A ministry is worth more than the paper it is printed on.
After nearly half a century of publishing newsletters and newspapers “on paper” The Layman is going to an all-digital format. For those of us who grew up in “two paper households” it is all too easy to view the quieting of the printing press in a maudlin manner, focusing on “the end of an era” aspect of this development, alone.
My family subscribed to both the morning and afternoon newspapers, and it was simply considered good citizenship to follow all the news available by reading what was offered by both papers.They balanced each other nicely, taking a slightly different editorial view of the news and politics of the day, and therefore reading both was a good way to be well rounded.
I was sad when the Cleveland Press ceased afternoon delivery, shutting down its presses, and leaving only one source of daily news in our city. And it was only recently that the other newspaper in our town, the Plain Dealer, began the inevitable march toward Memory Lane, eliminating daily home delivery, reducing to three days a week, while publishing and delivering daily “online.” This phenomenon is being seen all over the country, and is occurring for the very simple reason that people are obtaining their news in a different way than they did for the past several generations.
While broadcast TV took a big bite out of the newspaper business, and cable news TV an even bigger bite, the internet, smart-phones and tablets transformed it completely. The business of newspaper printing is no longer as economically viable because people obtain news quicker and cheaper “online.”
Now here is where it is important to understand several differences between newspapers and ministries in order to set aside a sense of loss for The Layman’s change in services-delivery. First, we need to recognize that people are not consuming less news – they are simply obtaining it in a different mode. For a newspaper “in the business of printing newspapers” that is bad news. You can’t sell someone something they no longer need.
For a ministry, the viability of the product remains. The “product” of the PLC is not the paper, but the content. People still need ministry, at every level. Presbyterians who care about their denominations need balanced and credible news content and commentary. There is still a need to be aware of denominational developments, particularly as we see Presbyterianism finding its expression in multiple denominations. Therefore, keeping abreast of what your denomination is doing, both good and bad, is as relevant as ever.
The PLC has never been “in the business” of printing papers.We have never charged for delivery of The Layman. We have never sold advertising or subscriptions. We have always been about providing a voice for traditional Reformed Presbyterianism for free, and relying upon the benevolence of those whom stand with us in that ministry endeavor.
The Layman Online has received tremendous internet traffic, showing that Presbyterians gather news in a manner similar to the rest of society. We have Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Our stories provide an interactive “comments section” which allows people to participate in the development of commentary. This is all part of the new way of transmitting denominational news which never sees “hard-copy.”
We are in the midst of a new reformation: A denominational re-forming of Presbyterianism. We have seen the rise the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and the birth of ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. This is exciting and newsworthy. We see alignment and re-alignment along the lines of Scriptural and theological viewpoints, with trans-denominational cooperation in ministry and mission occurring more along theological lines than polity lines. This is exciting and newsworthy. We are witnessing a cultural shift away from the influence of the church. This is concerning and newsworthy.
There is no less need for news or news services in the faith-based community.
As for the PLC and The Layman – the worth of the ministry is not in the printed word, or even in the electronic word, but rather in the value of encouraging other Christians to stand firm in the faith, holding fast to the essential tenets of our faith, upholding traditional Reformed principles of Christianity – God’s truth. Our ministry is in contending for the faith, calling out error where we see it, encouraging fidelity to the Word, and equipping our brothers and sisters in Christ to live and proclaim the faith in accordance with God’s Word. We are all in this ministry together, and we pray that you join us on-line, in the electronic public square, in this ever changing culture and ever-changing time.
May you stand firm on the truth that never changes – God’s Word.
Forrest A. Norman III is an elder at Hudson Presbyterian Church (EPC) in Hudson, Ohio. He is chairman of the Board of Directors and chief executive officer of the Presbyterian Lay Committee.