Christian Retailing

Guest Editor In Conversation: Geoff Dennis Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Friday, 01 June 2012 03:27 PM America/New_York

GEOFF DENNIS is at COO and executive vice president at Crossway. Guest Editor George Thomsen, CBA chairman of the board, continues his "In Conversation" interview from the July 2012 issue of Christian Retailing with him here.

How does Crossway decide what to publish?

What we publish comes directly out of our mission statement, as we seek to publish those projects that would build and equip the body of Christ. Each potential project is reviewed by our publishing committee, and we have a formal evaluation process, including ministry impact, distribution potential, writing quality, value of content to the church, return on investment and so forth.

Is there a temptation to publish to the best-sellers list?

This is one of the blessings of working for a not-for-profit publishing company—the best-sellers list is not a primary goal, but rather the goal is to publish content that would build and equip the church. Our objective is to effectively disseminate the content that God has entrusted to us, thereby extending the ministry reach of each of our authors. If a book does hit the best-seller list or is recognized by the publishing industry, we are grateful, but this is not what drives our publishing ministry.

The English Standard Version (ESV) has been out for more than 10 years now. Why did Crossway feel that another translation was needed?

A number of pastors had come to my father, Lane Dennis (CEO of Crossway), for many years asking Crossway to publish a more literal translation, a translation they would not need to correct as they faithfully preached God’s Word. So we sought to create such a translation, which is based on a wonderfully rich, historic translation history, going back through the King James Version [KJV] and all the way back to William Tyndale. Almost every recent translation that has been published is based on a thought-for-thought, or dynamic equivalence, translation philosophy. There seemed to be a real need for a more literal, formal equivalence translation, and our hope was that the ESV might become an important part of the ministry of the church today.

By God’s grace, we sought to create a translation that retained the beauty of language of the KJV, retained a high degree of accuracy that reflected the best in contemporary scholarship and had an accessible reading level. While God has used, and will continue to use, the diversity of Bible translations in the church, we believe that the ESV has an important place in the ministry of the English-speaking church around the world.

How do you balance your desire for wide distribution while supporting Christian retail?

While Christian retail is a very important channel to us, we also realize that we need to grow and adapt to the changing distribution environment in order to effectively extend the reach of the content the author has created and God has provided. In order to be faithful with the content God has provided to us, we need to distribute our content through the breadth of the distribution channels, in a moral and ethical manner, that is fair to each of our distribution partners, particularly to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We acknowledge that this is a challenge, but it is one for which we trust that God is, and will, continue to provide wisdom and direction. If publishers and retailers alike don’t change and adapt to the context in which God has placed us, in a biblical manner, then we will not be in this ministry for long, while acknowledging that all that we do is under God’s good and sovereign hand.

What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in our industry?

The biggest changes I have seen in the industry have come from one primary source—advances in digital technology. In many ways, we find ourselves at a watershed moment for the church, not unlike the watershed moment that took place when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press around 1450, which many consider the most important event of the modern period of history. Just as the invention of the printing press forever changed the future direction of the society (and the church!), so too advances in digital technology have the ability to impact our cultural context—for better or for worse.

On the one hand, digital technology provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to impact the world with the gospel message of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, it provides each of us with unprecedented access to content that is morally egregious, completely against the principles outlined in God’s Word. Digital technology is morally neutral—how we use it, for good or for evil, is up to us.

What is the biggest thing you see that our industry needs today?

Faithfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ, perseverance in the gospel and wisdom to make decisions that would bring honor and glory to our Father in heaven. Everything flows from our love for Jesus Christ—He is the biggest thing that (I need!) our industry needs today!

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:15-20, ESV).