Reformed Literature (P.C.P.P.R.L.) is the official name of that branch of the R.F.P.A. responsible for publishing our books. Our first book was copyrighted in 1966. By the end of 1981 we will have an even two dozen books listed in our catalogue.
How did all this have its beginning?
How does this organization operate?
The beginning, like the beginning of the R.F.P.A. itself, was very small. A group of brethren from our Grand Rapids churches, at first without any organization, began to discuss and to work toward the publication of the late Rev. Herman Hoeksema’s Reformed Dogmatics. Originally, they had no intention of becoming involved in the publishing business. Their aim was to get one of the local publishing firms to undertake the publishing of Reformed Dogmatics. They soon discovered, however, that no one was willing to publish this book; presumably the reason was that there was an insufficient market for such a book, and that therefore publication would be unprofitable.
The group of men was not discouraged by this, however. Their reaction was, “If no one else will publish the Dogmatics, let’s do it ourselves!” No money, no organization, no encouragement from experienced publishers, no assurance that the book would have a market! But they went ahead!
It so happened that Reformed Dogmatics was from a business point of view one of the least likely books with which they could have begun. It was a large book. Because of the foreign languages, especially the Greek and Hebrew, it would be expensive to print. And because of its contents, it would necessarily have a limited market. But a beginning was made. Some funds were collected and pledged—enough to begin the work. A committee was appointed to inquire as to how to proceed. And the project was under way. At that point it became evident that we had to have some kind of permanent organization: after all, the book had to have a publisher and a distributor. However, rather than multiply organizations, this group decided to follow the course of becoming the book publishing branch of the R.F.P.A. And with the approval of that organization, they became such a branch of the R.F.P.A. That explains the fact that all our books are copyrighted by the Reformed Free Publishing Association, a non-profit corporation. It also explains our name as a “Publications Committee.”
At this point I would like to emphasize, however, that we are not a “committee” in the ordinary sense of being appointed by the R.F.P.A. I think there is probably some misunderstanding on this score in the popular mind when they see bulletin announcements about a meeting of the Publications Committee. It should be clearly understood that this is not an appointed committee, but an organization which is open to membership by our people and which would welcome members who are willing to put their shoulder to the wheel and help along with this important work. Sometimes our meetings are so small that we almost begin to fear that our organization is dying. We need as much help as we can get. So when you see a meeting announced in your church bulletin, come and join us!
But let me return to my story.
In our early years all our work was volunteer-labor. None of us knew anything about the technical aspects of publishing, however; and so we were fortunate to obtain the services of Mr. Robert Kregel of Kregel Publications, who advised us and who handled for us the entire process of publishing. Since that time there have been some changes, however. Kregel Publications still handles the marketing of our books to the general public, but we have our own Managing Editor—at present, Mrs. Eunice Kuiper—whose duties are to take care of the entire publishing process, from the time we receive an author’s manuscript to the time when our finished books are finally delivered to our rented storage facility.
Permit me to mention a few more interesting and pertinent facts about this work.
First of all, we are a non-profit organization. This means that all the proceeds from sale of our books are plowed right back into the publishing work. If we are to publish new books, this can only be done with the funds which we receive from the sale of our already published books. At times this has slowed our publishing efforts considerably. There have been times when we were ready to publish books, but we had to wait because funds were not available. In fact, right now we have projects which could proceed more rapidly if only we had more money. It should be kept in mind that the costs of publishing just one new book may run from a few thousand dollars all the way up to thirteen or fourteen thousand. We have one project at present—a children’s Bible story book—which is going to cost even more than that.
This brings me, secondly, to another pertinent fact. If our own people would purchase and read our books on a much larger scale, the work of our Publications Committee would be made much easier financially. This is one of the reasons why we have been trying to promote the R.F.P.A. Book Club. If the Book Club membership would increase to about one thousand members, the costs of publishing a book would be just about guaranteed in advance, and the work of publishing could proceed at a much faster pace. At present our Book Club, however, has a membership of less than 400. This is disappointing to us, and also reason for concern, because it is an indication that many of our own people are not buying and are not reading R.F.P.A. books. How about you?
In the third place, neither the Publications Committee nor the Standard Bearer have any facilities of their own. The Publications Committee rents storage facilities, and the Standard Bearer has storage space at First Church. We also have no office facilities. We operate out of a post office box and a basement office in the home of our Business Manager, Mr. Henry Vander Wal, who, by the way, is Business Manager for both the Standard Bearer and the Publications Committee. Some day some of these arrangements will probably have to be changed, due to the fact that especially the work of the Publications Committee has expanded beyond anyone’s expectations. But at present we operate, you will see, with the lowest possible overhead costs.
Finally, I would like to stress the fact that the Lord our God has greatly prospered our work. When we began in the mid-1960s, we often wondered whether our very first publication would ever see the light of day. We have been privileged not only to publish many books in less than twenty years, but we have also seen these books go to many, many readers, all over the world. And this means that the truths that are dear to our hearts, the truths of the Reformed faith, have through this means of the printed page been spread abroad throughout the world and to the instruction and edification of many souls. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable grace!