Mr. Engelsma is a member of Grandville Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, MI and secretary of the RFPA. His report, appearing here belatedly on the pages of the SB, was read at the annual meeting held on September 22, 2011.
In, David writes, “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.” The Board of the Reformed Free Publishing Association issues the same call to our Association members and friends tonight; let us examine the work of the RFPA over the last year and together let us magnify the Lord and exalt the name of Him who has so greatly blessed the work of our hands.
This past year we were able to publish two books: Peace for the Troubled Heart, a compilation of devotionals written by Rev. Herman Hoeksema, and Justified unto Liberty, a commentary on Galatians by Professor Herman Hanko. The Board has been very encouraged by the positive response to both of these books. Regarding Justified unto Liberty, one reader wrote, “The new Galatians commentary is wonderful. I read several commentaries and I think this one is right up there with Luther’s Galatians!” Additionally, in light of the favorable response we received to Peace for the Troubled Heart, the Board approved the publication of the second volume in this Reformed Spirituality series. This, too, will be a compilation of devotionals by Rev. Hoeksema, and will again be edited by Professor David Engelsma. The Board is also looking forward to the release of our newest book, Covenant and Election in the Reformed Tradition. We are convinced that this book clearly explains the correct understanding of the relation of covenant and election and clears up the theological waters so often muddied during controversy over these fundamental doctrines.
In addition to new releases, there is the ongoing work of republishing books whose stock is depleted. Of particular significance was the decision of the Board to approve reprinting Voice of Our Fathers, H.C Hoeksema’s exposition of the Canons of Dordt. Given that this is a classic work of the RFPA, the decision was made to make significant improvements to the book, as opposed to simply republishing the book in its current form. Modifications to the book that were discussed include interior design and typesetting, addition of indexes, as well as additional data of the synod and its delegates. As with all reprints, this will be completed while maintaining the integrity of the book as the author’s own work.
The Board is thankful for the feedback that we receive on our books. Although much of it has been positive and encouraging, there were still those who were critical of the books we have published. This ought not to alarm the Board or the members of the Association (indeed, should such responses cease altogether, that would be cause for alarm). The purpose of the RFPA has never been to publish works that we feel will garner the most praise or admiration. To paraphrase the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, we do not publish books for an adoring public; we publish books that will last forever.
The demand for our books continues to grow. This is evidenced by our expanding Book Club, which now has 1,228 members. Although the truths of the Reformed faith are held in disdain by many, there are those who demand the meat of God’s Word, and we are humbled that God should continue to use the RFPA to provide it. We take this opportunity to thank our Book Club agents, who continue to educate people on the benefits of being a Book Club member. Should you have a question about the RFPA, the materials it publishes, or how the Book Club works, please feel free to contact your Book Club agent at church or the RFPA office directly.
The RFPA is resolute in its ongoing efforts to investigate and discover additional ways to promote, and even publish our books. One area of particular focus has been in the realm of eBooks. Consider this fact from an Amazon press release in May 2011. Amazon, which is an online retailer, began selling hardcover and paperback books in July 1995. In November 2007, Amazon introduced their ereader, the Kindle, and began selling Kindle books. Today, less than four years after introducing Kindle books, Amazon.com customers are now purchasing more Kindle books than all print books— hardcover and paperback—combined. Since April, for every 100 print books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 105 Kindle books. This includes sales of hardcover and paperback books by Amazon where there is no Kindle edition. In light of this development in the publishing world, a special committee was formed to investigate how the RFPA could delve into the world of eBooks. This work over the past year is quickly coming to fruition as we hope to publish an eBook in the near future. There will be much more information on this as that time approaches.
In addition to books published, we continue to receive requests to translate our work into other languages. This past year the Board received requests to translate our books into Portuguese, Afrikaans, French, and Spanish. One noteworthy request was to translate Come Ye Children into Korean. Each translation request is tracked and investigated further to see if other of our works may be of interest to the organization or individual who is doing the translating.
The other labor of the RFPA involved what has rightly been called our crown jewel, the Standard Bearer. The current number of subscribers stands at 2,269. We take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the editors, to Don and Judi Doezema, and to the writers for their work on behalf of the RFPA over this past year.
In the providence of God, the RFPA has received a sizable gift from a supporter who had included us as part of his estate. The RFPA connection with this individual reaches back prior to 1997 as a Standard Bearer subscriber and a Book Club member. Although we were entirely unaware of it at the time, the Lord had planted a seed that has grown and developed into a gift that will be used to promote and expand the work of the RFPA.
Recognizing the heavy responsibility that such a gift bears, the Board chairman appointed a special committee to create a plan of how best to use these funds to promote the advancement of the RFPA’s mission. The result of that committee’s work was an extensively developed Five-Year Plan. Specifically, this five-year strategic plan is organized under five main areas: Operations, Sales and Marketing, Facilities, Publishing, and Financial. Arranged under these five main headings, the plan identifies specific objectives for the RFPA to implement over the next five years, being exclusively funded by this large endowment. In light of this gift, the Board has been able to fund several projects that were before out of reach. Some of these undertakings include the hiring of a consultant to examine the way we market and promote our materials, and to provide us with a specific and actionable marketing plan that will allow us to track and follow our progress. In addition, we have been able to retain a consultant who can help us operationally. This individual has extensive experience in the book publishing field and will be able to help us work more efficiently as well as utilize more of the resources we have at hand. By the grace of God, the Reformed Free Publishing Association has many strengths. However, the Board also recognizes that we have weaknesses in certain areas and, rather than permit them to remain, we are certain that by working with consultants who have expertise in specific areas, we can turn even those weaknesses into strengths that will thereby enhance our effectiveness in the spreading of God’s Word.
Although the Board is grateful for the gift we have received and for the special projects it will allow us to fund, we are also very conscious that the RFPA has, from its very beginning, been supported by contributions that are not measured in the tens or hundreds of thousands, but in the tens and hundreds. There was evidence of this provision again in the past year. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our supporters for their generosity, which continues to enable us to fund our operations on a regular basis.
Our staff continues to perform their labors faithfully, allowing the RFPA to run smoothly on a daily basis. This gives us an occasion to express our gratitude to our business manager Tim Pipe, our book coordinator Evelyn Langerak, and our staff, Paula Kamps and Bethany Kingma, for the work that they do for the RFPA.
And so, 87 years after our founding, we close the books on another year and look forward with anticipation to the year to come. The future will undoubtedly hold many changes—to our operations, to our processes, and perhaps even to the way our books are published. In fact, viewing the work in which the RFPA is engaged, and seeing the opportunities that are presenting themselves in the providence of God, one becomes excited about the years ahead. In all of these things we beseech the Lord our God to continue to bless us abundantly, again testifying with David in, “And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.”