Mr. Kalsbeek is a member in Hope Protestant Reformed Church, Walker, Michigan and secretary of the RFPA.
The tears of a slave girl just going to be put up for sale drew the attention of a gentleman as he passed through the auction mart of a Southern slave state. The other slaves of the same group, standing in line for sale like herself, did not seem to care about it, while each knock of the hammer made her shake. The kind man stopped to ask why she alone wept, and was told that the others were used to such things, and might be glad of a change from the hard, harsh homes they came from, but that she had been brought up with much care by a good owner, and she was terrified to think who might buy her. ‘Her price?’ the stranger asked. He thought a little when he heard the great ransom, but after a little paid it down. Yet no joy came to the poor slave’s face when he told her that she was free. She had been born a slave, and knew not what freedom meant. Her tears fell thick and fast on the signed parchment, which her deliverer brought to prove it to her. But she only looked at him with fear. At last he was ready to go his way, and as he told her what she must do when he was gone, it began to dawn on her what freedom was. With the first breath she said, ‘I will follow him! I will serve him all my days.’ And to every reason against it she only cried, ‘He redeemed me! He redeemed me! He redeemed me!’ When strangers used to visit that master’s house, and noticed, as all did, the loving constant service of the glad-hearted girl, and asked her why she was so eager with unbidden service by night and day, she had but one answer, and she loved to give it—‘He redeemed me! He redeemed me! He redeemed me!’
That message of redemption full and free from the pen of B.J. Danhof, found in Volume 1 of the SB, is a message that serves as motivation to carry on, as the SB is about to enter its 90th consecutive year of publication.
But to what extent will that comforting message be read? The RFPA Board has some serious concerns about that. Our subscription data does not lie! From a high of 2596 subscribers in 2005 to 2176 today is a decline of 420 subscribers. We realize of course that, in general, print media has fallen on hard times. We have tried to remedy that with our esubscriptions (we currently have 86 of these), but it appears that more will need to be done to turn this dismal subscription trend around. That explains, too, the subject of tonight’s speech: “Encouraging the Next Generation to Read.” In this connection maybe we should take to heart some good instruction from a new New York subscriber to the SB: “I have only become confessionally Reformed in the last four years. I am an ex-Pentecostal. Late last year I was introduced to this great journal. I have found so much already. This is a Reformed journal that every Reformed believer should subscribe to. When I finish an edition, I now leave it in the narthex of my church for others to benefit from. Thank you for maintaining fidelity to God’s Word as summarized in the Three Forms of Unity.” Another subscriber, this one, an esubscriber from Chicago, provides good reasons for obtaining the SB in both digital and print form: “The Standard Bearer is a must read for any individual interested in the truth of the gospel. I purchased the esubscription to allow me to keep up with its contents during convenient times—my lunch, during my commute, when I travel…without taking the magazine out of the reach of my family. For a first try, the RFPA did a phenomenal job of formatting it for access on my Kindle.” The RFPA Board will welcome other suggestions to remedy the decline in subscriptions, not merely because we desire more SB subscriptions, but because the SB’s message of “redemption full and free” merits wide circulation.
Speaking of that (wide circulation, that is), more and more of our publications are getting just that. We are seeing, for example, a gradual up-tick in both eBook and hard copy book sales through Amazon.com. Furthermore, we are confident that making all of our titles available in digital format will contribute to broader circulation. At present 15 of our books are available as ebooks, and rapid progress is being made on others. It should be noted that each new book we publish will be available in both ebook and hard copy format, and that customer feedback on these epublications is very positive. This one from Singapore is typical: “I especially appreciate your development of the ebook formats. Now those of us who cannot easily get our hands on physical copies of the books can still benefit from your publications.”
Wider circulation of the truth is also being accomplished through translation of our books into other languages. Our Business Manager’s report on translations reveals that eight of our books are in various stages in the translation process. Currently Brazilian-Portuguese, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Korean, Afrikaans, Chinese, Filipino, and Croatian are the languages of choice, and four of those are translating Doctrine According to Godliness by Rev. R. Hanko.
This fiscal year the RFPA has published A Pilgrim’s Manual (commentary on I Peter), by Prof. H. Hanko; Behold the Beauty, volume 2, by Connie Meyer; Battle for Sovereign Grace in the Covenant, by Prof. D. Engelsma; The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, by Rev. R. Smit; and Reformed Spirituality series volume 3, All Glory to the Only Good God, by Rev. Herman Hoeksema. Also this year, in part due to numerous requests for them, two of our out-of-print publications: The Voice of our Fathers (an exposition of the Canons of Dordrecht), by Prof. Homer Hoeksema, and Doctrine According to Godliness, by Rev. R. Hanko are once again available.
What about the future? We enthusiastically report our intent to publish the following books in the 2013-14 fiscal year: 1) Our Reformed Baptism Form, by Dutch Reformed theologian Dr. B. Wielenga. This is a commentary on our baptism form that we have had translated from the Dutch. 2) DeCock’s Reformation of the Church, by Marvin Kamps. This book involves the history surrounding the Secession of 1834. 3) Coming of Zion’s Redeemer, by Rev. R. Hanko. In this publication we will have a commentary on the minor prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. 4) The Rock Whence We Are Hewn, edited by Prof. D. Engelsma, will involve the documents surrounding the early history of the Protestant Reformed Churches. 5) Behold the Beauty #3, by Connie Meyer. This will be the last book in the art curriculum series and will not be a required book for Book Club members.
This ambitious plan will need your support. The publishing of books is expensive. Thankfully we have faithful Book Club members that make this possible. While of late we have lost a few members (from a high of 1,236 to our present 1,207), we continue to solicit new members. Also, gifts have played and will continue to play a significant role in what we are able to publish. For example, the republishing of The Voice of Our Fathers and the upcoming translation of the commentary on Our Reformed Baptism Form would have been impossible apart from a large gift the RFPA received two years ago. Furthermore, these gifts make it possible for the RFPA to publish these books at an affordable price, one that we believe can be managed by our readers.
To help facilitate the gift-giving process the RFPA Board has adopted a “Gift and Bequest Policy.” The policy’s stated purpose reads this way: “This policy sets forth certain procedures in receiving individual gifts and estate bequests on behalf of the Reformed Free Publishing Association (RFPA). These procedures include the proper recording of the gift and its intended use; setting up the proper type of account to handle the gift and administration related thereto; and giving proper acknowledgment of the gift to the donor or estate representative, and providing him with information necessary for tax or estate settlement purposes.” Why do I mention this in our annual report? You guessed it: we would ask that you continue to consider the RFPA in your estate planning, as well as your regular gift-giving.
This report is getting much too long. Rather than thank all those who labor faithfully in the various areas of the publication process of the Standard Bearer and RFPA books individually, we now do so collectively: THANK YOU! And a special word of thanks to our office staff, one of whom recently discovered a way to sort our SB mailing to save about $30 per issue on mailing costs. Not that big a deal, you say? Then consider this: had our present staff been around and made this discovery back when B.J. Danhof wrote what we quoted in the introduction of this report (89 years ago), a grand total of $56,070.00 would have been saved.
It is our prayer that God will continue to provide as we take up the work of the 2013-14 fiscal year, doing so in the consciousness of and motivated by the truth that “He redeemed me!”