Why I Hope Energion Authors Never Become Celebrities

Yesterday Energion author David Alan Black made a comment about my publishing philosophy. I’m going to quote it and make just a few comments.

Finally – and here is where I’m quite positive Henry and I would agree (based on the books he has published, many of whom are authored by “nobodies” in the world’s eyes, like my wife) – in Anabaptism appeal was made to the plain man’s judgment, unspoiled by the university.…

I like that authors! You are nobodies. I publish nobodies.

Yes, I do. Now if you’re a cynic, you can say that the reason I don’t have celebrity authors is that Energion Publications is too small and doesn’t have a track record that would attract celebrities. And you would be absolutely correct. I have not turned down any manuscripts from celebrities. In fact, while I have seminary professors, and a few large church pastors, most of my authors have very little platform.

What is platform? That is the thing you stand on in order to yell at lots of people. It’s the way you get people’s attention. If you’re a megachurch pastor, especially if you have multiple campuses, you will sell more books. As a publisher, that means I’m going to bring in more money with less effort and less expense, which, in turn, means that my profit will be higher.

If you have a platform like that, you can take your book to one of the big players in the industry, and they’re probably going to give you a good hearing. It will matter much less how well you write and how important your message is to the church. Publishing is a business. The publisher must make money. Celebrities can have a good message. They may be able to write well. But they don’t have to. Worst case? Ghost writer.

I’m interested in platform as well. I’m especially interested in platform when I’m presented with a manuscript that I think is extremely important to the church, and yet I suspect is going to be hard to sell. The greater the platform, the more likely we are to get readers for that important material. I have said to an author, “I don’t think I can publish this. It’s good, but it’s going to go into a black hole once printed.” I have released books that are doing unfortunately poorly because I didn’t realize I needed to say that. I like to tell authors that an editor isn’t always right. Would that it were so! It’s not good for anybody to have a book that is not selling. Nobody is getting the message. Nobody is earning any money that might help with future efforts.

What I want to say at this point is that this is my goal. I was concerned about the state of the church 10 years ago when I started this company. I am more concerned about the church now. We are tending to depend more and more on experts, especially famous experts, and less and less on our own judgment and discernment. We do not develop discernment by saying that Dr. ____ said it, so it must be true.

It is not that we don’t need scholars. I want to see scholarship in service. But we need more non-scholars who study, think, and make decisions for themselves. I hope we can get more of the latter without losing the former.

I recall one conversation in which someone quoted a commentary on a point of Scripture. I said I disagreed and started to explain why. Impatiently, I was interrupted. “But this man has a PhD! He’s an expert!” I was told. My answer? “I have a whole shelf full of books by people with PhDs who disagree with him.” Since the topic was from Revelation, that shelf full of books was not an exaggeration.

What I believe I have discovered about the church is that we have many small shining lights, many candles, glowing in communities across this nation and across the world. We’re trembling at the fall of people with big names and big reputations. But while we’re doing that, God is working through pastors of churches that range from tiny to small and people who have never imagined having their sermons sent out via video feed.

And in those churches we have many more people who, if they were just released from the prison that results from believing someone else has to connect them to God, would be accomplishing many more great things for God.

We need to be moving further and further away from celebrities, and we’re doing just the opposite.

So right now, while I don’t have celebrities pounding down my doors, I want to tell you that I have two goals:

1) I want the nobodies of the world to be heard.

2) I want to work myself out of a job (see Jeremiah 31:31-34).

If I compromise this and start seeking out celebrities and rejecting the ordinary church members who are trying to build the kingdom, then you know I have compromised my principles. There are those who believe I’m a danger to the church because of some of the views I’m willing to publish. I disagree. But if I make the compromise I’m describing here, I will have become a danger to the church.

Pray for me. Feel free to rebuke me if you think it is necessary. Hold me accountable.

Henry Neufeld (Energion Publications Owner/Editor)

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