In 1991 I had an idea. There should be a quarterly journal that had the style and respect of a seminary journal but a readership that would primarily be church leadership, both lay and pastoral. That idea became the Reformation & Revival Journal, renamed last year as the ACT 3 Review. That journal was the beginning of this mission ministry we call ACT 3, leading me to resign my pastorate in 1992 in order to advance this wider work of publishing, writing and teaching. That quarterly journal, a 224-page bound periodical that was widely respected and used by many colleges and seminaries across North America, will now cease print publication with the current issue, 15:2. This final issue should be mailed next week. Rarely have I had to make a decision that was this difficult to make. It felt like the painful death of a long friend and a treasured vision. I knew the day would come but I had always thought someone else would make it for me after my demise.

Based upon the wonderful input of about fifty trusted men and women, my own inner sense of wisdom and peace, and the loving and forthright counsel of a wife who knows me best, this decision was finally made five days ago. The obvious fact that a $25,000 per year loss to ACT 3 can no longer be justified, and (most importantly) the continued pressure that the production of this publication placed upon me personally by exacerbating several health issues, I came to believe that we should cease the print publication of this journal immediately. We will send a letter to our subscribers in the next few weeks offering several options for how we will honor their payments.

There is some good news in this development that appears to follow the wisdom discovered during the process. The overwhelming majority of my consultants concurred with me that we should keep the journal as an online periodical. We plan to eventually put all of our back issues, nearly fifteen years worth of material (numbering over 13,000 pages), on our Web site. We will then continue to add new articles to this Web-based journal feature quarter-by-quarter. We will call this new publication the ACT 3 Review: An Online Journal for Faith, Church and Culture. I am already recruiting a number of fine writers who will contribute regularly to this site and provide the reader with a reliable source of insight and teaching. This format will also allow for forums and discussion groups to form around articles and reviews. We will very likely offer a free online subscription for a good deal of the journal’s content, along with a very inexpensive annual premium subscription that allows complete access to all back issues and all current content. (This is the way a number of modern publications operate in a Web presented format.) This decision will also allow us to still offer the content that people have come to expect from our ministry without the burden and financial pressures that have hindered my own freedom to continue to minister both widely and well. I will try to secure volunteer help to put this material on the Web so that I will not be under the intense pressure to meet deadlines or to deal with print publication management issues as in the past. All in all, this new approach not only makes sense, as a business and ministry decision, but over the long haul it could open an entirely new ministry context for ACT 3.

The counsel given to me resulted in the following conclusions:

1. My health has to finally override the continuation of the journal as a print publication since this has been breaking down my life on a regular basis. I simply cannot handle this any longer.

2. The evidence of this pressure, and the attendant depression that has come from it, prompted some of my best friends to urge me to grow toward a new personal freedom that would let go of my past dreams and perfectionism so that I could lean into what God now wants me to do with my gifts of writing and teaching in the future. Learning to let a treasured vision die is never easy but the joy that can come will most likely surprise me I feel sure.

3. The development of this ministry over the past fifteen years, and the response of most people to print journals of this type, warrants letting go of this portion of our ministry so that we can invest what God has given to us more faithfully in the church at large; e.g., teaching churches and assisting pastors in mission, prayer for revival, and writing for the renewal of the church in both mind and spirit. Understanding that these two venues (teaching and writing) are what I need to do with the years ahead of me helps me focus as I have not been able to do for the last five-plus years.

What I have discovered about myself, while making this hard decision, is that I have this deep need to perfect everything I touch and then a profound desire to be appreciated for the significance of my work. The words of John the Baptist, uttered when he saw Jesus walking in his presence, must become the goal of my life far more consistently: “He must increase and I must decrease.” Like every Christian I can say those words in my heart and mean them. The reality is that I am still a product of a world, a culture and an evangelical context that tells me that I need more significance and influence than I seem to have. This temptation must be met with open and vigilant resistance. As hard as this recent decision has been I am trying to learn this lesson in the process. Pray that I will.

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  1. caleb j seeling September 22, 2006 at 11:43 am

    thanks for the vulnerable and honest reflection here, john. i have (and have had) visions that either need to be refined or let go. i appreciate your demonstration of humility and eternal vigilance against an overactive ego. you’re a good example for me. thanks for that. i look forward to watching where god takes you next!

  2. Pete Williamson September 22, 2006 at 12:27 pm

    John…I’m sorry to see this happen, both for your sake as well as for those of us who have benefitted from your work, but I’m heartened that the work will continue. Keep up the good fight, my brother.

  3. Rich Vincent September 22, 2006 at 6:22 pm

    Wow… “I have this deep need to perfect everything I touch and then a profound desire to be appreciated for the significance of my work.” Thanks for sharing so honestly. Methinks I see myself in this confession, as well. God help us!

  4. Gene Redlin September 22, 2006 at 7:08 pm

    There isn’t a person in ministry who hasn’t had a vision die. When the vision of a Church I believed in died I grieved. I went to a friend of mine who has been buffeted by every wind of opposition and has been defeated in ministry in more ways than I thought possible. He asked me 3 questions that changed my life. I will offer them to you and see if they help you or anyone who has ever had a vision die, even a God given vision:
    1. Did God tell you to do this? (Yes, most emphatically yes.) Did you obey? Yes, Then there is no failure.
    2. Did you tell God at some point that the success or cessation of this was in his hands, this was his ministry and you would do all you could to be a good Stewart of it but if it ceases you have done what he called you to do? If so, he has the right to keep it going or close it.
    3. If God is in the business of weaving everything in the fabric of your life together for good (Romans 8:28) is this part of that weaving? It’s not about you. God’s reputation is not on the line and neither is yours.
    That helped me. I came to the conclusions that I must (we all must) walk with confidence in God and his purposes even when badly understood by mortal man. If we do, if we trust him to lead, if things change and one or another events cause us to change focus (Health) then we must believe with everything within us that it is God’s purpose for us.
    There is no dying visions and no failures in God. Some of the biggest failures (as judged by the world) were burned at the stake to ridicule by Religious Leaders. In the eyes of the Father they were saints worthy of honor.
    So, my brother, you are in good company, we have all had births and deaths in ministry. I think in the Redlin version of the Bible it says something like this, “forgetting everything that is behind us, we press on to the high calling of God”. With or without the books.
    Who knows what God has in mind? I’m older than you and sometimes I still wake up in the middle of the night wondering, “Lord what do you want me to do now?” I expect him to speak and me to hear what the Spirit of the Lord says.
    So, this change is a new chance to listen to what Father says to you.
    Like the Verizon commercial, He’s Saying, “Can you hear me now?” GOOD!

  5. Nathan Petty September 23, 2006 at 9:49 am

    I am a relatively recent reader of the journal and have benefited from the content. So while I will miss the paper version I look forward to the future online journal.
    I am reminded that the ministry of John the Baptist continued after his death. In my life the truth I received through the ministry of the journal will continue after its end as well.
    Brother John, we will continue to pray that God will be your strength in the time of transition.
    We could all profit by accepting the following counsel you received:
    “so that I could lean into what God now wants me to do”. Now that is a recipe for God honoring life.

  6. Keith Duff September 29, 2006 at 10:34 am

    John – thank you for your years of dedication and passion in publishing this journal. Thank you for your ongoing vision and determination to impact this world for Christ – and most of all for you love for the local church and for the pastors and leaders of those churches. You have been and will continue to be an incredible blessing to God’s people.
    Thank you for your effort to listen to God’s calling and to follow Him.

  7. Nick Morgan October 1, 2006 at 11:31 pm

    While this news saddens me, I can understand and appreciate how you have come to this decision. I have read the Journal since Fall of 2000 and have benefitted greatly both spiritually and intellectually in my walk with Christ and my deeper appreciation of and understanding of the Church universal. I am sincerely grateful for the years you have published the journal and I will miss it. I commend you for being open and sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in this matter. Sometimes when God tells us that an aspect of ministry has reached the end of it’s season, we don’t want to let it go. I look forward to the online journal as well as any other future writing projects you may be involved in. God bless you my brother and everyone at ACT 3 Ministry.

  8. John H. Armstrong October 4, 2006 at 9:09 pm

    Thanks to all of you for these sundry kind comments. Be sure to check out our last print issue, 15:2, which has some really fine material on N. T. Wright. Alas, pray for me as I work to turn this into a cool online periodical that will make a serious contribution to many in the church. I haven’t lost the vision or the fire just the print venue.
    We hope to have 15:3 online by November 15 at the latest. It will be available for free to all who sign-up online at our Web site: Keep watching for the journal at this site. Back issues will eventually be put online as well. And we hope to have a searchable index for all this material, which amounts to over 13,000 pages in all.

  9. James E. Roberts October 18, 2006 at 9:55 am

    Very sorry and disappointed to hear that you are discontinuing publication of the journal. The journal has been one of my most valuable resources(I have all of them).I do prefer a printed version,however I certainly will subscribe to your online version.As for the remaining prepaid subscription,please consider it a donation to your ministry.I pray that our Lord will restore your health and financial resources soon. I would also support your returning to Calgary,AB again sometime.I have very much enjoyed your ministry here in the past.
    Yours in Christ
    James E. Roberts

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