Compiled by Shawn McMullen
Christian Standard and The Lookout have a rich history within the Restoration Movement. Christian Standard was first published in 1866; The Lookout was first published as the Young People’s Standard in 1888 and changed to its current name in 1894. Under the umbrella of Standard Publishing, the magazines served Christian churches and churches of Christ across the United States and around the world for a century and a half.
Ownership and leadership have changed through the years, but the purpose of the publications has remained the same—to strengthen churches and their leaders through biblical teaching and the promotion of the Restoration plea.
An Urgent Situation for the Magazines
In 2006 Standard Publishing was purchased by the Wicks Group, a New York-based private equity firm, and placed within an entity known as CFM Religion Publishing. In 2015 the Wicks Group sold much of Standard Publishing’s assets to David C Cook, leaving Christian Standard and The Lookout with an uncertain future. Having rejected previous offers from private interests to purchase the magazines, Wicks decided to discontinue both publications effective February 15, 2017.
In December 2016, Wick’s decision was relayed to the Publishing Committee that had provided editorial oversight to Standard Publishing. For several years the Publishing Committee had explored opportunities to purchase the magazines and continue their ministries. All attempts to raise funds had failed, and at this juncture the window of opportunity seemed to have expired.
But then Publishing Committee chairman Steve Wyatt contacted Douglas Crozier, CEO of The Solomon Foundation. In that December 16 call, Wyatt explained the Wicks Group’s decision to discontinue the magazines on February 15 if no buyer was found. Because Wicks was willing to shut the magazines down, Wyatt believed the firm would consider selling the magazines at a substantial discount of their previous asking price.
After speaking with Wyatt, Crozier contacted Barry Cameron, Mike Nave, Dennis Bratton, and Jerry Harris, members of TSF’s board of directors, to explain the urgency of the situation and to present a case for purchasing the magazines through a loan from TSF. In addition to there being a mutually beneficial advertising partnership with the magazines, Crozier laid out several reasons for purchasing the publications, including:
- the honor the magazines would continue to bring to God if kept in circulation,
- the impact that could be achieved for Christ and his kingdom if they continued publishing,
- the value of the magazines as a platform for the Restoration Movement, and
- the value the magazines could bring by publishing articles designed to help churches move to the next growth step.
The board members encouraged Crozier to inquire further regarding the purchase.
On December 22, Wyatt wrote to Peter Esposito, CFM Religion Publishing president, to report that The Solomon Foundation had expressed interest in purchasing the periodicals. Esposito responded within the hour to suggest they arrange a time to discuss the possibility.
Crozier and Esposito spoke on December 28. The next day, December 29, Crozier provided a letter of intent for 30 days of due diligence. A nondisclosure agreement was signed on January 3, 2017, and the process of due diligence began January 4. On January 5, attorney Jonathan Sams was retained to represent TSF in the transaction.
On January 12, the process of forming a separate 501(c)(3) entity known as Restoration Movement Media was initiated. On January 13, Crozier recommended the formation of a board of directors for RMM consisting of himself, Nave, Bratton, and Cameron. All agreed to serve.
Good News for the Magazines and the Movement
The formal acquisition of Christian Standard Media by Restoration Movement Media was approved by the TSF board of directors on January 31, 2017.
On February 10, 2017, the sale was finalized. (Under the agreement, Restoration Movement Media received the rights to continue doing business as Christian Standard Media.) The following press release was distributed:
Denver, Colorado—The Solomon Foundation (TSF), a church extension fund serving the Christian church and churches of Christ with headquarters in Parker, Colorado, has acquired Christian Standard Media, according to TSF chief executive officer Doug Crozier. Christian Standard Media, consisting of The Lookout and Christian Standard magazines, has continued to operate under ownership of the Wicks Group since December 2016 when its parent company, Standard Publishing, was sold by Wicks to David C Cook, an evangelical publisher.
“Christian Standard and The Lookout, so important to the Christian churches and churches of Christ for 15 decades, are now residing where they belong,” Crozier said, “with a ministry also committed to the congregations in this fellowship.”
“We’re delighted by this opportunity to grow in our service to the churches,” said Mark A. Taylor, publisher.
Crozier stressed that the magazines will operate as an independent, nonprofit ministry, Restoration Movement Media, a Colorado not for profit, continuing to serve as many congregations, ministries, and Christian leaders as possible. While the magazines’ business will be conducted from the Colorado office, the editorial staff will continue to operate from Cincinnati, Ohio. Taylor is editor of Christian Standard, and Kelly Carr is The Lookout editor.
Christian Standard was founded in 1866 by Isaac Errett, whose family owned the magazine, which grew into Standard Publishing. The Lookout began publication in 1894. The Errett heirs sold the business to a Christian businessman in 1955, and it became the cornerstone of a multinational corporation finally known as Standex International. Standex sold Standard to Wicks in 2006.
Christian Standard Media will continue to serve readers through the two print magazines, their two websites christianstandard.com and thelookoutmag.com, as well as ChristianStandard’s digital editions, available through a widely distributed app for phone or tablet.
“Be watching for new, innovative ways to reach and serve Christian families and church leaders,” Crozier said. “We feel this is an exciting new beginning for two longtime friends and servants.”
Crozier arranged a conference call on February 27, 2017, with the Publishing Committee to share the good news of the purchase. He then arranged for a March 3 meeting of about 20 church leaders from across the country to help RMM outline its future.
In late February, prior to the gathering of church leaders in March, the new RMM board of directors began their search for a publisher. From the beginning, each member had personally concluded that Jerry Harris, TSF board member and lead pastor of The Crossing in Quincy, Illinois, should be tapped as the new leader of this endeavor. Cameron spoke to Harris during a TSF church leaders conference in San Diego to suggest that Harris become the new publisher. At nearly the same time, Don Wilson and Mike Nave made similar suggestions to Harris. At the conclusion of the conference, Crozier and Cameron asked Harris to meet with them to discuss the matter.
Harris was interested in the position and shared the following stipulations in a March 2 meeting:
- That he not receive a salary for serving as publisher. Harris said he is highly invested in his ministry with The Crossing, and he did not want the elders of the church to perceive a conflict of interest.
- That the board allow for a six-month trial period to ensure he could manage the responsibilities of both The Crossing and RMM.
- That RMM become an independent entity once it repaid its loan to TSF.
The RMM board agreed to the stipulations and Harris accepted the position.
At the March 3 meeting of church leaders, Harris was introduced as RMM’s new publisher. His stated mission for RMM was “to capture the power that comes from our unity.” He shared several core values for RMM at that time:
- to present a greater harvest to God, knowing that we accomplish more working together,
- to press for commonalities while being respectful of differences,
- to push innovation and relevance without compromise to our core beliefs,
- to pull each other up through reproof, rebuke, and encouragement, and
- to pass our great heritage on to the next generation.
Harris began a search for a new editor of Christian Standard, as Mark A. Taylor, who had served in that role since 2003, was planning to retire. Harris invited Mike Mack to fill the role. Kelly Carr stayed on as editor of The Lookout until June 2017, when she stepped down and was replaced by Shawn McMullen. Jim Nieman continued in his role of managing editor of Christian Standard and Sheryl Overstreet continued as managing editor of The Lookout. Renee Little of TSF assumed operations responsibilities for RMM, and Tracy Nichols was brought on board as well, serving in the Parker office. Harris then hired Megan Kempf as designer and Abby Wittler as photographer and social media manager.
The first new edition of Christian Standard, the July 2017 issue, premiered at the North American Christian Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, in June. The first new edition of The Lookout premiered at the 2017 International Conference on Missions in Peoria, Illinois, in November.
Recognizing the need to create and sustain a network to facilitate growth and fellowship among Restoration Movement churches, RMM purchased Christian Church Today (cctoday.com) and continues to build on that platform.
While recording dates and facts are important at the start of a venture such as this, it’s also critical that we acknowledge the hand of God in the process so that he is credited, honored, and glorified for his great work in bringing it about. Three things, in particular, stand out:
- God has been steering these publications for more than 150 years, and his most recent, last-minute intervention to save them is further evidence of that.
- The magazines had been shopped for several years, but the asking price had stymied previous purchase attempts. With their discontinuation looming, however, the price dropped significantly. This providential development not only allowed a purchase to occur but helps to ensure the magazines’ future.
- It seemed all hope was lost when the Wicks Group decided to discontinue the magazines after a late effort to purchase them was abandoned. But at just the right time, God brought just the right people into the picture: Steve Wyatt, who didn’t concede defeat and believed that hope still remained for the magazines; Doug Crozier, who took a step of faith as a leader to willingly take on this challenge; the TSM board of directors, who wholeheartedly supported the arrangement; and Jerry Harris, whose love for the Restoration Movement and passion for unity among our churches compelled him to accept the task of leading it.
Shawn McMullen serves as editor of The Lookout and contributing editor of Christian Standard.