It was something that you used to eagerly look forward to, the day when the latest editions of Evangelicals Now and Christianity Magazine were available in your local Christian bookshop. Nowadays I get my copy through the post and in fact can read most of the content online, often before my print copy arrives. But even allowing for that, there is less anticipation for the latest copy to arrive.
Why? Well that can be summed up in one phrase “The Internet.” Your Christian magazine was your way of hearing the thoughts of prominent teachers and keeping up to date with book releases not to mention the particular controversy of the time. Now, by the time that the latest issue is out, you will have known quite a bit about the topic of the day via Facebook and Twitter. At least there’s the comment sections though? Well perhaps, except there’s a problem there. I can read the same authors on their blogs. In fact most of them will provide an unedited version of their article on their blog within few days of it being published.
This means that we are left asking what these journals bring to the table and so I suspect that without significant change, quite a few of these publications will be out of circulation within a few years’ time. They are going to need to adapt if they are going to survive. And whether it’s simply a bit of nostalgia, I personally would like to see Christianity, EN and The Evangelical Times survive. So, what will adapting look like.
First of all, I think they will need to recognise as many secular journals and papers have that the majority of their readership is now online and this is where the bulk of engagement will come from. So, those that survive will think of themselves less as a print magazine with a website and more as a website with a print edition. This mindset will help them to adapt to the 24 hour news cycle that we now live in. They will be able to focus on quickly sharing up to date news about churches, missions, conferences, teaching, false teaching, outreach, persecution etc to keep believers informed and praying. Some magazines are moving this way and running blogs.
Alongside that, secondly, they can include audio/visual content through live streams and podcasts. Lots of people prefer to listen than to read as they can download a talk or interview to their I-pod and listen on the go, driving to and from walk or going for a run.
Thirdly, I would leave the bloggers to get on with sharing punchy, though provoking bite size thoughts on the issues of the day. They might want to highlight and showcase some bloggers to help people find their blogs but let them get on with it and certainly don’t reproduce material which will be available on their blog anyway. Instead, they could use the space on their sites to go deeper, to provide in depth analysis from a Biblical perspective on the issues of the day. At the same time, they could help to share teaching and training. So, I’d look at including longer essays dealing in depth with a specific matter of theology or missiology but in an accessible, readable format.
I think that such an offering would be helpful to the local church and to individual Christians and would be suitably attractive and engaging to enable these publications not just to survive but to thrive well into the future.