I was 19 and attending a Christian conference where there were a ton of college students. The energy was exciting; it felt like something new was happening.
A spiritual movement was taking shape, but I felt like it had to be more than just a one-off experience. We needed a way to connect with what was happening in our everyday lives. We needed media that could give voice to the unique, new thing God was doing in our generation.
At that time, nothing like that existed. That night, in my hotel room, I first wrote down the vision for launching this magazine.
I spent the next few years learning everything I could. I became the editor of my college paper. I wrote business plans, interned and asked questions. The original RELEVANT Media Group business plan was actually written for a college class in 1997, including a daily website, print magazine, marketing/design group and book publishing.
Originally, the magazine would be called Chronicle. You know, because it’d chronicle what God was doing in our generation. Thankfully, that didn’t stick.
A few years later, after more dreaming and planning, the magazine name evolved to That. As in:
“I love That magazine.”
I thought it was hilarious. Plus, it had an Acts 2 angle: “This is That.”
Get it? Pure gold.
I was an idiot. (And yes, I bet in the recesses of Internet archives you can find remnants of thatonline.com.) Thankfully, it took eight years of work and planning before I could finally get the magazine off the ground. In that time, God refined the vision and specifics.
Refinement, adaptation, evolution, change, hard work—all are common refrains I’ve learned over the last 10 years.
The magazine has changed, as has our generation. At first, the controversy was that we were a Christian magazine challenging our readers to live in the world, yet not of it. We had the audacity to acknowledge God could speak through more than just Christian movies, TV and music.
A few years later, our generation woke up to social justice. We thought maybe we should live every day intentionally—and for something bigger than ourselves. So Reject Apathy was born.
Somewhere along the way, people started doubting and then grasping onto faith. Our generation left the Church, embraced the Church, redefined the Church. Entire movements came and went.
In putting this issue together, it’s been fascinating to see just how much things have changed in culture and the Church since our first issue. On page 72, we look back at the shifts that defined the decade. On page 80, we look ahead at the challenges facing us next. On page 76, we look at the people who have most shaped the Church and our generation in the last 10 years.
To make that list, we asked our readers what leaders have most impacted them in the last 10 years. And while each is more than deserving and has made a massive mark on our generation, our team was struck by something: how white and male the list is. My hope is the list we run 10 years from now will look very different—and we’re taking it as a personal challenge to lead this effort.
As we celebrate our 10 years in print with this issue, I pulled out that original business plan. Yes, we’re best known for a magazine, but our goal all along has been to create a multi-faceted platform that gives voice to this generation.
Today, at RELEVANTmagazine.com we reach as many people in one day as an entire print issue does. Our podcast is streamed several hundred thousand times each week. And subscriptions to our iPad edition now outpace the print magazine. Times are definitely changing, and it’s exciting.
As I look forward to the next decade, I’m aware of the challenges facing us, but filled with optimism. Thank you for an amazing, life-changing first decade. I can’t wait to see what’s to come.