ECPA's Stan Jantz Addresses Christian Publishing Marketplace Issues

Stan Jantz, new executive director of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, says a charismatic renewal is taking place within the industry.
Stan Jantz, new executive director of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, says a charismatic renewal is taking place within the industry. (Facebook)

Publishing executive and former Christian retailer Stan Jantz recently was promoted to lead the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), a group of 68 publishers. With a commitment to Christian publishing and retailing as well as to the church and Christian higher education, Jantz talked with Ministry Today, addressing topics from mentoring upcoming generations to the importance of collaboration in presenting a powerful witness to the world.

Johnson: How have Bible study tools changed through the years? For instance, do you think it's good that study books are often tied to those some have called "celebrity" Bible teachers?

Jantz: My wife is a teaching director for Community Bible Study. They have their own proprietary material, but during the summer, she'll participate in Bible studies, and invariably they'll use a DVD set from either Beth Moore or Priscilla Shirer. Those ministries have been built around Bible teaching, which I think is really critical. ...

(Moore and Shirer are) celebrities for a reason; they're really good at what they do, and they are compelling communicators, so we sometimes put that label on them. I don't know either woman personally, but I would guess they would be embarrassed by that term, but we know what we mean. It just means they have a greater platform, and I'm sure they're aware that to whom much is given, much is expected. You've got more responsibility when you're at that level, but they seem to be handling it very well.

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Johnson: Speaking of Bible teachers, Joyce Meyer has written more than 100 books, Bill Johnson is attracting a strong following, and Jonathan Cahn reaches a wide range of believers. How is the charismatic and Pentecostal book market doing overall?

Jantz: We could add Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes and many of the FaithWords products that Rolf (Zettersten) and his team do such a great job with, but also not overlook some of the specific companies like Harrison House, Destiny Image and Charisma Media.

I was the publishing director of Regal Books. Regal was founded by Bill Greig out of Gospel Light, which was (founded in 1933 by) Henrietta Mears. They were known for Bible-based curriculum, but the Greig family had a huge, huge interest—and it showed through the publishing—in charismatic books and ministries. At Regal, we had wonderful relationships with many writers who came out of what I would call the Third Wave of the charismatic movement. I think it would be represented very well by what comes out of Bethel (Redding, California). I don't think we did Bill Johnson, but we did Kris Vallotton and Banning Liebscher, who started the Jesus Culture movement. ... We had this wonderful, wonderful book called The Blessed Life by Robert Morris of Gateway Church.

We're seeing this kind of charismatic renewal that is again taking place, this beautiful blending of what Jesus said to the woman at the well. He said, "Those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and truth." You have this beautiful balance and blend between the truth of God's Word but also the work of the Holy Spirit, and too often, we've kept those in different places. I grew up in a tradition that was probably "Father, Son, Holy Bible." We didn't talk a lot about the Holy Spirit. There are others who grew up in a tradition that was much more directed toward the Holy Spirit, and maybe the Bible teaching wasn't as robust as it could've been. But now you're seeing churches such as Gateway, and pioneers such as Jack Hayford have done so much.

We published Jack Hayford at Regal, and I got to know him pretty well. Love that man, and what a bridge-builder he is. In fact, I was just reminiscing with our staff that there was a time in Los Angeles when Jack Hayford, Lloyd Ogilvie from First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood and Kenneth Ulmer, a black pastor from Faithful Central—they formed a prayer coalition, and the three of them led this. Whether they were bringing Billy Graham to town or dealing with some crisis in the city or just praying for the city, for years they would meet, and what a wonderful coming together of different traditions both doctrinally and certainly ethnically. What I'm seeing in today's charismatic church movement is that.

Of course, globally, there's just no question: You ignore the charismatic and Pentecostal movement at your peril. If you want to see what God is doing, take a look around the world. There are more Foursquare churches internationally than there are in the U.S. So what Jack Hayford represents he's passed on to Robert Morris. King's moved to the old campus of Gateway Church in Dallas, and now Robert, who is mentored by Jack, is on the board of The King's University, just embracing that. Robert has a Baptist background. He wasn't raised in the charismatic church. He went to Moody. His preaching is just as practical. You walk in their church, and Kari Jobe is leading worship, and you think, "Man, this is heaven!" It's just a wonderful experience but also grounded in solid biblical teaching.

I even see publishers who might have tended to stay away from maybe too much on the Holy Spirit are really embracing that. Here's my bottom line. At Regal, we published A.W. Tozer. He died in the 1960s, but pastors had access and the rights to all the sermons Tozer preached in his life—and he preached a lot of them—so from those transcripts, we were able to create some never-before-published material, wonderful books. One of his big themes is one of the things that is lacking for many Christians—that they really aren't experiencing the presence of God—but that's a longing we all have. Well, the presence of God in our lives is the Holy Spirit.

Johnson: What significant changes are we seeing now in Christian publishing?

Jantz: In our industry as publishers—and you could say the same thing for retailers but also in ministry leadership—(there is a) transformation that we're talking about in technology and opportunity to get the word out in creative and accessible ways.

We're seeing also a generational shift, so the boomers are now kind of still running things, at least in publishing, but the Gen Xers are coming up, and you're seeing a shift that's now going to them in terms of the next C-level leadership. And this is not just true of Christian publishing, it's true across the board.

We need to be preparing the next generation, this millennial or young adult generation that's coming up. They are eager to have an impact. They have big ambitions to change the world, to create something new, so to tap into that, give them the resources for training and mentoring both on a professional level as well as personal. I think that's something we need to really focus on.

At ECPA, when we look at Publishing University (PubU), which we hold on the Wheaton (College) campus, ... next year we're going to invite students to come and to be exposed to what's being taught and to be exposed to the industry, to plant those seeds early so someone is thinking of a career. ... We're looking for excellence. You reward excellence through scholarships or internships. I think it's just wide open, and there's such a resource there of young, eager people who want to make a difference and who have the creative and technical skills that sometimes the older generation didn't have starting out or certainly don't have to that degree.

The same thing is true of ministries, to really bring that generation along and be intentional about that. There's great fulfillment when people engage in that kind of work because you see that, OK, legacy is not about me. It's about what I can leave for the next generation, whether it's in my company, my family, in my church or ministry that will not only just carry on but make it better.

Johnson: In ECPA's most recent C-Suite Symposium, you had several speakers of interest to ministry leaders, including Barna Group's David Kinnaman, who wrote the book You Lost Me. What did he have to say about the relationship of the millennial generation and the church?

Jantz: His message was pretty positive in the sense that the church is still the hope for discipleship for millennials. If they're given an opportunity and a space to wrestle with some of these issues, they will come back, so it's not that they've left. He uses the term "exiles" rather than "leavers." Obviously he reflects (on) the "nones" and all that, where they talk about religious affiliation. That seems to be a growing category. But exiles are just strangers in a strange land. They don't feel at home. It may not be the church that's the issue; it could be the world. It could be a number of things, but the main thrust of his message was as the church then reaches out with material and a place to wrestle with these questions millennials have, they will come back.

Part of that characteristic is authenticity, being honest about the struggles we face, whether we're in leadership or just teaching a Sunday school class for kids (as) a layman. ... (Kinnaman) was very hopeful, but his message was really geared toward supporting the church as publishers, working with churches that can produce messages and resources that millennials will be attracted to, and of course, the church is the space that they can come into community.

An exile who's out there by himself or herself—it's a frustrating and lonely experience—but when they can gather in community with others, whether it's in a discipleship class or just where they're able to deal with their questions, to see mentoring and modeling by others around them, that's really what's going to bring them back to the church, if you will. Of course, (there's) the old belief that, "Well, it's OK if they leave because once they have kids and they settle in their careers, they'll come back." That doesn't always happen. But we do not need to adapt to them as much as we need to be authentic and truthful about the topics that the church stands for.

God invites our questions, and I think it's not just a doctrine that's on paper that you learn as you would learn any kind of topic, but rather it's a living reality, a living Christ in you through the Holy Spirit. And I think that, more and more, what we're going to see is that when people are confronted with that kind of reality, it's going to be so compelling they're not going to be able to resist it.  

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