Seven years is a biblical season: Jacob worked seven years for Rachel and another seven for Leah. Egypt had seven years of fat cows and seven years of lean cows. Much can change, or much can remain the same, until seven years roll around and a new chapter gets to be written in the book of our lives.
By the time you read these lines, it will be almost seven years since I left Adventist Review Ministries—now called ARMies—to join the General Conference Secretariat. It may be a mere coincidence that, as I approach this anniversary, the editor of the Review asked me to write a piece on—you guessed it—Adventist Review and its out- reach. Keenly aware that the passage of that most biblical of periods has produced the expected disconnect, I turned him down. But then, in a moment of greater lucidity, I thought, Why not find out what happened during that time? What changes and challenges are my former colleagues facing now? It may also have been a mere coincidence that some seven years before I left the Review, Bill Knott had invited me to join him for a walk in Brookside Gardens, near the world church headquarters. He wanted to share ideas and develop a common vision for what the Adventist Review could be. My family and I had moved from Africa a few months earlier to join the ARMies team as associate publisher. I was to be responsible for the marketing of the magazine, and for the promotion and distribution of both the Review and the recently launched Adventist World magazine. At the time, the business of publishing was straightforward: editors created content, designers slapped a great cover on top of that content, and publishers made sure the whole thing landed in as many mailboxes as possible. But as Bill Knott and I walked along the meandering pathways, I had to confess that there were a couple things that bothered me: I wasn’t sure that the “whole thing” was still meet- ing readers’ needs in its current format, and I wasn’t sure what to make of the early rumblings felt and heard in the publishing industry as it was beginning to face the digital revolution. Then Bill Knott made me a solemn promise: “Claude, I’ll work relentlessly until we have a magazine that you can be proud of.”
Seven years later he had more than fulfilled his promise. By the time I closed the Adventist Review chapter in my life, we had a first-class magazine, a cutting-edge website, and a robust social media presence. On top of that, Adventist World magazine had reached global distribution in 33 languages in more than 150 countries. The publishing function had grown in tandem: it now coordinated the work of 17 printing and publishing partners around the world, as well as dozens of contractors delivering translation, graphic design, webmaster, shipping , and logistic services. The publishing operation of yore, which had produced a straight- forward print format for more than 160 years, had morphed into a global publishing enterprise. What, I wondered, have the past seven years brought to what I left behind in 2015?
The answer is simple, but encapsulates a com- plicated reality: the good old Review —soon to be 175 years old—has morphed into a full-fledged multimedia powerhouse.
While print is still important—with 18 million magazines being printed and shipped to the earth’s four corners every year—it has added all the components that make for a cutting-edge publishing enterprise: web content, social media, WhatsApp content, video content (ARTv), podcasts, newsletters, and yes, soon to come, virtual reality (VR) content! Short of four or five countries, it reaches the whole world. All of this, courtesy of a small team of 18 extremely gifted and committed people. According to Gabriel Begle, in charge of the website and all things digital, “it’s a wonderful team of people who are very passionate about nurturing and witnessing. This level of passion is a providential thing, because money cannot buy passion.” What a great blessing it is that money cannot buy passion, because there would never be enough money to buy the kind of passion that makes this team work so hard. Their zeal for the mission of the church is contagious, attracting world-class talent of the kind that customarily works for the biggest companies on the planet. Yet, they are not only brilliant but also committed Seventh-day Adventists who have loved the magazine since their youth. You can already enjoy the fruit of their labor by visiting the new adventistreview.org web- page. They have completely revamped the website and relaunched it just a few weeks ago with state- of-the-art technology capable of delivering more news, packaged in a much better design, on web- pages that load instantly.
From that website, you can also reach Adventist Review TV (https://adventistreview.tv), featuring curated “family-friendly video content you can feel good about.” It already features 1,000 videos and will add another 500 in the next few months. There is also a new premium newsletter, featuring more in-depth stories addressing current issues. And coming to you very soon, a new brainchild of Daryl Gungadoo, head of Adventist Review Ministries media lab. Daryl, “pathfinder” of the digital age, a magician of sorts, is always bubbling over with cool ideas and novel ways of increasing the impact of stories. He devised the KidsView AR app, which, after downloading, lets you see Bible characters jump off the page in 3-D. With the marvels he is developing, we will soon be able to immerse the reader into a full 3-D biblical environment, with full dig- ital animation!
None of this would happen if it weren’t for the vision of the editor in chief, Bill Knott. He’s always on the lookout for the best talents in the world, generously empowering them to think of new ways to expand the reach of all their products.
The Kiswahili edition of Adventist World is another case in point. Faced with the challenges of rising costs for printing and shipping, a special WhatsApp app was developed to service the Kiswahili-speaking population of East and Central Africa effectively for the first time. It also features specific content related to that part of the world. Other similar language apps will follow.
Yet for all the different shapes the Review has morphed into during the past few years, its pur- pose has not changed.
When it launched, as Present Truth, in 1849, it was to offer a forum for the remnant people of the Millerite movement in search of the truth for their times. It was to bring these believers together, unifying them in preparation for Christ’s soon return. Today Adventist Review Ministries still provides that forum, acting as a unifying force in a time when divergent social, political, and theo- logical views threaten to splinter this remnant people into many different camps. Its purpose is more than to be the mouthpiece for the General Conference and its programs. It is to be an instru- ment to reflect both what leadership says and what our people are saying. ARMies seeks to foster, in their varied perspectives and dimensions, the daily conversations Seventh-day Adventists around the world are having. Its mission is to encourage them through all its channels, engaging in the conversations we must have as we face the challenges of our day, increasing our love for each other for the sake of a unity that is of God. This takes place by publishing articles, videos, and digital features that promote dialogues on such topics as guns and Christianity, why young people leave the church, cryptocurrencies and the church, politics, race, and religion, to name but a few current issues. In all of this, Bill Knott says that he “has increasingly been impressed that his day-to-day responsibility is to pay attention to the Spirit.” He “has to be available to follow divine promptings in building communities and reaching out to people.” During the past 15 years as editor in chief, he has “watched God push him into these spaces.”
These spaces have not been easy to conquer. The transition from the print-based age to the digital age was fraught with uncertainties until its substance and shape were well established. It opened vast opportunities to scale new heights and reach further than ever. By contrast, the spaces within our minds and hearts are so much more difficult to scale. But to this the Review staff and its editor remain committed, despite their limited means.
It’s been seven years since I left, a biblical season. If anything, my pride has grown. The Review and its many different components are much more than the mouthpiece of the church. It reflects the best of who we are as a people and of what we do. It’s part of the glue that makes us uniquely one in Christ.
Claude Richli is an associate secretary of the General Conference. He served as associate publisher of Adventist Review and Adventist World from 2007 until 2015.