Turnaround seems to be the de facto priority for Washington right now. And while I agree there are steps the government should take to get the free market economy flowing again, downturns like this can also be blessings in disguise.
Whenever the economic climate gets difficult, as it is now, the cream is forced to rise to the top. Bad ideas fail. Less revenue leads to a higher emphasis on creativity and ingenuity, and inevitably a new
wave of innovation and growth emerges. If done properly, the turnaround from a slump can lead to a much stronger season ahead.
We’re starting to see this right now in the music industry, where new models are emerging in independent music. It’s all happening because the old label-centric industry failed to stay up with shifts in technology and audience tastes, and the bottom fell out. It forced artists to chart a new course, and the results are looking good. (We talk about that more in this issue’s new music guide.) It’s also happening here. This issue of RELEVANT marks the sixth anniversary of the magazine (and seventh for RELEVANTmagazine.com). While I know that’s still relative infancy, it’s a significant
occasion to me because there was a time not too long ago I wasn’t sure I’d get to write this column.
For a variety of reasons, at the end of 2006 we shut down RELEVANT Books. That took away half of our company’s revenue overnight, but we didn’t proactively make the difficult changes necessary to absorb the blow. While six-figure debt accumulated, we naively tried to keep doing things the way we always had, and hope for better results. (Kind of sounds like the auto industry.) The result was a bottoming out that had me considering selling the company or shutting down altogether.
But a funny thing happened as we wrestled with what to do: God told us He wasn’t done with us yet. He began instilling fresh vision in us, and a renewed sense of determination that what He’s calling us to
do is different than we’ve seen in the past. So, we blew up the model. We went from 30 staff members to 11 at one point. We shut down things that weren’t working and prayerfully launched new ideas God was hatching in us. Since we knew the worst that could to happen to us was just bankruptcy, we weren’t afraid to take risks.
And it’s paying off. Even as the economy worsens, God is honestly blessing RELEVANT. Our online growth has been significant—more than a 60 percent increase—which is rare for an established brand. Our magazine is in more and more newsstands every issue, and while other magazines—from Radar to FHM to Domino—are folding, we’re trucking along. I mention that, not to boast, but to give hope to
those who have also faced significant challenges. God forced us to re-evaluate everything we were doing in light of good stewardship, alignment with our calling, and finding the balance between opportunity and need. We had to lay our Isaac on the altar and be willing to do whatever God asked of us. The decisions have not been easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. Through it all, we’ve tried to
follow God’s direction with every step.
Out of the turnaround, a new season is emerging for our company. First was the launch of Neue, our division for ministry, which you can connect with at NeueMinistry.com. Then we relaunched our sister
community, RadiantMagazine.com, and right now we’re relaunching RELEVANTmagazine.com. But more than anything, we’re obsessed with a new mission God birthed in us called Reject Apathy. No longer is RELEVANT going to just report what God is doing in our generation; together, we’re rolling up our sleeves and getting involved. Our generation is called to be spiritually passionate and socially compassionate. We’re supposed to model a Christianity known for its love, for its sacrifice, selflessness and outward service.
To that end, from here on out Reject Apathy will be a big part of what we do. What is it? A platform to talk about the kind of life Christians should be living. It will spotlight causes and issues we need to get involved in, showing ways you can make a difference. We want Reject Apathy to be a conduit for change—locally, globally, online and in person. We have no commercial agenda in this. We’re not asking for money, and we’re not trying to start another trendy social justice organization. We just want to use our platform for more than making media. We want to make an eternal difference in people’s lives around the world, help open hearts and minds, and get our generation in motion. So we’re putting our money where our mouth is and trying something new.
That’s what turnaround takes—being realistic about the seasons God takes us through and saying that what used to work isn’t good enough anymore. It’s difficult to turn from things you spent years, even decades, pursuing, but when you stop relying on yourself and rely on God alone, things change. Take risks. Pursue your passions. Don’t be afraid of failure. Obey God with confidence. That’s where true life, creativity and calling reside. And when God says to blow it up and start over, do it without hesitation. d
New for 2009
True to form, our anniversary also marks several new launches for us. There’s a lot in motion we can’t tell you about just yet, but here’s some recent goodness:
New RELEVANTmagazine.com Head over to our website and you might be surprised by what you see. Namely, everything. You’ll find:
• A massive community section (connect, blog, add photos and videos)
• A new on-demand RELEVANT.tv
• Digital editions of the print magazine
• Seven years of searchable archives
• RSS feeds for all content, even Slices
• Exclusive columns and member blogs
• Multimedia and conversation
The site is continually evolving, so check it out and let us know what you think!
Now in its infancy, Reject Apathy is something you’ll be seeing more about in the near future. Check out RejectApathy.org for ways to connect.
After a three-month hiatus, the RELEVANT Podcast is back for more! You can RELEVANTmagazine.com.
CAMERON STRANG is the founder and editor of RELEVANT. You can connect with him on Twitter (twitter.com/cameronstrang) or Facebook.
This column appears as FIRST WORD in the July/August 2009 issue of RELEVANT Magazine. You can read it online here.
Cameron Strang is the founder of RELEVANT Media Group.