By Jennifer Johnson
It’s been a busy year for Stephen Burris.
In January, Burris, along with Mark Krause and Kendi Howells Douglas, bought Urban Loft Publishers, an independent publisher of books focusing on urban ministry, church planting, theology, sociology, and even urban planning and architecture.
“My friend Sean Benesh started the company a few years ago, and when he offered me the chance to buy it, I jumped at the chance,” Burris says. “It was both a defensive and offensive decision; defensive because we are aware there are many large publishers buying up small ones and putting them on the shelf to eliminate competition, and this makes it even more difficult to get books about missions and urban ministry published. But also we had a vision to expand Urban Loft in a number of ways.”
He’s not wasting any time. On January 1, Urban Loft had one series of books in production; today it has seven more series, ranging from “Global Faiths” and “Immigration Issues” to “Diaspora Ministry in Strategic Urban Centers” and “Biblical and Theological Issues in Urban Ministry.”
The team will soon launch a biannual journal called the International Journal of Urban Transformation, and a number of scholars are working together to develop the Polis Bible Commentary Series, a 30-volume commentary on the entire Bible that is “global in scope, urban in focus, and missional in perspective.” Biblical scholars and urban specialists are working together on the project, which will include discussion from a global missiological context as well as an urban contextual application. The authors will come from a variety of countries and Evangelical backgrounds.
“We want high-quality urban ministry materials out there for both practitioners and academicians,” Burris says. “The world is moving toward becoming more urban, and this is the future of missions. And we are the only publishing house devoted to urban ministry that is wholly owned by Christian church people, so we have an opportunity to really affect the direction of the discussion.”
His co-owners are certainly contributing to this goal; Krause is the academic dean and professor of Bible and theology at Nebraska Christian College in Papillion, as well as the interim academic dean for Crossroads College in Rochester, MN; and Howells Douglas is professor of intercultural studies at Johnson University Florida (in Kissimmee) after 15 years as professor of cross cultural ministry at Great Lakes Christian College, Lansing, MI.
Although Urban Loft releases books that are accessible and helpful for anyone interested in urban ministry, at least 10 of its recent releases are also being used in college and seminary classrooms, including classes at Yale, Princeton, Westminster Seminary, and University of California–Berkeley’s urban studies program.
“We had no idea on January 1st that things would move this quickly!” Burris says. “We’re amazed at where this might go.”
(Read Jennifer Johnson’s related column, titled “City Planning.”)