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Joel BelzVoices Joel Belz

Millennial moments

Through a thousand issues, a bond with readers has developed

Millennial moments

(Illustration by Krieg Barrie)

It took a little research-taking into account the week in 1993 when a record snowstorm forced us to cancel an entire issue and double up the next week. But a diligent count says that yes, this is the 1,000th issue of WORLD magazine.

A thousand covers, a thousand cover stories, a thousand columns like this one. But only 999 collections of letters from readers like you, because obviously, there was no "Mailbag" column in Issue No. 1.

But there have been letters ever since; you readers have made sure of that. No need to manufacture phony letters from imaginary readers just to make it look as if the magazine has a following-and yes, I've known Christian magazines that have resorted to that.

We included 20 letters in WORLD's most recent issue. If that's typical, we've printed 20,000 letters from you readers since our first issue in 1986. That's probably a high estimate. But even if the reality is only half that number, we've filled between 1,500 and 2,000 pages with your comments, complaints, compliments, and cancellations.

I belabor this point because from the beginning, WORLD has enjoyed a remarkable relationship with its readers. Our editorial goal, from Issue No. 1 on, has been to remind you that there isn't a single aspect of human life in which the Lord God of heaven and earth doesn't take an intense (and possessive) interest. And then, as if to validate that mission, you readers regularly show us how seriously you take that message. You invite us into the warp and woof of your lives.

Yes, you properly remind us that we misspelled the name of a city in Asia or that we named the wrong actor as having the main role in a particular movie. We need that kind of technical alertness to detail on your part.

More heart-stirring, though, are the letters you send asking where we think your daughter should go to college, which charitable organizations you should support with your gift dollars, what we think about a particular political candidate in your district, what our thoughts are about medical savings accounts, what we think might happen to the price of gold-or which version of the Bible you should use for your daily devotions. Then the letters get more intensely personal: Should you stay in an abusive marriage? Should you reenlist in the Army and volunteer to go to Afghanistan? Is your teenager's sullenness toward his family a normal thing that's likely to pass, or does he need professional help?

Wait a minute! We're magazine publishers, not a counseling agency. Do the editors of Time and Newsweek get letters like these? You and I both know better. So what's the difference? What's going on here?

The difference is that you WORLD readers "get it." You have bought into the idea that life is not simply a long laundry list of unrelated and chaotic fragments, all to be reported in some sort of aloof and detached way. Life is instead a coherent God-ordained truth system. Within that system, if we tell you the truth about the week's news, the likelihood is that you'll come to trust us to tell you the truth about other things as well-which just might include some of the most personal issues of life.

I have to admit, of course, that we didn't start out 23 years ago thinking: "If we can just prove ourselves as truth-telling reporters, writers, and editors, maybe people will trust us as counselors as well." No, we've been as surprised as anyone at the relatively intimate nature of the relationship that's developed.

But that, you see, is the nature of truth. That is the way truth-telling works. It's a coherent system that constantly-in every field of human inquiry and endeavor-keeps leading us back to a Creator God who tells us: "Do it My way, and you'll be surprised at how common themes emerge, and how the inter-connectedness of My creation and providence leap out at you." So we end up not just reporting and analyzing the news, but in unexpected ways helping our readers experience and live through the practical challenges of those news cycles.

Now wait another minute. This is no invitation for you to send us your latest counseling challenge. We are reporters, first and foremost, and I'm just telling you my biggest surprise during our first 1,000 issues. And if our pioneer efforts have produced so startling a response, what's going to happen when we do an even better job of helping you get a handle on all that's going on in God's big world?

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