It happens all the time. You are in a social setting and you meet someone for the first time. After a few moments of small talk, you are normally asked that life defining question, “What Do You Do?” Your response to that question is your opportunity to shape that person’s view of you from that moment forward. Most of us quickly think of the most impressive way to describe our jobs or the job title that we are most comfortable with and we begin talking about our work. For so many of us, it is our work and how we spend our waking hours that define us. Maybe that is why I and so many others spent most of our early career building a game plan to that attain that “ultimate” job and the prestige and satisfaction that would go along with it.
Nowadays, I think about that question a little differently. If you asked me what I do, I would have lots of ways of answering that question. I spend time leading a team of courageous “book people” who actually believe that Christian books and especially the Bible change people’s lives. I work with an intrepid group of publishing professionals who are producing “deeper life books” for a new generation. Most days I spend time thinking about how our far flung international organization is providing Christian resources to the least reached and what we can do to help with that effort. No one day is like the last and each new day presents exciting opportunities and challenges. I could not have imagined that I would be doing this work, but I would not trade it for anything else.
As I look forward to what is on the horizon, here are five things that I am excited about “doing” this year.
1. Restoring Hope – so many Christian retailers have come through a season of disappointment and despair in these last few years. Some have even decided to quit all together. Those of us that remain sometimes refer to ourselves as the remnant and many look at us as naïve assuming that we have no future. I am passionate about dispelling that myth and encouraging booksellers to return to their first love. The book that I am working on, The Bookstore that Matters, is all about this subject and I will be speaking about this topic in a variety of settings throughout the year. In May, I will have the privilege of speaking to my European colleagues at a gathering in Poland and I look forward to motivating them to “seize all that God has for them”.
2. Resourcing Young Leaders – The church is growing rapidly around the world and God is calling a new generation of pastors and leaders to serve him. This is also happening in my own city of Philadelphia and our ministry has the privilege of partnering with others to supply the Christian resource needs of these men and women. Strategic churches like Bethel Deliverance are functioning as catalysts for the growth and development of these leaders through a highly impactful Bible Institute and their network of 34 churches. Epiphany Fellowship has launched the Thrive-in-the-City network of churches and the Thriving Frequency Conference to provide connectivity, training and motivation to urban ministry leaders. I will be working with the leaders of these organizations and others to find ways to provide critical teaching resources to these young leaders that often cannot afford to attend seminary.
3. Mobilizing New Missionaries – It is incredible to see what God has done to draw people to himself through the sacrificial and selfless work of missionaries over the years. In our organization, missionaries have been pioneers in beginning new ministry outposts and sustaining the work in places where there is a very small Christian population. As the number of national workers has grown in the CLC ministry, we have seen some very encouraging examples of cross-cultural work being done by these workers in opening up new bookstores in nearby countries. I believe that there are many others that God would want to join our work as missionaries and cross-cultural workers. We will be publishing several books this year that are designed to challenge the next generation to see their part in extending God’s kingdom around the world. At the end of the year, I look forward to attending the Urbana Missions Conference and interacting with thousands of college students who are making these critical life-shaping decisions.
4. Encouraging Innovation – book publishing and distribution can seem like an old fashioned and stodgy business sometimes. Interestingly, however, we are now seeing some of the biggest innovations in the world of books and printed materials since the invention of the printing press. Most people assume this relates to e-books, e-commerce and social media. While it is true that these three things have revolutionized the reading world, I am particularly excited about the advent of POD (print-on-demand) technology and its application in the developing world. We are partnering with an organization called Publish4All to launch a POD system in Kenya later this year. If all goes well, will be able to print books in Africa as they are needed and not incur the massive costs of shipping, storage, customs and taxation. This process may take years to refine, but is has incredible potential to be a game changer for the global south.
5. Discovering New Authorprenuers – one of my great joys in these past few years has been to discover and publish fantastic new authors like Matt Mitchell, David Apple and Ryan Lokkesmoe. In each case, these authors were far more than just great writers. They were passionate to make their content available to as wide an audience as possible and worked just as hard at publicity and book promotion as they did at writing the book in the first place. This resulted in a wonderful partnership as we saw their books impact thousands of lives. This year, I am working with a new crop of first time authors and looking forward to seeing what God will do in and through them. What a delight it is to be the part of birthing new ministry resources and publishing great books.
As you look at the year ahead what are you excited about doing? What gets you up in the morning? What will you say the next time someone asks you, “What Do You Do?”