I witnessed a change in the interest in the ministry of Christian books and Bibles. In fact, my observation is that it changed significantly. When I was a student in the late 1950's and 60's there were few Christian bookstores in the States. For the most part, all of us Western Christians had sense for the difficulty of obtaining a quality Christian book. However, we also knew that, with effort, we could get any Christian book we wanted, perhaps by mail order or by a 50-mile drive to the nearest Christian bookstore.
We understood that apart from literature, the Iron Curtain was difficult to penetrate with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We knew that the Communists were pouring their high quality literature into the West and into the developing countries. We were fighting for the minds and spirits of humankind and we vigorously used literature to do it.
But something wonderful happened. Radio penetrated the Curtain. It became evangelical missions' communications media of choice. Little by little literature, except for Bible distribution, slipped into the backdrop.
Today, Christian bookstores, online book retailers, and general bookstores that carry Christian books are numerous in Western English-speaking nations, making it more difficult for us to relate to lands where books are unavailable. The Berlin Wall is leveled; the Iron Curtain ceases to exist. Radio is covering the globe with the Good News. These are wonderful things, but I believe they blinded us to a great need.
In lands of poverty where English is spoken, many pastors still lack books other than a Bible and a hymnbook. So often, a pastor's single Bible is not a study Bible. Children lack Bible story books. Indigenous missionaries lack material to leave with new converts so they can read and grow in their faith. Even seminarians, the upcoming Christian leaders of emerging nations, lack resource books. They study from photocopied notes. Too often their seminary or Bible school lacks a library!
These are not imaginary situations; they are the reality of the 21st century. How can a church that is exploding remain true to the teachings of Jesus if it cannot study what He taught? How can Pastors understand and teach the depths of the Word without being able to read what the Church Fathers learned through struggle and prayer? How can the Church avoid becoming cultist without books? How can their culture gain the salt of Christianity if the “salt shaker” is empty?
We Westerners need to step up to the plate. We need to partner with the Church in lands, where life is very difficult, and Bibles and Christian books are financially out of reach. That's the mission of Oasis International. Why not join us!
Edward Elliott, Chair