Empowering indigenous Christian publishers to equip the local church
Attendees of our ‘Langham Live’ Zoom event last week were privileged to hear a fascinating interview with Colin Macpherson, Langham’s Director of Publisher Development.
Colin nurtures and supports indigenous evangelical publishers in the Majority World, such as ‘Kanok Bannasan’ in Thailand. You can find out more about Langham’s partnership with Kanok Bannasan and its Director Tasanee Yanasiddhi in this short video.
Q: What does a Director of Publisher Development do?
I serve people like Tasanee, she’s one of many indigenous evangelical publishers that God has raised up around the world who serve Him in different languages and cultures.
There are different ways of propagating Christian literature worldwide. I think it was Tearfund that coined the adage: if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day; if you teach him how to fish, you feed his family for a lifetime. It’s similar with Christian literature. Although producing and giving books is necessary, a longer-term strategy is also appropriate. This seeks to ensure that the skills, vision and capacity are there for future generations.
Publisher development is trying to sow, nurture, equip and empower local indigenous publishers. There are many strengths of that model. We do it simply by getting alongside those whom the Lord is calling to serve him in that way. I encourage them, I invest in them as people, in their ministries. We listen, we try to understand, we ask a lot of questions, probe a lot of things, try to clarify. Above all, I try to encourage, because publishing is a wearying task.
Q: Can you give some more background about your involvement with the Thai publishers Kanok Bannasan in the video?
I’ve been working with the Thai folk for six years now. Generally, we don’t advertise what we do, we headhunt and look for the people that the Lord really is calling.
It’s encouraging to hear Tasanee refer to herself as one of the little people, because we know that in God’s economy, the little is huge! Just think of the widow’s mite, or the loaves and the fishes. Langham is little people too. We’re a drop in the ocean compared to the need. Our donors are mostly little people as well, giving in the face of huge needs.
I like the phrase “Many a mickle makes a muckle” – it means lots of little make a big. In joining forces with indigenous publishers around the world, we’re actually acting as salt and light on a much bigger scale.
Q: How do you go about headhunting whom the Lord is calling?
It is a prayerful point. It would be possible but unprofitable for a ministry like Langham to go into a country and say: “We want to be publishing here so who will do it for us?”
It’s maybe an older model, and that tanker needs to turn a little bit and realise that the Lord is calling people to equip His own local church, and our job is to support them in any way we can.
In practice it happens in a myriad of ways. It’s a point of prayer, because I believe that unless you engage with the people the Lord is calling, it may be a long hard struggle with no guarantee of fruit.
Q: What sorts of projects are you working on right now?
Project to me means a ‘publisher’, and for me normally that’s a 10 or 15-year relationship. At any one time, we’re working with about 20 meaningful publishers like Kanok Bannasan in Thailand.
We started out in Eastern Europe, in the vacuum of ideology after communism and that stretched us little by little across Siberia, towards the Far East and into Southeast Asia. Every different culture has its own set of requirements. We definitely have a soft spot for those places where recent history has deprived the church of literature in the local culture or language.
We are working with some very enterprising Christians in an Asian country where it’s not strictly speaking legal to be a Christian publisher. But if you’re working with local people you discover that there are ways round it!
We’re also working in Cambodia, where the church has grown from a small number of hundreds after the Pol Pot years, to about half a million now. There’s been huge growth, but it’s a first generation church that is desperately needing teaching and training. We’re working in another Asian country with a first-generation church, which has started from single figures of believers after communism, and is still going.
I started myself in Albania in the post-communist years, where there was nothing. I’ve seen the Lord provide, which is wonderful.
Q: Are you looking at developing relationships with other Majority World Christian publishers?
At the macro level, surprisingly few of the 6,000 living languages in the world today can be said to have all the Christian literature they’ll ever need. Even those that say they do, we still need to re-express Gospel truth in new generations.
If we were all still just reading John Owens or the Puritans, we would hunger for something more 21st century. So there really is an ongoing huge need for Christian publishing for all parts of the world, it’s not a job that can be done and dusted.
I would love to see the establishment and growth of independent evangelical Christian publishers effectively meeting the needs of the church in their heart languages, opening up scripture.
I would also love to see more mission workers, both Majority World and the West turning attention to the calling and gifting of Majority World publishers and writers. We could use an army of people doing that for hundreds, if not thousands of languages.
At the micro level, when it comes to specific languages, I feel a little bit like a doctor in a warzone trying to do triage. Which is the first publisher to get 15 years attention? Please pray for the B* language, which is definitely under-resourced. Please also pray for Laos, it’s a difficult situation and there’s virtually nothing going on there. That’s two to start off with, another 2,000 to go!
Q: How are you going about looking for Christian publishers in the B* language?
Langham has a network of preachers, Scholars and authors on the ground, so it is possible to do in country, in context research. We can put our feelers out. I visited at the tail end of last year and spent some time with groups who have an interest in publishing. It’s fraught with difficulties, we haven’t yet met those we feel really are going to move this forward.
Please pray for Colin’s work with indigenous Majority World Christian publishers. Watch the video about Kanok Bannasan, a Christian publishing house in Thailand: