Like Edward Norman and Jesus, I have a dream and I’m moving toward it.
His pastor moved by the death of homeless man, challenged his congregation to take the pledge to live for a year asking the question: What would Jesus do? Edward took the pledge seriously.
His first critical decision was not to run the account of a brutal professional fight. He lost subscriptions. He lost advertisers. His managing editor stormed into his office furious.
Norman told him his decision but his employee wasn’t buying it. “Do you mean that we can’t run the paper strictly on Christian principles and make it pay?” Edward asked the managing editor.
The employee answered, “Yes, that’s just what I mean. It can’t be done. We’ll go bankrupt in 30 days.”
The paper did indeed head in that direction as Edward decided to stop running questionable advertising and to begin running stories of Christian work, social justice and transformational change agents. In other words, he began running stories about what people needed to know rather than what they wanted to know.
The main purpose of the paper became doing the will of God rather than simply making money.
Some of you may know that Edward Norman isn’t a real person but, a fictional character in Charles’ Sheldon’s classic “In His Steps. The book, the first Christian novel I ever read, captivated me. It wasn’t a large book. Written in 1896, it wasn’t even a modern book. And, it certainly was not even a well-written book. The message though went straight to the core of my being.
Already set on a journalism career, I knew it takes advertising and subscriptions to have enough money to print a newspaper, pay salaries, run the presses, etc.
The book was a pivotal point for me because it begged the question: How could a newspaper run strictly on Christian principles survive? Further still, what if a writer wrote always asking themselves: What would Jesus do?
It helped focus my career in the direction of Christian journalism. Although I knew I might need to work for a denominational publication or organization first, my desire was always to publish a newspaper supported by advertising dollars from churches, Christians and Christian businesses.
That vision came to pass in part in 1989. Until 2001, that newspaper was published doing all the things outlined by Edward Norman. Editing and publishing GNJ seemed to be the culmination of my vision.
Just as the fictional managing editor indicated it takes a lot of money to print a newspaper. My partner and I printed 50,000 copies, inserted it in the daily newspaper, several weekly newspapers and delivered it to churches in towns throughout mid-Missouri. It was a labor of love. We didn’t even take salaries.
It seemed the vision died when we realized we had to cease publication because of a lack of revenue. Fast forward a decade plus. Needless to say there has been a major shift in technology. No longer do editors and publications need to invest in paper, ink, presses and distribution methods. They just need the know-how of the internet.
I am realizing, the vision of a Christian publication could be fulfilled in a format that I could never dream would exist more than 40 years ago when I met Edward Norman.
I have a lot of excuses about this vision. I’m too old. I’m not smart enough. I don’t know how. I’m scared. To be real honest, I’m even scared of posting this pivotal moment. I’m scared of the vision.
Still, I wonder what would Edward Norman do today? More importantly, what would Jesus do? That’s the question this Christian editor needs to answer for herself.