Last September 29 the Reformed Free Publishing Association held its annual meeting at Hudsonville, Michigan. Some of the reports of this meeting were published in an earlier issue of the Standard Bearer. At these annual meetings it is customary that a short speech is given by one of our ministers. This meeting, the speech was given by the present writer. I would like to share with you a few of the thoughts of this speech.
We are, and we ought to be, concerned with the publication of our Standard Bearer. After more than 40 years one begins to take it for granted. It comes regularly in the mails. The editor does a tremendous job by seeing to it that the Standard Bearer comes out on time. The various writers faithfully contribute for each issue. We pay (if we do not forget) our annual subscriptions. And we are, though vaguely, aware that someone or some group must be involved in the task of keeping the Standard Bearer financially solvent. Yet we have been taking this magazine rather much for granted.
Therefore, I wish to point to ways in which we can cause the Standard Bearer to fail. We do not want it to fail; we do not seek its failure; but through our own neglect, we unwittingly contribute towards this plan for failure. To emphasize this point, I wish to set forth a plan for the failure of the Standard Bearer.
First of all, one must seek to destroy or undermine the association which is responsible for the publication of the Standard Bearer. It should be obvious that a lively, faithful association arouses interest in its own magazine. Very likely, to many of our people outside of this association, the Standard Bearer is considered not only a good, but the best, religious magazine available. But it is not their magazine; it belongs to the R.F.P.A. But those within the association own the magazine. And because it is their magazine, they are more inclined to promote it by encouraging others to read it and to subscribe to it.
Therefore it is essential in any plan for failure, that the association itself be undermined. One can do that by discouraging membership in that organization. Convince our people that it is far easier and more beneficial personally to sit home in that easy chair.
Or convince those who do belong, that their presence is not so essential. Decisions will be made whether they are present or not. Reports will be given whether there are 60 present, or 200. Members will be elected to the board by the votes of others without any assist from those who fail to come. So, why be there?
Encourage those who do come that this work is one which can be performed merely by the effort of man. Tell them that this is not an activity in which one is completely dependent upon the blessings of our God.
By following such a procedure, the association which publishes the Standard Bearer will grow gradually weaker till finally it collapses. That, it seems to me, would be a fatal blow against this magazine. If we would have it to fail, it is at this point that we must begin.
Secondly, if we are to cause this Standard Bearer to be destroyed, we would encourage faithlessness in the reading and study of it. You understand, the careful perusal of this or any magazine arouses interest and concern. It becomes habit-forming. The more one reads, studies, contemplates its articles, the more he looks forward for the next issue. There develops a proper craving for such materials which serve to edify him.
And not only is there then spiritual growth in the individual who reads, but such an one can hardly keep silent concerning those articles which he has read. Those which particularly interest him, those which stir up his thoughts, are also articles of which he will speak to others. In his regular visits with friends, this reader will ask the opinion of his friends on some of these articles. And if these have not read the issue under discussion, they would likely make it a point to catch up on that reading in which they were admittedly lax. Thus the one reader’s interest arouses the interest of others in a sort of chain reaction. Try it once and see.
The result would be, of course, that the Standard Bearer would grow. The number of subscriptions would grow — for there would be more and more who would want to find out what it says. But more important, it would grow in importance to our own people. TheStandard Bearer would become ever more important and valuable to them.
Then any plan for failure would have to seek to destroy this desire to read the magazine. First, one would gradually eliminate his own reading of the Standard Bearer. The reading must not be dropped all at once. For those who were taught in the importance of reading good spiritual material, their conscience would doubtlessly disturb them were they to take such a drastic step. Therefore the reading of the Standard Bearer ought to be eliminated in steps. Certain of the more difficult articles ought to be passed over. Do that regularly till the articles are not even missed as far as you are concerned. Then omit a few additional articles and read two or three which appear the most interesting. This too ought to be done for a length of time before further action is taken. Next, convince yourself that you have many other and more important things to do — so many, in fact, that you will have to “postpone” reading several issues. Do not stop reading — but only “postpone” it till such a mass of material piles up that it is impossible to catch up. Pack up those old unread issues — and begin the process over again. You’d be surprised how well that works. Before long even this pretence is cast away.
Secondly, one must begin working with the next generation. If the Standard Bearer continues so long, we can raise a generation which cares nothing for reading — and particularly for reading spiritual materials. One must begin teaching the children now. Tell them that they are too young for the reading of theStandard Bearer. Suggest to them that they could better wait with reading such a magazine till they are graduates of high school — or even till after they have made confession of faith. Point out to them that the material is too “deep” for young people. Nor discuss any of the articles of the Standard Bearer with them or in their presence. They’ll grow into adulthood then without any care or concern for the Standard Bearer.
And without readers, concerned and interested readers, no magazine can long continue. It will wither and die.
One final step I could suggest towards the failure of theStandard Bearer. Subscriptions must drop — and they will if disinterest can be encouraged. After the faithful study of this magazine decreases and finally ceases, there continues a period in which a remnant possibly for the sake of appearance, the Standard Bearer can continue coming into our homes. When such a religious magazine is seen lying in our homes, it would seem as though here is a home which places emphasis upon the spiritual rather than earthly.