Kindness, diversity, and succession were major themes at the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s annual Leadership Summit, themed Future Leaders for Future Readers, in May at Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Barry Corey, Biola University president and author of Love Kindness (Tyndale House), and Jim Daly, Focus on the Family CEO, transfigured Christianity’s hallmarks of kindness, love, and openness into political and social-justice action plans. The leaders stressed engagement and connection over rigid intolerance as they addressed major issues that have wrongly characterized what the faith and Jesus are really about.
Corey stressed that Christians—and Christian publishers creating content—must not relinquish basic faith tenants but should have a “firm center” of belief with “soft edges” to be able to communicate and persuade through love. He uses Micah 6:8 as a guide to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”
Daly said Christians must reach out to adversaries under an overarching premise of connecting at a heart level.
He said shouting “Hosanna” as if you’re going into battle won’t change people’s minds.
Both men described political and media encounters they experienced with aggressive homosexual-rights advocates who continually challenged and legislatively threatened both organizations. It was person-to-person conversations and relationship building that drove change and reduced threats to religious liberties that could have destroyed Christian colleges and universities in California and forced Focus to accept anti-Christian constraints.
In one encounter with homosexual-rights activists, Daly told of their surprise when he said he doesn’t pray for them to be straight but prays they find Jesus.
Ensuring racial diversity spanned several conversations, with insights on the power of multicultural thought to help businesses improve ideas and better connect with customers. Skot Welch, president of Global Bridgebuilders, a consulting firm that helps companies develop corporate diversity programs, challenged attendees to influence culture by controlling language. He pointed out an example of how people might refer to the black church or the white church, yet everyone is part of the church.
Millennials was another theme as publishers discussed through panels and presentations the need to connect with the younger generation on new terms and different cultural realities. Publishers were encouraged to find ways to connect content to millennials’ life experiences that have driven their needs for authentic communications and content that speaks to their needs, wants, and aspirations.
A brief conversation between Stan Jantz, ECPA executive director, and Curtis Riskey, CBA president, discussed the future of Christian stores. Riskey made an appeal to publishers to act on their belief that outlets are critical to help not only the mission of distributing Christian content but also support the business of publishing and distribution. He said many stores have lost hope in the digital and e-commerce transitions even though there is great growth potential. He also encouraged greater cooperation to ensure a strong Christian-store network.
Jantz pointed out a retailer initiative among a group of general-market independents who together funded author tours into a region. The stores paid for travel and lodging and the authors toured the participating stores to help build traffic and sales.
Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, offered insights into the new generation of Christian-college students. Her session began with a presentation from winners of Biola University’s annual Startup Competition hosted by the university’s Crowell School of Business. The competition encourages Christian entrepreneurs to use the engine of capitalism for good and to impact the world for Christ.
Jantz coached the winning team of Jordan Perkins and John Terranova, whose company, Illuminate International, is a “social enterprise publishing children’s books by global storytellers to fund an education empowerment model in under-resourced schools around the world.”
The team, which also included Karina Bodemeijer, who could not attend, won the first-place prize of $15,000 plus a $10,000 legal package from Brown & Streza LLP. Their goal is to create self-sustaining children’s book distribution that brings literacy and education to emerging nations with few educational resources.