It has been quite a journey serving as editor of your state Baptist news service ministry since 2011.
There have been ups and downs, challenges and triumphs. We’ve tried lots of new strategies, as well as reintroduced old, trusted tactics.
Leading a state Baptist news service – especially one that has such an endearing place in my heart as the Arkansas Baptist Newsmagazine (ABN) – was never a goal of mine, but when called back to Arkansas in the fall of 2010, I accepted the opportunity and never looked back.
Like the editors before me, I have poured my heart and soul into this ministry and am proud of the work that has been done.
Have I done it perfectly? No. Have I sought to lead with integrity and conviction? Yes.
Whether you are a pastor, church leader, associational missionary, state convention executive director, college president, camp director, foundation president, leader of the state children’s home or the editor of the state news service – serving a group of Baptist saints is never easy.
We laugh at the phrase, “Put two Baptists in the room and you’ll get three opinions,” but there is a lot of truth in that joke.
I am proud of our denomination. I have known hundreds of Baptist leaders across our convention – in addition to those in Arkansas – and very few are about advancing their own interests. Nearly without exception, they are focused on advancing the cause of Jesus Christ and His Church in their role as Southern Baptist leaders.
That being said, I have tried to be a good editor using the gifts and abilities God has given me in my more than 30 years of journalism and denominational service. If you know me personally, I may not be the editor you want me to be, but I have attempted to be the editor that God desires of me.
Resources at a small state Baptist news service like the ABN have always been limited. But something special happened in 1925 that saved the ABN and many ministries like it. It was, of course, the birth of the Cooperative Program.
Through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists are able to pool funds to support ministries they feel are essential to furthering the cause of Jesus Christ that might not receive support otherwise.
The ABN, and other ministries like it, have received this vital and essential support all these years.
Without a doubt, the foresight and wisdom of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders to establish a coordinated giving plan for all churches have resulted in millions of lost souls around the world professing Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior since 1925, and its impact continues to resonate today.
In 2004, revivalist Henry Blackaby captured the sentiments of many when he expressed that the Cooperative Program was much more than just a great idea, saying, “The Cooperative Program is not something men designed, but something God put together.”
When a church gives a portion of its receipts through the Cooperative Program, its gospel reach expands exponentially across its community, state, nation and world.
M.E. Dodd, considered the father of the Cooperative Program, wrote a tract titled “Why I Like the Baptist Cooperative Program.”
Dodd listed seven “special advantages” of the unified giving plan that are still true today: 1) “It enables me to carry out my part of Christ’s program of service;” 2) “The Cooperative Program enables me to have a part in all that is being done;” 3) “The Cooperative Program enables me to have some part in the whole work of Christ each and every week of the year;” 4) “This Cooperative Program enables me to do all that needs to be done because it includes every sort of service to every sort of somebody that any sort of anybody may wish to render. (It is the only program in the world that is all-inclusive to every human need.);” 5) “This Cooperative Program enables me to carry out God’s financial program for His Kingdom;” 6) “This Baptist Cooperative Program fixes the support of Christ’s causes as a permanent principle in life and does not leave them to temporary emotional appeal,” and 7) “The Cooperative Program does not leave the causes of Christ to become the victims of temporary weather conditions, depressions in business or other hindered causes.”
The Cooperative Program has shaped for all eternity generations of Southern Baptists who have been called into service with the charge to carry the Good News of Jesus Christ to their communities, state and country and throughout the entire world. Pastors and other leaders attending Southern Baptist seminaries are assisted in receiving a theological education through the Cooperative Program.
While secular, for-profit newspapers have always been dependent on subscriptions and advertising revenue, Baptist newspapers have been dependent on a combination of paid subscriptions, Cooperative Program funding and advertising revenue.
This model has worked well for many Baptist newspapers – even as print readership has declined and digital readership has grown – but today it faces increased challenges from rising postage and printing costs.
Additionally, there’s a seismic shift underway as more people abandon printed books, magazines and newspapers, and increasingly embrace digital technology as a conveyer of information.
Today, the ABN continues to have a great reach in our state in both print and digital readership. However, digital readership – meaning those who access our newspaper through our Facebook page, other social media and at arkansasbaptist.org – has never been greater and rivals the number of our paid print subscribers.
The challenge moving forward is declining revenue of our print subscribers, and replacing that revenue which supplements the cost of printing and mailing the newspaper.
For many years the Cooperative Program has supplemented the cost of the print version of the ABN. However, in 2016 messengers to the annual meeting of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention voted to reduce funding to the ABN beginning in 2018 – approximately $21,000 less in 2018, $42,000 less this year and ultimately culminating in about $105,000 in total reduction in funding by 2022.
This means that in the year 2022 and following, the ABN’s budget will be approximately $105,000 less per year than it was in 2017. For a small entity like the ABN, this is a significant loss in funding, but it won’t mean the end of your independent Baptist newspaper, that is, unless Arkansas Baptists – readers like you – cease to support it.
What do I mean by support?
In addition to continuing to advocate an adequate level of funding of the ABN through the Cooperative Program, churches should subscribe to either the paid version of the print or digital edition, place advertisements in our print and digital editions, as well as online, and engage with our social media posts such as on Facebook, etc. This is all a part of the recipe to keep your state Baptist news service operating.
With mainstream channels of journalism under assault by progressives and liberals intent on remaking the fabric of our country into their image, it is important now more than ever for Southern Baptists to support truth and open communications that support our conviction that Jesus Christ is the only hope for fallen man.
Tim Yarbrough is editor/executive director of the Arkansas Baptist News.
© Copyright 2019 Arkansas Baptist Newsmagazine, Inc. Use of this in article in print or through electronic means a violation of copyright. Request permission to reprint here.