How can books and publishing support the work of the gospel?


I first met Tom Creedy when he was doing Masters-level study at the college in Nottingham where I taught, and we have kept in good touch ever since. I was delighted to see that this week it has been announced that he is now the Publishing Director at Inter-Varsity Press (IVP), which for the last few years has been part of the SPCK group.

I had the chance to ask him about his new role—and his vision of publishing in support of Christian ministry.

IP: You’ve been working with SPCK on IVP business for some years now. What is this new job change, and what will it mean for you? 

TC: Yes, I’ve been working for SPCK, with a particular passion for marketing IVP and other academic stuff since early 2016—but after leaving in early 2018, I was thrilled to be invited back towards the end of 2019. Ever since I was young I’ve been deeply aware of IVP’s wonderful balance of biblical faithfulness and cultural engagement—and so stepping into this leadership role is a daunting privilege. One thing that stands out was my pastor as a teenager giving me a copy of Pierced for our Transgressions before I went off to Nottingham to study theology!

Day to day, my work won’t change too much. I’ll continue to worth with authors and series editors, seeking to help Christians around the world engage with and remain true to the Bible. One key change will be moving from spending most of my time managing manuscripsh (which, if I’m honest, is what I’d love to do every day!) to managing people and relationships. IVP is blessed to have a fantastic editorial team; alongside Senior Commissioning Editor Josh Wells and others, we are well served by wonderful roster of Series editors, who each bring their own theological and geographical perspective, as well as the particular focus of each series. I’m also very grateful to the IVP Publishing Board for their continued oversight—checking everything we publish is in tune with both what the Bible says, and what we as IVP are called to.

IP: When were you first interested in publishing? How has this meshed with your own personal faith? 

TC: I remain, and will probably ever be, a failed historian. I’m fascinated with the way different books might have different publishers or languages in different countries—and the way in which God-inspired revival movements spark different things in different places. When I grow up I’d love to be a theologian, seeking to understand what God is doing in different places, people, and texts. 

I’ve always been a reader, and it turns out that, whether you are theologically trained or not, readers need books. And books need publishers—whether they are traditional publishers with worldwide connections, like IVP, or different models, including publishing consultancy, which I’ve done a couple of time.

My engagement with faith has always been underpinned and reinforced by the written word of God, the Bible. I grew up on the NIV 1984, and as an adult am a big ESV fan, devotionally—but I’m leaning more and more towards the NLT and CSB as two different ways to translate and read the Bible well, alongside the ESV that works for me. I’ve also always valued books; as a sixth former struggling with depression whilst leading the CU, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was a wonderful invitation into a bigger and better story. As a slightly wary undergraduate worrying about the future, Kevin De Young’s Just Do Something was a helpful way of thinking about next steps. As a third year undergraduate and Masters student, Anthony Thiselton’s The Hermeneutics of Doctrine  has been a remarkable gift.

I’ve continued to read the Bible, and grown to appreciate a range of books and commentaries as I’ve continued on with following Jesus. As I went through different phases, whether it was Don Carson’s commentary on John at A-Level, or Amy Orr-Ewing’s Why Trust the Bible, or David Firth’s recent commentary on Joshua, I did start to see an IVP-shaped thread running through what I was loving, and growing with and from.

IP: Christian publishing has had a challenging time in recent years, with long-standing publishers disappearing. What are the pressures that has led to that, and are they continuing? 

TC: This is a great question. I could point to IVP’s merger with SPCK, or Zondervan’s acquisition by News Corp—or even the emergence of new and important publishers like Lexham Press and Glossa House.

I’d point back to a book of the Bible, Ecclesiastes, which is simultaneously self-aware-ly a book, and offering wisdom to those of us in publishing: 

All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.

Those verses from Ecclesiastes 1:8-10 are sobering – even more so, when we read Ecclesiastes 12:12:

But beyond these, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body.

Making books isn’t going to have an end—and study is tiring—and the challenge for people like me, somewhat paradoxically, is to go back to the beginning. To draw people back and back again to the actual word of God. To invite people (in the words of C S Lewis) further up and further in, to show that what is under the sun is ever new, ever exciting, not wearisome or tiring. 

The pressures that exist are driven by the digital shifting realities, alongside an openness to seeing God doing something new. Christian publishing is simultaneously incredibly risky, and, when we are seeking to be true to the Bible, the safest business around.

I’m also aware of the complexities of Acts 1:8. This verse starts with our local context (Jerusalem), looks out to the region (Judea and Samaria), and yet holds a hope for truth to reach and shape the whole world (the ends of the earth). Publishing fits in that paradigm: how can the person next to me see and read something true about Jesus, whether that ‘next to me’ is my literal next door neighbour, someone in a similar stage, or the person I’m meeting at the social aspect of an industry conference?

IP: What now are the opportunities facing a publisher like IVP in the current cultural context? 

TC: This is where asking what kind of publisher we are is really important. As a global publisher, our opportunities include expanding our author, editor, and reader base alongside the worldwide growth of the church. As a publisher working in both academic and pastoral spaces, we are able to speak to both the university in its various forms, and the church as it grows despite the best efforts of the world. As a confessional publisher, our readers can trust—though we value being held to account—that an IVP book published in 2028 is going to have reasonable levels of resonance and continuity with the books we published in 2018, 1998, and 1968, to name but a few. Our confession is a strength.

But practically speaking, as the Church of England continues to slowly implode, we want to steward the best of it, to serve the remnant and growing parts of the church in England, as well as continue to serve the global church as it seeks to dig into the Bible. I’d love to connect with anyone honestly seeking a global, historic, evangelical understanding of the faith; there is so much more we can do together than apart.

IP: How do you see the work of IVP relating to the ministry of the church in the UK? 

TC: I hope that IVP books from the past few decades are slowly filling the shelves of preachers and ministers—as well as being the first off the shelf. Whether it is our Tyndale, Apollos or BST series, our commentaries and related books are great ways to get a grasp of what is going on in any given text.

I hope, and trust, and am working towards, the idea that IVP is the publisher who is publishing the evangelical books that any Christian can access, wherever they are. That might mean you see IVP, or one of our brands, popping up in an unfamiliar space. I’d ask you to pray that God would use the presence of our books to draw readers back to his word and his story, inviting the whole church into God’s mission.

Again, and I hope I can keep on top of the emails, if you lead a church or ministry in the UK—or an English-speaking ministry or church in the wider world, including the US—I’d love to connect. I wonder and pray and hope that our conversations could lead to exciting things. We are not a disembodied publisher, like some, but we are a distinctively evangelical Christian publisher, seeking to serve the church, and we’d love to talk to you.

IP: How can people make the most of IVP and other Christian publishers in their own discipleship, faith, and ministry? 

TC: You can make the most of us by praying for us. Pray that what we do would be used by God—and that all Christian publishers would use everything they have to point people back towards the Bible, the word of life.

You can also make the most of us by following us—find a way that works for you to get involved with what God is doing through a publisher. Follow us on social media, go to our events, look at the books you see and wonder what and who the publisher is. 

And take books seriously! God has used books in different ways to expand his kingdom. What books have  blessed you? Buy a couple of copies, and give some away. What translation of the Bible do you love? Buy a couple of different editions of it, and give some away. Share!

IP: What are your aspirations for your new role and for the work of IVP going forward?

TC: IVP is in a really interesting place. Since we came into the SPCK Group in 2015, we’ve established ourselves as a vital part of a worldwide publishing group—and we continue to be a trusted voice around what it means to be true to the Bible.

My aspirations are simple. I want to bear in mind the way God has used IVP in the past, but I’m also excited about and praying about the ways the God might use IVP in the future. I live in London, the capital city of a nominally Christian country that is full of people who need to know Jesus. 

And so in the light of that, I want everything we do to point people towards Jesus. I want to work with one set of friends to resource evangelism. I want to work with anther group of friends to help pastors and preachers be true to the Bible—and churches and denominations to stand firm in the faith. And I want to work with another group of friends to hold out the word of life in the academy- infecting and inflecting even the most high-falutin (sorry—an American phrasing) of contexts with the simple joy of Jesus and the transforming power of Gods’ word, the Bible.

Please pray for us! And pray with us—that God’s word would be the main thing, that the Gospel Jesus preached would go out, and that we could continue to have real and meaningful conversations, with the people we need to, that the world would know that Jesus is king.

IP: Many thanks for your time, Tom. We will continue to pray, to read—and to share!


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13 thoughts on “How can books and publishing support the work of the gospel?”

  1. Your last article on Whither the Church of England was excellent. I felt that this could have been a rather more challenging interview.
    What are the strengths and weaknesses of a confessional publisher? How do you approach a subject when the evidence does not support the predetermined view of the publisher? etc.

    Reply
    • Perhaps so. But do all articles need to be equally challenging…?!

      I think that is a great question—but surely applies not just to publishing? Why am I an evangelical, and how do I address questions where the evidence challenges my convictions?

      More broadly, isn’t that something all Christians need to deal with?

      You might be interested in my article on The Spirit and Critical Study…

      Reply
  2. It is an interesting question around editorial policy. One finds it even more in newspapers, some of whose leader-articles are an unedifying circular feeding back to the supposed reader of what they already think. What on earth could be more inimical to the search for truth? And yet the search for truth is precisely what journalists are supposed to be in the vanguard of.
    The tenets of the disastrous sexual revolution ‘must’ not be questioned; by papers’ not saying (by editorial policy which fell from on high) how dangerous certain practices and norms (which they themselves created) are, they are thereby normalised with subsequent body count.
    It is in some ways even less defensible for Christian publishers to have editorial policies, but it depends what those policies are. If they are based on unargued dogma, bad. If they are based on coherence and natural law, good. If they are based on what effect things will have sales figures, bad, but the alternative could be to go out of business. One remarkable pattern is the way each publisher ‘can’ mention only their own book on a topic, whereas scholars and retailers are free to tell the truth.

    Reply
  3. To put this into a more concrete setting – could we have some indication of the top two or three IVP books published over the last 5 years – and reasons for recommending them?

    Reply
  4. I think it’s interesting that one of the books Tom Creedy mentioned as helpful was “The Lord of the Rings,” a work of fiction and not one that would probably fit into a very standard Christian fiction format. It’s interesting to me, because that is the type of fiction I write (the Tales from Ragaris, where pseudo-medieval characters solve murders etc and some of them relate their adventures to their faith) and naturally I’m seizing any opportunity to market these. Such books are very difficult to market and to find a publisher for.

    Reply
  5. Thank you for the reminder to pray.

    I started buying Christian books just after my conversion in the later 60s. Tyndale /IVP and they still feature in my reduced “library “… space being at a premium in retirement.

    I rarely buy now because of the cost. I wonder if book price inflation is similar to that generally or are there particular reasons?

    PS “managing manuscripsh”… More water with it, Ian, more water

    Reply
  6. Thank you for the interview Ian.

    I have two questions which if answered would provide greater insight into IVP’s values.
    1. Would IVP have chosen to publish Luther’s 95 Theses (before it knew what they would trigger) only on the basis of their truth and corrective value?

    Tom Creedy said the following:
    “…., if you lead a church or ministry in the UK—or an English-speaking ministry or church in the wider world, including the US—I’d love to connect”.
    Does this mean that one must have ‘a following’ to publish a book with IVP? How well are those with a following in London doing at upholding the truth and growing the kingdom? Hillsong? HTB? All Souls? St Helens? I cannot name a larger church in London which has been faithful in the area of external discipline (separating from people teaching falsely) and while I won’t divert to prove it in each church’s case I also don’t believe the four churches I named are faithful internally.

    I don’t subscribe to the idea that to be a great leader one must have followers. Jesus greatest leadership moment was surely the cross – yet how many people were following at that moment?

    I believe we have reached a point where – as happened with Luther – a new standard of faithfulness must be defined. Our theology is far more wrong than people realise. I don’t believe that the person who corrects this state of affairs – the person who gives clear insight into what has gone wrong – and who establishes that standard – will currently be running a popular ministry.

    2. Do IVP believe that churches should charge people money for their ‘worship music’? Is it right to charge money for live worship sung to God – or for the songs written for that purpose? And does IVP believe that it is right to charge people money to engage with the word of God? (See question 1 – these questions relate to establishing a godly standard theologically and practically).

    John Piper has adopted what I believe is the right approach – he makes all of his books available on PDF for free and provides people who don’t want books in that format the opportunity to buy them. Has IVP ever pursued this kind of arrangement with any author – and if not – is it willing to do so? Or does one have to be John Piper before this is a possibility?

    Tom Creedy – with the concerns I have outlined above – if you want to read a 180 page document which attempts to outline a restored and also more complete evangelical theological standard – which is currently a series of articles which could form a book if re-arranged – but which aren’t yet a book – I would be happy to send the content to you. I don’t have any expectations – if the only thing I am supposed to do is raise your awareness in some theological areas – that’s a win as far as I am concerned.

    Reply
      • Hello,
        Let me explain about each of the four churches one by one:

        HTB
        Under Nicky Gumbel HTB white anted the gospel – removing all of the following doctrines – causing God to appear as if he exists to do nothing except affirm us – to be our servant:
        Holiness, justice, judgement, mercy, repentance, and hell.
        I call their gospel the ‘love only’ gospel – with the ‘love’ that is pretty much the only thing left being indistinguishable from worldly love. Instead of God’s love being his holiness, justice, mercy, and grace HTB’s love was God feeling affection for us – and for some reason sacrificing for us (I say for some reason because if God justice is erased there was no need for Jesus to die). You can tell who is unfaithful in respect of the centrality of God’s justice and the gospel – the churches who were and are made a huge big deal about George Floyd – as if social justice is AN ARM of faithful Christianity – instead of its very heart. HTB was one of those churches.

        Hillsong (UK and Global)
        Hillsong made the gospel a path to one’s material hopes being met – Brian Houston would achieve this by presenting God as if he should be our first ‘priority’ (leaving the pursuit of money to be one’s second priority). He would speak as if people’s gifts to Hillsong were essential to the purposes of God being achieved around the world (this isn’t how the bible presents money – our achieving God’s purposes will NEVER fail for lack of money – God funds all of his projects).
        God is not a priority – to live IS Christ – worship is never about making God merely first ‘priority’. Take a look at the last twenty tweets of @hillsong on X – notice that at the time I write this (May 31, 2024) – that even now – after all the public scandal – they are still presenting ‘god’ in a way that is entirely undefined (the May 30 quote of Tim Keller’s is I suggest the result of my pointing out – by replying to their tweets – that their ‘god’ is deliberately undefined so that God can appear to exist only to meet people’s selfish wants. The twenty tweets previous to the Time Keller tweet mentioned only a single character attribute of God (and then only once) – that God ‘serves’ (however no explanation of what that means is present – leaving the other nineteen tweets to give the impression that God – instead of serving our best welfare – God serves whatever our hopes may be).

        St Helens
        St Helens Bishopsgate has been committed to Calvinism for decades. Calvinism – in redefining the God of the bible who sacrifices himself so that ANYONE might come to him – into the ‘god’ who creates most people who have ever been born only in order to eternally punish them – into a partial monster – has to be first order doctrinal failure – not something about which we are free to agree to disagree – maintaining fellowship. Why does Calvinism get treated as secondary doctrinal failure? Because Calvinism requires those who believe it to ignore the testifying of the Spirit – thereby making leadership of the Calvinist church the job of the cleverest person in the room. The cleverest person in the room is – by virtue of the way the world works – often the most powerful – best connected person in the room. While the working class Pentecostal pastor who teaches that Jesus wants us all to be rich gets sanctioned – no-one is ever stood down from ministry in the church for being a Pharisee.
        Why does Calvinism require the Calvinist to ignore the Spirit? Because it isn’t possible to receive the testimony of the Spirit as evidence of God’s total character – because the Calvinist God relates to the Calvinist elect and the Calvinist non-elect differently. Since no person can be one of the elect and also one of the non-elect the Spirit isn’t able to testify to people all of God’s character. So Calvinism is either Pharisaism (word without Spirit – John 5:39) – favouring Calvinist conclusions from the bible over the testifying of the Spirit – or liberalism (Spirit without word – John 14:15). The Calvinist may constantly swing between the two but is only ever welcoming God as either word – or Spirit – never both at once.
        Acts 10:34-35 ESV
        So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him”.
        For logical proof that the false gospel of the Church of England built on the UNCONDITIONAL love of God (the real gospel is built on the UNCHANGING love of God) which is destroying it – is in fact logically one with Calvinism (and therefore there is no point in being committed to either of these wrong beliefs while not being committed to the other) – with these subsets of theological belief appearing to be different due to their adherents not venturing into the domain of the other group – see the PDF document at the link below.
        https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fi/gqwfn1m03i5g3ym6mahph/Philip-Benjamin-The-Liberal-Calvinist-Gospel.pdf?rlkey=k3ycvglhu40ka8g0u7e20nf3y&st=kn48tgqe&dl=0

        All Souls
        While it may be easier to understand the unfaithfulness of All Souls Langham Place by considering its external behaviour – that since the days of John Stott it has advocated for remaining united with those committed liberalism in the Church of England (a point that I have been making here for a few years – with people pushing back against me – no-one’s pushing back now!) we must recognise that the reason All Souls took this approach is because despite not being Calvinists All Souls have persistently favoured the elite. They are if you like non-Calvinist Calvinists. That’s why even now they aren’t willing to obey the bible and separate from the apostate Bishops of the Church of England – because they value the prestige of being in the Church of England – and the real estate – more than they value relationship with God. Imagine that someone on the All Souls staff had been teaching that sexual immorality was godly – they would have been out on their ear immediately (or certainly if they failed to change direction). But the better connected Bishops of the Church of England have been doing that for decades – and what did All Souls do? Nothing. Fundamental to loving like God is not showing favouritism – favouritism is a church ending path.
        There are as I alluded to above two dimensions to obedience. To welcome God as Word – and to welcome God as Spirit. All Souls have never shown any interest in the latter – as it involves losing control – one doesn’t get to live as one was before one believes – learning to cooperate with the Spirit takes time – and it requires humility. It is because of this choice that All Souls have been able to behave as if they are entirely RELATIONALLY unaware of the holiness of God – despite the Spirit testifying to this to all people – believer and non-believer through the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:21).

        I therefore don’t subscribe at all to the idea that the three supposedly divided evangelical groups within the C of E – are uniting in response to Welby, Cottrell, and their Bishops. I regret to say that I believe that the implosion of the C of E is God’s judgement not just against ‘the liberals’ – but also against these three groups.

        Reply
          • Your criticism had an unexpected result Ian – I suddenly find myself with an idea for a totally different book – complete with title:
            London Church is Falling Down

  7. For insight into why publishers are often looking in the wrong place to find content with spiritual merit please see my comments below the video at the link below (not reproduced here due to the need for brevity). They relate to the place or not of scholarship – and of intellect – in the preaching and life of the preacher/pastor – and also in the growth journey of the individual believer.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrllVbvfbA4

    Reply
  8. Thanks Ian (and Tom). A really interesting interview. Anyone who quotes Ecclesiastes, is already winning brownie points with me.

    In a previous age we probably relied more heavily on books than we do today for simply exploring issues of importance and interest. Now we have blogs, YouTube, internet radio etc. for people to draw on, books are still necessary. If want more than a small bite of a topic, you need something curated, structured, and thorough – you need a book, even a “pop” book.

    Reply

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