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What good is navel gazing, beyond determining whether we have an “innie” or an “outie”? The wrong kind of it just makes us more narcissistic and self-engaged than even our individualistic society prompts us to be. But a careful, honest look at ourselves may actually do us some good if we dare to cast a critical eye on

  • where we can give humble thanks to our Creator, Redeemer, and Reformer for the new self already being formed within us;
  • where we can identify the remnants of our old selves still desperately needing repentance, redemption, regeneration, and redirection.

Because we so easily delude ourselves, we’ll need to use the right mirror—the mirror of Scripture as we read it, but also as it is interpreted and applied for us within the community of faith. There’s nothing like a good and trusted friend who dares to keep you accountable and speak the truth in love!

What applies to persons also applies to teams, like the team that brings you your monthly Banner. We need friends to tell us honestly where we do well and where we need to shape up. We appreciate those responses very much, even when they hurt.

You are such a friend. Beyond the many conversations we have with our readers on a continual basis, we do a Banner survey every three years or so. We do this through a reputable independent polling firm because we know how prone we (all) are to self-delusion and rationalization.

Here are a few highlights from our most recent survey:

  • the survey logged more than a 25 percent return rate (the survey firm was astounded by that, commenting that this shows almost unprecedented reader engagement);
  • the median age of respondents has dropped from 60 years in 2006 to 56 years (possibly due to the fact that this was an online survey, while the previous ones were paper);
  • most people who receive The Banner read it: 26 percent read it cover to cover (up from the 2006 survey), 42 percent read several items of interest, and 26 percent vary how much they read from issue to issue; only 2 percent say they never or hardly ever read any of it;
  • most people who read The Banner are satisfied with it: 48 percent are very satisfied, another 32 percent are somewhat satisfied, 6 percent are neutral, 7 percent are somewhat dissatisfied with it, and 7 percent believe it belongs only at the bottom of a bird cage;
  • more than half our readers are interested in the online mag: 43 percent read it online at least occasionally, 12 percent are interested in doing so (way up from 2006). (We’ll need to direct some additional resources in that direction.)

Bottom line: the survey gives strong support for the notion that an every household Banner continues to be a worthwhile expense (see more detailed highlights online at To be sure, there are copies going to waste. But they are very few.

What’s the most-read item in The Banner, nosing out even the editorial? It’s Punch Lines—the page of anecdotes and jokes you yourselves send in.

I’m not hurt. I’m glad. In these challenging times, more than ever, we need our redeemed sense of humor. The joy of the Lord is our strength! I thank God for your holy laughter.

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