They say that there only two inevitable things in life – death and taxes. I would like to add another – change. Just when you think that you have learned how something works or gotten into a comfortable routine, things change. Sometimes we cause this change ourselves, but many times it is the circumstances around us that change. This has never been truer in the world of books, missions and publishing that I live in daily.
If you listen to the prevailing pundits you can get pretty confused about what is actually changing. Some are postulating that e-Books will replace the printed page in five years and others are predicting that e-Books will never overtake physical books. There are surveys pointing out that reading is on a decline and that people are reading smaller and smaller amounts of content when they do chose to read. Ironically there are other surveys that make the case that we have never had more access to written content and that more books are being written, published and read than at any time in history.
Recently there has been a lot written questioning the value of short term mission trips for both the participants and the countries where these people go to serve. At the same time, more churches are funding and sending short term missions teams than at any time in the history of missions. The value of indigenous missions (utilizing national workers) and business as mission have been the hot trends in recent years and yet business people in the church are still unclear about their role and nationals don’t always understand the concept of being a missionary.
Book publishing has a long and storied history where change has been incremental until the last few years. It used to be that the only way an author could get his or her books into the hands of the public was by getting signed by a publishing house to a book contract. This had a considerable impact on limiting the number of books that got published. Today, virtually anyone can get a book published in print via the many self-publishing companies that have made a name for themselves. Authors can even chose to avoid getting a book printed at all and go straight to the e-Book format and make it available for sale worldwide on their own.
In the face of this constant and confusing world, it would be easy to simply curl up into a fetal position and wish it would all go back to the way that it was. I for one have come to the conclusion that this is not an option and that embracing change and thriving in this new world are what God is calling us to. Just like the men of Issachar “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do”, we are called to become knowledgeable about what is really going on around us and then formulate plans that are forward thinking.
One of the best ways that I have found to learn about the conversations that are taking place that will affect me and my ministry is to be an avid reader of blogs. Carefully choosing a handful of blogs to read by intelligent and thoughtful Christians has helped me to stay informed of what God is doing and to hear the rumblings of change that are often right around the corner. While I love to read books, they are better suited to in depth analysis of an issue than immediate clarification of a burgeoning controversy. A great example of this was the recent ruckus surrounding the issue of the two views of Christian marriage – the Egalitarian perspective versus the Complementarian perspective that erupted after a blog post by Jared Wilson on the Gospel Coalition website. Candidly, I had no idea what these two views were before this and would likely still be in the dark if not for this recent debate.
On another front, I really enjoy discovering new books that are coming out that will have an impact on the thinking and direction of the evangelical church in years to come. One of the best ways I have found to get this information is to visit blogs that do effective book reviews and are broad in their coverage of the evangelical world. Christianity Today magazine and their website do an excellent job of this, but my favorite blog to visit when I am looking for new books is the Booknotes Blog on the Hearts and Minds website written by Byron Borger. I do not know how he has the time to review all these books, but I greatly appreciate his insights and perspective.
As I prepare for a new season of ministry that kicks off after Labor Day when people return from vacation, kids go back to school and churches launch new initiatives, I am excited about prayerfully taking the time to see what God is doing in our world as described on the blogosphere. I have learned the hard way that it is a lot better for me to discern what God is doing and then get on His plan than to develop my plans and pray that God will bless them. In a future blog post, I intend to highlight some of these coming trends and likely changes as well as new books that I can’t wait to get my hands on.
What a wonderful reassurance it is that no matter what change is coming, we serve a God who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.