by Jim Reapsome
Evangelical Missions Quarterly was conceived in an ice cream shop called the Eskimo Inn at Winona Lake, Indiana.
Evangelical Missions Quarterly was conceived in an ice cream shop called the Eskimo Inn at Winona Lake, Indiana. After the day’s evening session at the first joint meeting of the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association (EFMA) and the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association (IFMA) in October 1963, a small group of us sat around the table talking about what we would like to see as lasting outcomes of this historic gathering. Someone tossed out the idea that the two associations should join hands and produce a journal that would cross the lines between them and stand as a joint evangelical testimony to what we believed about world missions.
Long past our bedtimes, we rambled on and on about this publication. Eventually, like a match tossed into a pile of hay, the idea ignited a blaze that has burned for forty years. The flame was nurtured through a host of discussions until the first issue saw the light of day in October 1964.
Out of the Winona Lake conference came the Joint EFMA-IFMA Committee on Missions Quarterly. Meeting on December 4, 1963, at the Christian Literature Crusade in Fort Washington, Pa., it included Horace L. Fenton Jr., Kenneth Adams and Wade T. Coggins (substituting for Clyde W. Taylor) representing the EFMA, and Edwin L. Frizen Jr., Ralph B. Odman and myself representing the IFMA. Absent were L. L.King, Vernon Mortenson and Clyde W. Taylor.
At that meeting it was decided that the proposed quarterly would be supervised by a board of directors, four from EFMA and four from IFMA. Until the new board members were named, the present committee would fulfill that function. Discussions then moved on to adopt the following purpose of the journal:
The purpose of the journal will be to glorify God through the encouragement and inspiration of evangelical Christians who are dedicated in obedience to the command of Jesus Christ to the proclamation of the gospel of the Son of God to the whole world. It pledges loyalty to the Bible, the inspired Word of God, and to the truth it proclaims.
The committee then drew up an outline of six editorial components:
1. Reporting. The journal should inform of events and trends vital to the cause of missions, interpreting them in the light of the evangelical position.
2. Stimulating. The journal should stimulate evangelical leaders of missions and national churches to write, expressing their views on problems vital to the ongoing of the evangelical witness. It should stimulate and encourage the total missionary force in the application of effective strategy and methodology to their work.
3. Linking. The journal should be a channel of communication linking the missionary force and the church constituency in a better understanding of basic problems and victories.
4. Edifying. The journal should not overlook the possibility of having a devotional ministry to its readers.
5. Helping. There should be practical helps giving clear instructions on how to undertake certain projects—a workshop or how-to-do-it page.
6. Reviewing. The journal will have an important ministry in reviewing current books of importance in the field of missions. Giving excerpts or reviews of articles of importance will also be an important function of this section.
After organization and content came the matter of the journal’s intended readers. There was general agreement that primarily it would aim at the total missionary force at home and abroad, including mission executives, missionaries, national workers, missions professors, members of the board in mission organizations, missionary candidates and students. A second tier of readers would include pastors, missionary prayer band leaders, publishers and church members.
What should we name our new baby? Ideas flew thick and fast. When the dust settled we agreed on Evangelical Missions Quarterly, thereby also establishing its frequency of publication.
Because EFMA and IFMA were just cautiously starting to dance, questions of policy arose at the meeting. How would the journal keep its distinctively evangelical character? The following motion prevailed:
That the quarterly publish articles by evangelicals who are in accord with the doctrinal position of the sponsoring associations. Authors not in accord, or who are identified with the Ecumenical Movement, will be used only with a qualifying statement.
Who, in effect, would own the quarterly? Should it be incorporated, or should it be given to a publishing company? This matter and the matter of staff were turned over to a subcommittee. Issues of format, cost and production were assigned to another subcommittee.
Quick work was demanded, because the next meeting was set for February 11, 1964. That meeting actually took place on February 25. All board members attended except Vernon Mortenson. All of the issues assigned from the December meeting were settled, which determined the ultimate shape of things to come:
1. A new nonprofit corporation would be established to publish the quarterly.
2. Circulation and administrative duties would be outsourced. (That word had not yet been coined in 1964.)
3. I would be managing editor. I would meet four times a year with an editorial committee of Ralph Odman, Jack Shepherd, Philip Armstrong, Horace Fenton Jr., Edwin L. Frizen Jr. and Clyde W. Taylor.
4. The first issue would be sixty-four pages, 6×9 inches, with perfect binding.
5. Subscriptions would cost $3 per year, with a bulk rate of $2. Members of EFMA and IFMA would be asked for subscriptions.
By the end of 1964, two major goals had been accomplished: Evangelical Missions Quarterly had been born and a new corporation had been established to publish it: Evangelical Missions Information Service (EMIS). Total paid subscriptions had surpassed the original goal and reached 2,747. From that time on, EMIS functioned with its board of directors and EMQ functioned with its editorial committee.
At the beginning, of course, EMQ was EMIS, but later EMIS enlarged the scope of its services and had its own executive director and office. From 1982 until 1997 I filled both the editor’s and director’s roles.
Looking back, one can only admire the wisdom of the founders of EMQ. They succeeded not only in bringing the quarterly to birth; they also built significant bridges of trust, partnership and cooperation between EFMA and IFMA. The late night rendezvous at the Eskimo Inn turned out, under God’s care and direction, to be a pivotal point in the history of US mission agency growth and development.
Both the editorial committee and the board became strong inter-mission partners. Because they served a common cause, at their meetings they relinquished personal and organizational distinctives.
EMQ forced them to look beyond parochial issues to the issues and challenges that confronted all evangelical missionaries, regardless of doctrinal and denominational colors. In today’s environment it is hard to appreciate what it was like forty years ago when denominational and independent mission boards rarely talked. The IFMA boards had staked out their turf in the 1920s and ‘30s because of doctrinal aberrations and loss of missionary theology in some of the country’s major denominations. Then after World War II EFMA set out to serve denominations that had affiliated with the new National Association of Evangelicals. Among its members were some whose doctrines were incompatible with some IFMA members.
But God in his mercy and wisdom brought some new leaders to the fore in the 1950s and ‘60s, so the time was more propitious for the launching of a cooperative joint publication. Although there was a certain nervousness on both sides in 1964, this was gradually overcome simply because nothing damaging to either side was ever published in EMQ.
Just to be sure, however, the editorial committee representing the two sponsoring associations reviewed, thoroughly debated, and finally voted to accept or reject every article under consideration for publication. Four times a year these discussions took place, usually in New York City at the headquarters of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Different opinions often surfaced. These meetings greatly enlarged not only our world missions perspectives, but also our appreciation for one another. We never left with hard feelings. Of course, our main responsibility was to keep to the founding principles and guidelines.
We had no difficulty coming up with ideas for articles, but we often fell short in finding someone to write about them. Assigning subjects to selected authors became less and less important to us. We soon learned that people on the field wanted to write, too. We never lacked for manuscripts. We wanted EMQ to reflect the priorities, needs and interests of working professional missionaries. We soon fell on the slogan that ours was a journal for professionals, not just for missiologists, but for those who were investing their lives in missionary work.
Once our corporate and editorial goals had been set in 1964, we had to make necessary administrative adjustments along the way to take care of both circulation and editorial needs. As it turned out, we began by asking Jack and Grace Frizen of IFMA to handle circulation and bookkeeping in their New Jersey office. I did the editorial work out of my home in Springfield, Pa., and over the years carried it with me to Canton, Ohio, East Petersburg, Pa., and Wheaton, Ill. As EMIS grew, circulation and bookkeeping passed on to its office in Wheaton under the direction of Vergil Gerber.
The story of EMQ, or any magazine for that matter, is the story of both editorial and business matters. Magazines cost money. Income comes from subscriptions, advertising, and, in some cases, gifts.
For EMQ, the difficulties were obvious: How does a publisher get the magazine into the hands of its intended audience and persuade enough readers to pay for it? We knew our intended audience but we had little or no direct access to it. They were scattered all over the world. Delivering EMQ to them has always been a headache. Some missionaries were afraid to get it for security reasons.
We removed Evangelical Missions Quarterly from the mailing envelope and simply printed EMQ instead. That did not satisfy everyone, especially those in places where postal workers routinely inspected mail from the US.
Consequently, we depended on mission agencies for the bulk of our subscriptions. Some of them subscribed for all their missionaries and charged it to their work funds. Others asked their people if they wanted subscriptions. Some agencies gave out sample copies at candidate schools and encouraged people to subscribe. Some churches subscribed for all their missionaries. Missions professors pushed EMQ in their classes. The staff of EMQ gave out thousands of free copies at Urbana student missionary conventions, denominational gatherings and the annual NAE conventions. I gave reports and appeals at the annual meetings of EFMA and IFMA.
Of course, things change over four decades. New leaders of mission agencies are in place. Some of them do not believe it is worth the cost to send EMQ to their missionaries. Short-term mission work has exploded. The number of professionals has plateaued. Other publications have been born. Massive amounts of information are available via e-mail and the internet.
On the editorial side, after about fifteen years of reviewing articles prior to publication, the editorial committee decided to review each issue with the editor after publication. The committee thus spent the bulk of its time discussing current issues in world missions and how EMQ should cover them. These sessions offered the most stirring discussions, as well as times for prayer and fellowship.
Eventually the committee decided to meet twice a year. With the use of critical editorial evaluation sheets, I discovered that on some articles we had wide differences of opinion. That’s true of any article, of course. One person’s bell ringer is another person’s dud. That’s what makes publishing such a fascinating vocation.
On the whole, however, our reader surveys showed that missionaries widely appreciated what we were trying to do in EMQ. Some of our articles may not have achieved academic excellence, but we believed that if a missionary felt strongly about something we should try to work the piece into readable shape.
The first issue of EMQ anticipated some movements that now take center stage: the employment in the missionary force of early retirees (now called finishers) and non-professional missionaries (now called tentmakers).
Perhaps the most difficult part of the editorial task was to achieve fairness, accuracy and balance. We did not want EMQ to ride any hobbies. However, new ideas and movements come and go and you have to say something about them. Among the new trends that took considerable EMQ space were church growth and its related subjects: hidden, or frontier, or unreached people groups; the homogeneous unit principle, and whatever Donald McGavran thought was important.
Then came the movement to bring closure to the Great Commission by the year 2000 and the 10/40 Window. Along the way we gave a lot of space to theological education by extension, language acquisition, cross-cultural adjustments, and education for missionary children. After the Ayatolla Khomeini took over Iran in 1979, and sixty-two Americans were taken hostage, Muslim evangelism took center stage. I would guess that over forty years we have received and published more articles on this subject than on anything else.
Looking back at the original six-point editorial outline, one can see that EMQ has been stronger in some areas than in others. For example, we tried some devotional articles, but it became clear that our readers did not want them in EMQ because they got their devotions from other magazines.
For some years we tried to cover important world and missions developments, but again because of our time lag and the availability of such information from other sources, we felt we had to drop this department. Our how-to-do-it section has matured over the years and has been well received. With the advent of high tech and the internet, EMQ now does an excellent job of keeping readers up to date about the wealth of available information.
Book reviews offer a much-appreciated service. For some years we also covered magazine articles. To cover our tracks, we decided in 1964 to publish disclaimers with any articles written by people not in our crowd. However, I don’t recall that this was ever necessary.
On the business side, it has been most gratifying to follow the steady growth of advertising revenue. This has been accomplished with some patient staff work, but without full-time advertising sales people. This growth testifies to EMQ’s reputation for integrity and service to readers.
What shall we say about EMQ’s format and graphics? Obviously, the journal looks much different today than it did forty years ago. EMQ started without a graphics department. We worked out a plain, serviceable format with our printer. On the cover: our name in a box. Colored stock for the cover; no color anywhere else.
After about ten years an artist came up with a new cover logo. Inside, we varied from one-column to two-column formats. No photos, no color, no inside graphics for years. When a graphic designer joined the staff of EMIS, and when we were able to afford a computer, things changed dramatically and gradually evolved to what you see today.
Of course, with graphics as with articles, opinions vary. The editor’s task is to find something that will be both contemporary and readable. Every magazine evolves. The job is to make the evolution happen in such a way that readers are not jarred out of their seats.
We have also debated the 6×9 format. In the end, overseas readers persuaded us to stay with it, because, as one said, “I can stuff it into my hip pocket.”
I retired in 1997 with a strong sense that our 1964 dream had been fulfilled. The board, the editorial committee and the staff have kept the faith of our founders, who said in the first issue:
Our urgent need for this hour is not only to profess a faith in missions, but to be possessed by a missionary faith that is derived from obedience to the Word of God and motivated by the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
EMQ has brought disparate groups together; it has served field missionaries as well as home-side people; it has stayed true to its original vision and commitments. God took a small idea, a strong band of committed pioneers, and very few dollars to accomplish something lasting and valuable in the world mission of the church.
Jim Reapsome served as editor of Evangelical Missions Quarterly from its founding in 1964 until his retirement in 1997. He was executive director of Evangelical Missions Information Service, Wheaton, IL, and editor of World Pulse, 1982-97.
EMQ, Vol. 40, No. 4, pp. 420-428. Copyright © 2004 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.