What’s in a Name?

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Steve Strang

Why we are rebranding Strang Communications as Charisma Media

Throughout Scripture God often changed a person’s name before something significant happened in their life. After a remarkable encounter with the Lord, Abram became Abraham. Jacob became Israel. Saul became Paul. 

It’s probably not a big deal to you, but I’ve been going by Steve Strang for the past year after using “Stephen Strang” in print for as long as Charisma has been published. Though I’m obviously not in the same category as those biblical giants, this shift has come out of some significant soul-searching.

During my sabbatical in mid-2009 the Lord was dealing with areas of pride in my life, and I realized I always felt a little “puffed up” when using Stephen rather than the name all my friends call me—Steve. The truth is, I first began using my formal given name because I thought it sounded more sophisticated.

I’m not saying anyone who prefers to be called Stephen is prideful. But for me, it boiled down to answering a question someone challenged me with: What does the Lord call me?

When God speaks to me, He calls me Steve. He’s not as interested in how sophisticated my name sounds as He is being my closest friend. So at a time when the Lord was pointing out the pride in my life, it was an easy shift to make.

But what about my other name? Strang is more than my last name; it’s what we call the company I founded 30-plus years ago. We started using “Strang Communications” partly because of the long tradition of publishing houses being named for their founders. After all, it meant I’d make sure it stood for the highest standards of quality and integrity because it was my name.

As the company grew I began to think maybe it would become a legacy at some point. Maybe someday people would utter “Strang” in the same reverenced breath as Thomas Nelson, the 18th century Scot who sold books door-to-door and whose company evolved into today’s publishing giant. I remember as a 28-year-old meeting Pat Zondervan shortly before he died and wondering if someday I’d be an important publisher too.

Our company’s success fueled this fire. The press occasionally wrote about the “Strang empire.” We landed a few books on the New York Times best-sellers list. I was named by Time magazine as one of the most influential evangelicals and began to be sought after by politicians. It all began to feel pretty good. Yet gradually the very thing I hated in others—pride—crept into my own thinking. I tried to keep my pride in check a couple of times by asking trusted leaders such as Jack Hayford and Mike Bickle if we should change the name of the company. They felt there was no reason to change, that Strang had become a respected and worthy brand. 

But as I reached middle age I grew more wary of things we published and how they reflected on me personally—after all, my name was on it. With people working “at Strang” and Google marking our office location by my name, I felt more like a landmark. This was hardly why I began publishing a small Christian magazine that encouraged people to embrace more of the Holy Spirit.

As we realized the company had to retool for a new generation and rebrand ourselves, I decided I had to rid myself of anything that drew attention to me instead of Christ. Was I put on earth to serve Him or to build a legacy to myself? I knew the answer. 

The verse “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30) became alive to me. So as I made other changes in my life, I decided to take my name off the company. It took a year to brainstorm with staff, family, authors and customers. But as of Feb. 1, our company will officially be rebranded as Charisma Media. 

Charisma is our strongest brand. It refers not just to spiritual gifts, but also to our calling and passion to serve God and the church. Media signifies the diversified ways we can communicate—not only in print through magazines and books, but also online via apps and myriad other digital vehicles. 

I’m totally focused on serving God by leading this organization. I know I won’t be doing this forever. Charisma Media is the legacy I want to leave so others can reach their generation as I’ve tried to reach mine, just as Jamie Buckingham, Robert Walker and others did before me.

I’m no Saul of Tarsus, nor did Jesus blind me on my way to work one day. But my “encounter” has resulted in some significant name changes, both personally and professionally. And with Strang Communications becoming Charisma Media, we have great faith for big things in the future—all for God’s glory.

Steve Strang is the founder and publisher of Charisma.

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