Some World readers-usually new to our family of subscribers-are startled to discover that this magazine is published by a not-for-profit organization. "Which are you?" they tend to say. "A business or a ministry?"
We are very much both-partly because of history, and partly because of the future we trust God will grant.
WORLD's history is rooted in a magazine started in 1942 to raise a voice against theological liberalism in mainline Presbyterianism. Our not-for-profit corporation was chartered over the signature of L. Nelson Bell, a medical missionary to China and the father of Mrs. Billy Graham. He served for more than 30 years, until 1973, as publisher of the Presbyterian Journal.
Nobody ever doubted the Journal's purpose. Week after week, it served notice that the Bible was trustworthy and that the church, even in modern times, didn't need to relativize the Bible's historic message-either in matters of theology or in its application to the rest of life. The Journal sought to rescue the church from the clutches of an increasingly liberal bureaucracy.
The cause was hardly calculated to be self-supporting. Decade after decade, the magazine was generously subsidized by readers who were eager to extend the magazine's influence with generous gifts. It was not uncommon in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s to open an envelope with a check for $1,000 from a lay person concerned with the direction of his or her church, saying, "Send the magazine to as many people as you can-and keep up the fight!"
For a variety of reasons too complex to detail here,* our task as publishers of the Journal ultimately evolved to a broader, less ecclesiastical mission. It wasn't just in the church that the truth of the Bible was being challenged, but in the culture at large. Our board of directors approved the launch of the God's World newspapers for children in 1981 (now going weekly to 300,000 children) and of WORLD magazine in 1986 (with a paid circulation now of just over 90,000). The Journal itself was discontinued in 1987-but not its vigorously biblical worldview.
With these changes also came a sense that the extensive subsidies would probably not continue. More and more, we thought, subscribers should cover the full cost of the publications. And in fact, the subsidies, which in 1977 had provided 40 percent of our corporate income, last year amounted to only 4 percent.
Does that mean we've been totally transformed from a ministry to a business? Yes, in the sense that we pledge not to fill your mail box with an unending series of appeals for donations. Your subscription renewal is intended to cover the basic cost of editing, producing, and mailing your magazine each week.
But WORLD, I hope, will never just be a business in the sense that our bottom line at year's end is the main thing. No individual is going to get rich because of WORLD. No stockholders are demanding that we drop certain kinds of news coverage in order to increase profits.
Instead, readers should always see world more as a cause than a business-even though you have our promise that we'll operate by sound business standards. Our cause is to help readers see the world and everything in it from a God-centered perspective. Cultures, societies, and nations get sick and die when they ignore their Maker. That is WORLD's message.
To that end, we will occasionally invite you-even after you've paid for your annual subscription-to help us reach some important beyond-the-budget goals. As you plan your charitable giving for the end of 1997, I encourage you to help make WORLD an ever more vigorous voice for Christian worldview thinking. Your tax-deductible gift will be used:
(1) To do "over-and-above" reporting on stories where our regular staff doesn't have the time or resources to concentrate.
(2) To help editor Marvin Olasky identify promising young journalists in both Christian and secular colleges and universities, and develop programs to train them for future service with WORLD and in the secular media.
(3) To provide subscription subsidies for students who can't otherwise afford to get WORLD every week.
(4) To do the same thing for prisoners-from whom we get regular requests.
(5) To do the same thing for public officials-like congressmen, judges, mayors, and others-who also are very often prisoners, without knowing it, of a liberal ideology. WORLD helps them see another important point of view.
You'll find an envelope addressed to me stuck in this issue of WORLD. Whether you use it for a $1,000 gift (like the ones that used to come), or one of $500, $100, $25 or even less, or for transmitting a gift of appreciated stock, or to ask for details about being a major player in WORLD's financial future-I will make it a point to thank you personally for your gift.Please note, with your gift, the specific way you'd like us to use it.
*For history buffs, a detailed history of the Presbyterian Journal, now being written by Arthur H. Matthews, is slated for publication in 1998.