In January 2012, a momentous event occurred. Two long-standing mission associations merged to create a new organization called Missio Nexus. One was CrossGlobal Link (formerly the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association) and the other was The Mission Exchange (formerly the Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies). Given their similar goals, this was not entirely surprising, but given their diverse constituencies this was not an easy process. Coming out of this merger, Missio Nexus has proven to be a very effective organization with a critical purpose summarized in a tag line that I love,
“The Great Commission is too big for anyone to accomplish alone and too important not to try to do together.”
Last week, I discussed the reality that the vast majority of evangelical Christian publishing originates in the United States and is now controlled by secular publishing companies. The consequences of this are already being felt around the world as both the best and worst of American evangelical publishing are normally the quickest books to be translated and sold. Far too often, the latest theological debates and cultural trends happening in the American evangelical church are the basis for best sellers. These are then repackaged for sale in countries all over the world with little to no consideration of their cultural relevance or necessity in those countries. How else could you explain Amish fiction showing up in various languages and the story of a little American boy with visions of heaven spurring an entire new publishing genre?
This trend will not change any time soon especially as more consolidation continues to take place in the industry and more and more money is spent to grow the brands of leading American evangelical authors. In a great irony, it is now clear that the center of evangelicalism has moved from North America to the global south. There is much hand wringing in America these days about the decline of certain denominations and the mass defection of an entire generation of young adults from the local church. At the very same time, the church is growing so fast in Latin America, Africa and Asia that trained leaders are in very short supply. Despite this, very few voices from the global south have been published by American publishing houses. This is a challenge that must be addressed as these voices are vital to the growth of the church in the years ahead. Here are some thoughts on what could be done:
1. Acquisition editors need to pursue authors that have global platforms and not just an American audience. There are many authors that are traveling, preaching and teaching in various nations and creating a worldwide interest in their content. International sales potential needs to play a larger role in acquisition decisions.
2. American evangelical gatekeepers need to invite more international leaders to the party. The leaders of the Gospel Coalition, Catalyst and other major conferences need to be more intentional about asking leaders from other countries to be plenary speakers at their events. Giving this type of exposure will jump start the platform development of new and emerging authors.
3. Key American evangelical bloggers need to invite international authors to guest blog for them on a more regular basis. This will help to expose new issues to their audience and provide platform development opportunities for great writers from other cultures. It might also help to change the tone of so much of the vitriol and disputing that seem to be the most popular items in the blogosphere.
4. Major American authors need to intentionally mentor international authors and find ways to help them grow their audience. Why not co-write a book together or simply endorse and promote some of these exciting new voices. They could introduce these same authors to literary agents and publicists that could open doors for them as well.
5. Publishers (who are not controlled by secular parent entities) could choose to invest some of their limited budgets in emerging voices from the global south and commit to helping them develop an American audience for their writing. They could also partner with publishers from other nations that have already spent time developing these new authors.
When I attend global gatherings of CLC leaders these days, I am always thrilled to see how God is providing high quality leaders from all the nations where we serve. I look forward to the day when we can celebrate authors from their nations who are impacting the world through their writing and the books that are being published.