On Jan. 17, 1833, Thomas Meredith published the first edition of a newspaper that was the forerunner of the Biblical Recorder. It was entitled “North Carolina Baptist Interpreter.” One year later the name became Biblical Recorder and Journal of Passing Events.
The opening statement of Meredith’s paper read, “The publication of which the first number is now presented to the public, as its name implies, is designed to contribute to the interests of the Baptist denomination in this state.”
He added, “As the utility of such a paper, under almost any circumstances, if properly conducted, is sufficiently obvious and as the situation of our denomination in this state is such at present, as to render such a vehicle of communication absolutely indispensable, it is hoped that those friendly to its existence will exert themselves to give it a general circulation and liberal patronage.” The initial cost was $1.00 per year.
In other words, the first editor hoped Baptists in the state would be willing to invest $1.00 annually to stay informed on issues, needs and news in the world of Baptist-related current events.
The present editor carries a similar hope. I hope churches and pastors in N.C. will see the paper as “…absolutely indispensable…” and “…will exert themselves to give it a general circulation and liberal patronage.”
As we mark the 180th anniversary of the Recorder, take note that this newspaper is older than the Chicago Tribune, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Kansas City Star, the Los Angeles Times and the Denver Post.
The Recorder is the fourth oldest newspaper among Baptist state papers, preceded by The Christian Index (Georgia, 1822), the Western Recorder (Kentucky, 1826), and the Religious Herald (Virginia, 1828).
The advance of the Internet has been a serious threat to the survival of printed newspapers and magazines. Some, both secular and religious, have ceased publication, moving exclusively to online content.
The Recorder has suffered decline more than most Baptist state papers in the last 30 years. Circulation has gone from 120,000 in 1979 to 20,000 last year. Thirty years ago we were one of the top five Baptist newspapers in the nation. Today we are not even in the top 15. It does not take a marketing analyst to know that electronic communication is not solely to blame.
North Carolina Baptists regularly lead the nation in gifts to the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings. We are consistently one of the largest givers through the Cooperative Program. We are one of the leading conventions in the number of churches and the number of church members.
But our state paper is not getting into the hands of most in our congregations. This is a disadvantage both to those who lead the great ministries of the state and to kingdom work in general. Baptists need a strong means of communicating news, information and resources to our constituency.
The printed page is not dead. Actually, you will be surprised at the large number of young adults who are turning back to the relaxation of a printed newspaper, needing a break from electronic sources. And, the annual cost is less than the cost of one cup of coffee every two months in your local coffee shop!
On the positive side of the equation, the Biblical Recorder’s website, BRnow.org, has become a strong resource. The daily visitor count on our website has grown from a few thousand in 2011 to over 31,000 by the end of 2012. This is incredible growth. It verifies the hunger for accurate information.
The Recorder’s staff is working hard to keep the website fresh and relevant. There is no charge to access the information there. We hope you will list BRnow.org in your weekly church bulletin and in other printed material. Link to us from your website. We believe your church family will be better servants in the local church, better informed on the issues and more kingdom focused by visiting our website regularly.
Eight months ago, a third member of the Biblical Recorder family was born. We introduced BRweekly, a free e-newsletter that is sent to your inbox every Wednesday morning. This is a brief summary of breaking news, prominent stories of the week and brief comments from the editor. Please encourage everyone in your church family to sign up for this free, weekly resource. Visit the website to subscribe.
So, 180 years ago the sole resource of the printed Biblical Recorder was available. Today you have three ways to get the news you need: the Biblical Recorder, BRnow.org and BRweekly.
An important clarification needs to be noted. Each of these three mediums has a defined uniqueness.
The material in one is not necessarily in the others. They are NOT duplicates. So, we hope you stay connected with all three.
Information is more important today than it was two centuries ago. We pray that the ministry of the Biblical Recorder will be a regular part of your congregation’s information diet, and that your church’s ministries will be stronger for it.
Please join us as we celebrate 180 years of ministry this week. We commend the vision and dedication of Thomas Meredith. God used him to establish a strong communication tool for North Carolina Baptists.
We want to build on this rich heritage with emphasis on being biblical, focusing on the Great Commission and glorifying God as we serve to advance His Kingdom.