I received my monthly newsletter from the Redeemer City to City network and the announcement of a new publishing endeavor reminded me of the origins of the movie studio, United Artists. In response to tighter control by the existing Hollywood studios and a rigid system of movie production (both in financing and creative content), in 1920 Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith started a new company with the express purpose of producing movies by these highly acclaimed actors and directors. Over time, United Artists fizzled, only to be revived by Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin, who turned UA into one of Hollywood’s more successful companies (even launching a record label for a time), until the bloated Heaven’s Gate almost put the company out of business.
What, pray tell, does any of this have to do with Redeemer City to City? Well, it turns out that the Keller brand (TKNY) is now starting a publishing firm. The description of operations is murky since it appears that Content Labs, the name of the publisher, is going to do a lot with products related to Keller’s existing books. This would seem to indicate a kind of symbiotic relationship between Keller’s publishers, who will print and distribute his books, and the church publisher, which will print, sell, and distribute study guides to the books.
But Content Labs also promises new books. Here is a description from one of Redeemer’s many webpages:
To help us reach a wider audience in our target cities, Labs publishes content resources for leaders to use for evangelism, discipleship, and every stage of spiritual growth, as well as learning platforms for a global community of leaders.
Publications to date:
Books: King’s Cross.
DVD Group Studies: The Prodigal God, Gospel in Life, The Reason for God.
Coming Soon: The Meaning of Marriage, Center Church, King’s Cross study, and books on Preaching, Faith & Work, and Suffering.
Among the several puzzling aspects of this venture is the obvious redundancy of the books that Content Labs promises. I can think of any number of works already published by P&R or Crossway or Baker that cover preaching, vocation, and suffering. To borrow another movie analogy (i.e. Barton Fink), these other publishers’ books may not measure up because they don’t have that “Tim Keller feel.” But do we really need another publisher to produce books on such topics? Redeemer’s niche seems to be that it is THE uber-urban church and so it apparently is at the front-lines of urban church planting, thus making its wisdom on urban ministry unparalleled. But does that make John Piper and Minneapolis chopped liver?
The question of redundancy is especially pertinent since Content Labs is asking donors to contribute to the endeavor. According another webpage for Content Labs:
In 2011, our total budget is $890,000. We plan to make about 20-25% of our budget through sales and royalties of our
books and DVD group studies. This means we need to raise 75-80% of our budget through donations from individuals like
Since United Artists started out with Hollywood stars who already had a lot of money, the new producer could afford to risk a new movie-making venture. Can Redeemer really afford another expense stream? And will Content Labs endure beyond the brand name recognition of TKNY?