“…and Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all dreadfully cracked about the head and desperately in need of mending.”
–Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Digital publishing presents the Church an opportunity for the distribution of solid Biblical materials not seen since the age of Gutenberg.
In previous posts we looked at the rapid expansion of opportunity — an estimated 4 billion first-time internet users coming online due to expanded wifi coverage and low cost smart phones. We also considered the great impact books have both in personal spiritual growth as well as for leaders in the church.
E-publishing presents the Church an opportunity for the dissemination of solid Biblical materials not seen since the age of Gutenberg.
The Church is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the e-publishing boom.
With its historic emphasis on literacy and education, as well as groundbreaking work in linguistics and translation, the Church already has books and written materials in many languages around the world. Wycliffe is known for its pioneering work in Bible translation, but even smaller organizations translate and write materials to be used by the local church in many languages.
Amazon continues to expand the languages that can be published on its e-readers and apps. Currently, Amazon distributes e-books in over 35 languages, and my understanding is that they support dialects related to those languages as well. Kobo claims e-books in 60+ languages in 190 countries, and is really focusing on the Asian market. While iBooks and Google Play are smaller players at this point, once a book is formatted for e-publishing, it takes just a few more clicks to get it on those platforms as well.
The strategic key here is that the hard work of writing or translating has already been done. Churches, affiliated schools, and mission organizations already have the creative capital of written books and materials. In the past, the production and distribution of physical books has been an expensive and logistical barrier to getting them in the hands of people. But with e-publishing, those barriers are coming down.
Case Study: India
India provides a great case study for considering how the Church can use digital publishing to distribute sound Biblical materials to many people. It is especially relevant because a great many of new internet users will be coming from Asia, Africa, and the sub-continent of India.
English is one of the official languages of India, and a significant number of new internet users worldwide will be either native English speakers or know it as the language of business and education. However, e-book distributors are also targeting markets in other languages. Amazon recently announced that it now is offering e-books in five of the regional languages of India — Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati and Malayalam, Both the Kindle and mobile platform Kindle apps are able to support these languages.
Amazon says it has “thousands” of books in its India store in these regional languages. Thousands? While that is great — it sounds as if Amazon still has a rather small pool of books for these languages. When we consider the materials in these regional languages already written and translated by churches, schools and seminaries, it could easily add many more thousands of titles to Amazon’s regional language stores.
An inquisitive reader looking for e-book deals in his own language does an Amazon search — and what could they find? Not just the Bible, but study materials and Christian living resources in their own language available at low cost. If Christian organizations are are early adopters of widespread e-distribution, the likelihood that they will be found and read goes up.
Early Adopters — Big Fish in a Small Pond?
Since mission organizations already have materials in multiple languages, they are poised to be early adopters of e-publishing. Consider the 60+ languages available for publishing through Kobo — how many of these languages have limited number of books available? If Christian organizations can work towards digital publishing of their materials, they will represent a great percentage of the books in some of the smaller language groups. The likelihood that they will be found and read goes up.
I’ve heard (but can’t confirm) that Amazon is the world’s second most powerful search engine — second to Google. The more theologically solid materials that are available on Amazon, the more people who are curious will find them. This is where people are looking for materials — let’s be where people are looking.
Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play are leveling the publishing playing field worldwide — the church needs to take advantage of that.
Use the Existing Distribution Infrastructures
Amazon and the like are building amazing international distribution infrastructures for commercial use. Barriers are continuing to fall to the spread of information. Christian organizations can use the international distribution infrastructures which are being developed for commercial use.
In my initial research, I’ve been unable to find out which organizations are utilizing worldwide e-publishing to disseminate sound theological resources. (Note: If you know which organizations are pursing this, please let me know!)
Some organizations offer materials free or low cost — but only from their website. This is true of one of my favorite publishers, Banner of Truth. They have some really excellent materials, but aren’t leveraging the existing distribution networks.
Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play are leveling the publishing playing field worldwide — we need to take advantage of that.
Digital Publishing isn’t Complicated
My husband’s first book, Knox’s Irregulars, was initially self-published. This was in the early days of Amazon working with indie authors, and we didn’t quite know what we were doing. But you know what? The formatting and uploading process was straightforward, and it was low cost to get a book on Amazon. The learning curve to use other distribution sites such as Kobo is pretty small. (This is a great how-to for getting e-books to the major distributors.) While John’s book is now with a traditional publisher, it is still available worldwide — I just saw it on Amazon India the other day. The barrier to worldwide publishing is lower than it has ever been.
Perhaps a mission organization may need to designate a person to develop the skills of e-formatting and navigating the uploading process to e-book distributors. Mission organizations can charge the lowest sale price allowed to cover the download fees. Some books may be able to be put on sale for “free,” and others may require a nominal fee. It’s easy to imagine a pastor in India finding a commentary on Romans and downloading it to his smart phone for 99 cents.
One caveat on it isn’t complicated. . . When publishing rights have been acquired for translated materials, it is important to double check that those include digital distribution.
The barriers to distribution are low, and the potential impact is so great.
I know there must be some organizations working on getting solid Biblical materials more widely accessed via mobile devices worldwide, but I’m not hearing about it. I’d love to know who is working on this sort of project even now.
Quick, name the top five books which have impacted you.
I bet your challenge is limiting it to just five, or figuring out which are the TOP five.
When I consider my own spiritual growth, I remember reading over and over the New Testament with cartoon illustrations my grandmother gave me. I remember being in fifth grade and devouring a box of missionary-adventure stories from some Wycliffe friends. It was Let the Nations Be Glad (aff) which led me to consider maybe God could use even me, even me?, in mission outreach. When I read the analysis of the attributes of God in Berkhof’s “Systematic Theology,” my heart felt like it was with the angels in heaven singing “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty! Who was, and is, and is to come!”
We accept the assumption that we are changed by what we read.
Think again of those top five books which impacted your life.
Imagine if the book which most nurtured your walk with the Lord was available for free, worldwide.
Consider the the four billion people who will be coming online for the first time in the near future reading your top five books.
Imagine a young woman in India who speaks English but can’t easily get a Bible, can now read the Bible on her low cost smart phone.
Imagine the man in rural Nigeria discipling young men around him, with sound devotional materials easily available.
Imagine the pastor behind the Rice Curtain accessing Amazon through a proxy to purchase study materials.
Imagine the curious Russian student who is inundated with new age mysticism and materialism reading solid apologetics materials. All at their fingertips — it’s exciting!
But it isn’t just personal spiritual growth that can be impacted by low-cost e-publishing.
When we lived in Kenya we employed a driver to help us navigate the crazy and often dangerous streets. Enoch was also the lay pastor of his church. When he asked us for a study Bible for Christmas, we were thrilled to give him one. We were also able to give him orthodox solid theological books for his further study from our personal library.
Enoch had a smart phone, as did most Kenyans we met. Even out in the villages cell phones were common, and are often charged from generators at small shops for a fee. I think of Enoch and the other pastors and lay teachers around the world being able to access an array of good study materials — maybe for the first time! These leaders can become better equipped to shepherd their flocks, people eager for God’s Word.
I find this exciting. Technology is opening more doors for worldwide spread of the Gospel and resources for spiritual growth.
Recently, I’ve reached out to some international and ministry friends to ask them what they are seeing around the world. I’ve gotten good feedback about some e-resources available and how they are being used in their contexts.
Yet I’m not hearing a lot about how organizations are taking advantage of e-publishing worldwide, especially through major distributors. My background includes a mix of nonprofit management, marketing, and msisions. I would love to be connected with organizations which are making efforts to use e-publishing to expand their worldwide reach, and help promote them.
If you are connected to Christian organizations using digital publishing to expand their worldwide outreach, would you tell me about it? Thanks!
Over 3.5 billion people now have internet access. I’ve heard speculation that the over the next 10 years, its likely that there will be approximately 4 billion new users coming online for the first time.
Many of these new users are skipping right over accessing the internet via desktop or laptop, and going straight to mobile devices. And while the $4 smart phone in India may not pan out, it illustrates the way technology is getting more affordable and expanding into unreached markets.
Google and Elon Musk are in a creative collaboration to bring high speed internet to the entire planet. Google has experimented with using low level hot air balloons to bring internet to rural areas of India.
Inexpensive mobile devices mixed with billions of new users and the growth of books in e-formats? The reach of e-books seems limitless.
In the U.S. we’ve experienced an interesting combination of slow (over 20+ years) and fast growth of internet and digital technology infiltrating nearly every aspect of our lives. It isn’t just the tech geeks eagerly adopting the latest and greatest. We use tech to read books, order groceries, hail a cab, check the weather, pay for coffee… and these are just “entry level” uses.
While the term “Information Superhighway” is a bit dated now and seems quaint, information is still one of the most valuable commodities of modern tech expansion. Beyond Google and Wikipedia being our go-to for info, access to research, news, and books can be found with a few easy searches.
Amazon has been key in the normalization of digital books and e-readers, despite the protests of avid readers pledging their undying love for physical books. Barnes and Noble and its Nook, Kobo, iBooks and others are helping expand the inexpensive distribution e-books worldwide.
Taking a step back — inexpensive mobile devices mixed with billions of new users and the growth of books in e-formats? The reach of e-books seems limitless. This is fascinating to me as a book lover who does marketing for her author husband. The opportunities and markets are growing and vast parts of the world’s population will so be new consumers.
Even more exciting, though? The huge opportunity for the Church.
The written word has been instrumental in the growth and preservation of God’s Word through the ages.
The Reformation would not have happened were it not for the catalyst of Johannes Gutenberg and the movable type printing press.
The Hebrew scribes painstakingly copied the Torah and Hebrew Bible. Centuries before Christ, it was customary for almost all Hebrew young men to be taught to read in order that they could read the holy books.
The bounds of orthodoxy were reinforced by the Councils of Nicea, Constantinople and Chalcedon, and much of the discussion surrounding the theological questions in question are preserved in written form.
The Reformation would not have happened were it not for the catalyst of Johannes Gutenberg and the movable type printing press. First the Bible became more readily available in Latin, and then in the vernacular. Martin Luther and other reformers wrote pamphlets which were widely read and spread quickly throughout Europe.
Just a few year ago, I wouldn’t have considered the e-book the world-changing equivalent of the printing press — but I’m beginning to wonder?
Could digital publishing combined with mobile devices spark a worldwide reformation?
Yesterday was #GivingTuesday — a great reminder to all of us to both plan for our monthly, regular giving throughout the year as well as an opportunity to give spontaneously.
Some of you may know that my background is in nonprofit management and fundraising. If you haven’t made your giving plans for next year, touch base with me and let me know what brings out your passion — missions, arts, children, health. . . I’m happy to steer you in the direction of organizations which may help put feet to your passions!
(I’m not currently working with or consulting with any nonprofits. . . I just really find fulfillment in connecting caring people with organizations that are a good fit for their giving.)
“You know the palm tree in the fairy garden that has three trunks? It’s kind of like the Trinity. It’s one tree, but three.” – A4
“Education is the Science of Relations”; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of–
“Those first-born affinities
“That fit our new existence to existing things.”
It’s hard to believe that a decade has passed since the news of Sean Paddock’s death rocked my world.
We had been back in the U.S. for just under a year. God had already worked on my heart in ways that changed my attitude and actions towards my children. I understood the conventional wisdom about the rightness of spanking was a cultural value more than something mandated in the Bible.
And then Sean Paddock died.
Died of child abuse. Died at the hands of his adoptive parents. Died a young four-year-old boy, acting simply as four-year-old boys act.
Why did his mother, who some say always wanted to do the “right” thing, abuse her child to death? Part of the legal defense points to her own abuse as a child. Part of the legal defense and the investigation point to the influence of Michael and Debi Pearl and their book, “To Train Up A Child.”
Within many churches and home school circles, copies of this self-published book was handed out to every new parent by others who bought it at great discount by the case. I read it in the early ’90s, while babysitting for a lovely family. Just enough sounds good or Biblical–build relationships, “tie heart-strings,” nurture your children–and just enough Bible references are scattered throughout, that many parents have bought in to its harmful teachings.
Then Sean Paddock died. Slowly the few voices that had warned about the extremism of the Pearls’ teachings grew. I thought it would shock enough Christians that churches as a whole would stop promoting these teachings. But not everyone was listening. . .
And, honestly, I know there are many hundreds or thousands more who have been abused at the hands of their well-intentioned, loving and Christian parents. Perhaps others have died from the abuse, but the connection has not been made to TTUAC by the media.
Still some parents are lured by the promises of Michael and Debi Pearl of instant obedience and fewer spankings, charmed by their folksy common-sense stories, and deceived by their shiny website with faces of happy families. Some are not only sucked into their false teachings, but promote them actively to others.
Stop a moment.
Three children died of abuse at the hands of their Christian, adoptive parents.
And people STILL defend “To Train Up a Child” and the Pearls.
God have mercy.
February will always be a month for me to remember. I believe we all need to mourn these little ones and warn other parents.
““Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.””
We remember Lydia Schatz today, February 6, 2016.
Six years ago today, Lydia died of abuse from her adoptive parents. I’m reposting this in memory of her and to protect other Lydias (and Seans and Hanas. . .)
One year ago today, 7-year-old Lydia Schatz died after her adoptive parents disciplined her to the point of death.
Lydia was a vivacious little girl, adopted from Liberia. People who knew her say she had the most heart-warming smile.
I sit here crying. Heavy-hearted. February is a difficult month for me: mourning Lydia and Sean Paddock, facing the reality of abuse within the church and Christian families.
Lydia’s adoptive parents, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz, are currently in jail in Butte County, California. They are awaiting trial. (See records here: case numbers CM032009 and CM032008.) Later this month are scheduled the trial readiness conference (2/17/11) and the jury trial (2/28/11). They each have been charged with murder, torture, and cruelty to child by inflicting injury. The murder charge is related to Lydia’s death, the torture charge is related to her sister (also adopted) who was hospitalized but recovered, and cruelty charge related to a biological son’s injuries.
Lydia died from rhabdomyolsis, a condition related to kidney and heart failure from toxins released when muscle tissue breaks down. Lydia’s muscles broke down as a result of repeated beatings over time, though her death was proceeded by an especially long “discipline” session.
Lydia’s parents used a plumbing supply line, which is recommended by Michael and Debi Pearlof No Greater Joy Ministries in their book “To Train Up A Child.” Both plumbing supply line and TTUAC were found in the Schatz home and the older children have attested to those methods being used in their home.
While death is not a common result from the implementation of TTUAC, this is not the first time that a child has died when parents have carefully and consistently applied the so-called “child training methods” espoused by the Pearls. In February 2006, 4-year-old Sean Paddockwas killed. How many other unreported cases of quiet abuse are happening under the influenced of these harmful, unBiblical teachings?
O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will( strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
Compounding the tragedy is the professed love of these parents for their children, the desire to nurture their children through homeschooling, the commitment to seek out help in parenting.
Further compounding the tragedy is that Lydia and her sister Zaraiah were adopted. Her parents needed to provide love, security, attachment. . . and instead beat them with a plumbing supply line. Sean was a foster son in the process of being adopted.
Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;
his name is the LORD;
exult before him!
Father of the fatherless and
protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
God settles the solitary in a home;
We need to remember Lydia. We need to remember Sean.
We need to remember the children who need families, who are in families.
We need to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
We need to open our eyes to the abuse within our own communities.
May God have mercy on us all.
It was just one week ago that missionary Mike Riddering left Les Ailes de Refuge Orphanage to travel to the capital of Burkina Faso to meet up with a visiting short term team. He was first having a meeting with a local pastor at the Cappuccino Café.
When we lived in Nairobi, Java House was where missionaries coming in from the bush would indulge in good coffee–their office in the city.
It’s easy for me to imagine… walking past sidewalk café tables, finding a seat near a businessman working on his Mac, waving at the waitress who knows that I like an extra large water with my latte.
I remember Hubby scanning the seating, looking for anything suspicious, choosing a seat away from the entrance, scoping out an escape route if necessary. It wasn’t just his former Army hyper-vigilance kicking in — Nairobi is rated “critical crime, critical terrorism,” and the Westgate Mall terrorist attack sadly proved that valid.
Though Kenya has seen quite a bit of violence from Islamic terrorists, it seems like Burkina Faso was caught off guard by the attack from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Mike and Pastor Valentin wouldn’t have been scanning the crowd, wouldn’t have prepped their families on emergency protocols in case of attacks.
This has hit close to home to me, even though I didn’t know Mike and Amy Riddering. I have been mourning for them. Praying for their four children. Imagining the shock of their community of orphans and vulnerable people with whom they work in Yako. What does the future hold?
Johann Esch and Heinrich Voes are often considered the first Evangelical martyrs, burned at the stake in 1523. When he heard of their deaths for the cause of Christ, Martin Luther wrote what was possibly his first hymn.
Flung to the heedless winds,
Or on the waters cast,
The martyrs’ ashes, watched,
Shall gathered be at last.
And from that scattered dust,
Around us and abroad,
Shall spring a plenteous seed,
Of witnesses for God.
The Father hath received,
Their latest living breath,
And vain is Satan’s boast,
Of victory in their death.
Still, still, though dead, they speak,
And, trumpet tongued, proclaim,
To many a wakening land,
The one availing name.
I mourn the death of Mike and other Christians around the world, yet I maintain hope that “vain is Satan’s boast of victory in their death.”
Jesus was crucified — yet he rose again. In Him, we have life and will have life even after death. His Gospel of grace is truly good news, and continues to be carried around the world.
Please pray for the Riddering family–the immediate family, their orphanage community, and their church home.
Please pray for missionaries around the world who are serving in sensitive locations.
Please pray we each are ready to show God’s love where we are.
If you want to give to support Amy Riddering and their children, you can donate to the Michael Riddering Memorial Fund. The memorial service will be held February 6, at Hollywood Community Church, Florida.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
93% of child sex abuse victims know their perpetrators. We need to destroy the myth that those who prey on children are strangers. Do the math, only 7% are strangers.
Who are perpetrators? They are usually friends, relatives, church leaders, coaches, people involved in the child’s life that the children know and trust.
There is a pedophile in my family. He was a missionary. Where did he prey on children? In his own home, in his backyard pool when his sons brought their friends over to play, in public parks, in church restrooms or any public restroom.
I tell my kids that we don’t know who pedophiles are, but they are usually people they know and trust.