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A Christian worldview is too big a thing for small containers

Issue: "Face Off," Aug. 9, 1997

August, already. August at WORLD gets especially busy. Late summer always brings the challenge of gearing up to go back to our weekly schedule. But that transition this August is an unusually bold one. For as we leave behind this year's lazy biweekly summer publishing schedule, our plan is to leave it behind for good. WORLD is going weekly, with plans to publish 50 full issues every year.

Some of those 50 issues will also be bigger. The 32 pages we've produced in each issue for the last several years will expand from time to time to include 40 pages, reflecting an overflow we've discovered in good editorial material-and our desire to extend better reporting and analysis of subject areas we've barely touched until now.

These are significant advances. They reflect a visionary commitment made last winter by WORLD's Board of Directors to press ahead vigorously, moving this magazine to a dominant position first in the world of Christian journalism, and then, by God's grace, in the larger context of all that helps shape American society.

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WORLD has enjoyed unusual growth over the last couple of years; paid circulation has jumped from 40,000 at the beginning of 1996 to 87,000 this week. With such growth comes the awareness that a high proportion of our readers have little acquaintance with WORLD's origins, and perhaps little sense too of where the magazine hopes and intends to go. So we take time out in this column once or twice a year to provide a bit of that perspective.

WORLD was born in 1986 out of a sense that while much of the work of God's kingdom was being well journalized, huge gaps existed in the effort to help Christians think biblically about all the rest of life. The work of the churches and denominations, the work of missions, the work of Christian education-all these were being regularly (if not always rigorously) chronicled in "Christian" publications. But no one was picking up each week's political news, international happenings, media developments, advances in science, changes in the welfare system, matters of health and medicine-no one was regularly (and rigorously) reflecting on all these aspects of life from a pointedly and conservatively biblical point of view.

So WORLD published its first issue in March 1986, dedicated to that task. For the next five years, the goal was survival. Could we publish one more edition? Could we pay one more week's postage bills? Could we meet salaries one more time? Yet, during a period when 80-90 percent of all periodicals flunk the test of durability, God let WORLD survive. After the first five years, we still had fewer than 20,000 subscribers-and were hemorrhaging red ink faster than we wanted anybody to know. Over WORLD's first 10 years, in fact, we spent about $2 million more than we took in as revenues for the magazine. Still, all along the way, God provided means to sustain those losses without going deep into debt-chiefly in the form of gifts from interested friends, totaling about $200,000 annually. For the record, it's worth noting that no single person or organization during all those years gave more than $200,000, a fact that allowed WORLD to keep its independence and sense of journalistic mission.

By 1991, although by no means financially out of the woods, WORLD gained a sense that survival was possible. The issue now, we discovered, was significance. Could we produce a magazine that deserved to survive? And that's when God brought Marvin Olasky more purposefully across our path. Late in 1992, he accepted my call to take up WORLD's editorial direction-the quality of which has regularly prompted readers to say, "Yes, WORLD can be significant; it deserves to survive."

Neither our future survival nor our future significance is guaranteed, of course. Both will always be determined by a sovereign God who raises folks up to do specific tasks and puts them down again when he pleases. Yet while he seems pleased to use WORLD's weekly message of news and analysis from a biblical perspective, we intend to work especially hard to extend the scope of what we are doing.

That's why we're going from 40 issues a year to 50; from a standard of 32 pages in each issue to an occasional issue with 40 pages; and why even though 87,000 subscribers is ahead of where we thought we'd be right now, we'll be pressing hard to reach 100,000 in the next few months.

This thing we call a Christian worldview-a biblical perspective on all of life, or what Marvin Olasky calls "a God's eye view of things"-is too big to be put in small containers. Without being presumptuous about the future, we want to keep walking through every open door God puts in front of us. And naturally, I hope you'll stick with us on the journey.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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