Mr. Engelsma is a member of Grandville Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan, and secretary of the RFPA.
In the Foreword to the First Edition of his book The Sovereignty of God, Arthur W. Pink wrote the following:
In addition to the widespread effects of unscriptural teaching, we also have to reckon with the deplorable superficiality of the present generation. To announce that a certain book is a treatise on doctrine is quite sufficient to prejudice against it the great bulk of church members…. The craving today is for something light and spicy, and few have patience, still less desire, to examine carefully that which would make a demand both upon their hearts and their mental powers. We remember, also, how that it is becoming increasingly difficult in these strenuous days for those who are desirous of studying the deeper things of God to find the time which such study requires. …In spite of the discouraging features referred to, we believe there is even now a godly remnant who will take pleasure in giving this little work a careful consideration, and such will, we trust, find in it “Meat in due season.”
It is with gratitude to God that the Board can report to you tonight that the Reformed Free Publishing Association has again provided “Meat in due season.”
The Board, through the work of the individual committees, under the able leadership of our President, and by the grace of God, has again over the last year busied itself with the work of publishing, promoting, and distributing distinctive and sound Reformed literature. What follows is a brief report of the work of the past year.
Eighty-six years ago the RFPA was formed to proclaim the truth of the Reformed faith, and she did so by means of the Standard Bearer. North America’s oldest continuously-published subscriber-based Reformed magazine is currently sent to 2,316 subscribers found in 47 of the 50 states as well as Denmark, Ghana, India, Kenya, Korea, New Guinea, and Romania, to name a few. That the truth of the Reformed faith can be broadcast to so many tribes, nations, and tongues is indeed a great blessing. The Board, working with the Editorial Staff, continues to work so that this word can continue to be spread far and wide. Over the last year several changes were made to the layout and appearance of the magazine itself. Given the fact that the appearance of the Standard Bearer had not been updated since 2000, and only once since 1986, all agreed that it was time for a new look. These changes were made to make the appearance more readable and yet still maintain a traditional dignity. We are confident that both were accomplished. Recognizing that many today prefer to access material on-line, current issues of the Standard Bearer continue to be available on-line, as well as previous issues.
The Board, in conformity with our constitution to “witness to the truth contained in the Word of God and expressed in the Three Forms of Unity and to reveal false and deceptive views repugnant thereto,” has been faithful to that charge in the last year as well with the publication of two works, Contending for the Faith: The Rise of Heresy and the Development of the Truth, and Bound to Join: Letters on Church Membership. Even in this age steeped in “deplorable superficiality” there is much about which to be encouraged. One example is this comment from a supporter of the RFPA here in the States: “Bound to Join is a clear trumpet sound for the truth about the church, its value, and our requirement to join and never leave. I have not heard or read such a clear exposition on the subject before. The book is captivating.” Consider these remarks regarding the other publication of 2010, Contending for the Faith, which is a companion work to the RFPA’s 1999 publication, Portraits of Faithful Saints: “Reading it now…. Well written, excellent, fascinating and faith strengthening. To God be the glory!”
The Board was also highly encouraged to see that in a year in which we published only two books, book sales for the year were up by over 25%. This was even prior to the largest order in RFPA history being filled. Recently 388 books were shipped to Northern Ireland to restock the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church’s bookstore. We highly encourage others to follow Rev. Angus Stewart’s lead and call in orders by the pallet load! The Membership & Marketing Committee also reported that the RFPA had record sales with regards to sales for non-Standard Bearer members for the month of June and record sales for phone/email/and new customers. As of late, many of the most recent book club members have been younger singles and newly married couples. Out of the newest 33 book club members, 11 are in the 16-23 age-group, and 9 are newly-married young couples. This is very encouraging for the Board as we see many of the younger generation refusing to be characterized by the apathy that infects so many.
We continue to receive requests from those who wish to translate our materials into their native tongue. This year we received and granted requests from individuals who intend to translate The Reformed Faith of John Calvin into Portuguese and separate requests to translate both Saved by Grace and Doctrine According to Godliness into Afrikaans. Also granted this past year were requests to post various portions of our publications on websites aimed at citizens of the United Kingdom, South Africa, and China.
One of the ongoing concerns again for the Membership & Marketing Committee has been the continued updating of our website. Given the response that we have received, one could comfortably say that the website redesign has been a success. Some of the notable changes include: A featured-items section, which allows for a highly visible display of new titles and promotions, a prominent button to join the Book Club, and a prominent link to the Standard Bearer, both current issues and previous issues. There is also a current-doctrinal-issues tab, which makes our site more than just a place to buy books. This feature gives us a voice to state our distinctive positions on current issues. One other feature of the website that integrates something new for the RFPA is a link to Heritage Recordings. As the website states, Heritage Recordings is an audio collection of previously unpublished, historic sermons and lectures by several Protestant Reformed ministers. Although the intent is certainly to make the sermon content more widely available, the reality is that when more people come to the site for sermons, they are also more likely to consider looking at our book selection or clicking on the Standard Bearer link.
The RFPA also welcomed our newest staff member, Bethany Kingma, earlier this year. Bethany’s main tasks will be to manage the website, including evaluating the website for focus, clear and complete information, user friendliness, as well as professional quality. She will also copyedit website content, post changes and updates to the website as needed, assist in producing the Update and developing promotional materials, such as ads, flyers, and catalogs. In addition, she will be able to work as a freelance associate copyeditor should the need arise.
Looking to gain access to a new market and younger demographic, the Board instructed Bethany to create and publish a Facebook page for the RFPA. This allows the RFPA to post new books, as well as news and updates regarding current issues and books. This also gives us free advertising and allows us to progress with the growing trends.
The Board also takes this opportunity to thank our other staff members, Evelyn Langerak, Tim Pipe, and Paula Kamps, who continue to do an excellent job in seeing to it that the day-to-day activities of the RFPA run smoothly. The Board also thanks the Editors of the Standard Bearer, as well as Don and Judi Doezema for their work on behalf of the Standard Bearer.
The Finance Committee meets monthly to review the income and expenses of the RFPA. It is the Finance Committee’s job to identify any trends and react to them, whether that is fewer sales and subscriptions or increasing expenses. This year, a change in printing companies resulted in a savings of $10,000 in production costs. The Board again reminds our constituency that your financial support is vital to maintain the daily operations of the RFPA and to keep the cost of the material affordable to as many people as possible. If you as an individual or as a member of an evangelism committee know of someone who is interested in reading our publications, but can’t afford them, please make them aware of our fund set aside for this cause. Last year, over $850 of material was given free to people who desire to read our material, but could not afford purchasing it.
Association members and friends, A.W. Pink described the spiritual condition of his day as deplorable superficiality. Conditions have not improved since 1930. Indeed they have worsened. Not only do we as a publisher of Reformed works have to contend with this disinterest, we have to compete with the drivel that is published to cater to it. Instead of falling victim to this spiritual lethargy, we must continue to challenge our readers to live lives of discipleship and sacrifice, and provide them with books and materials that are sharp and uncompromising in their exposition of the truth, all the while exposing the lie as the work of the devil. The question we have to ask ourselves as we move forward is the same question that Mordecai posed to Esther when the decree had gone out to wipe out the Jewish people. “Have we been raised up for such a time as this?” In stark contrast to the question of Mordecai, however, in which he failed to name the name of God, we boldly confess the glorious sovereignty of God in the life of His church, and pray that He will keep the RFPA faithful in the proclamation and publication of the Reformed faith so that, as we have over the last 86 years, so too we might in the future continue to provide meat in due season.