Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Little Publisher that Could

Train-Sculptures-00It seemed just like any other e-mail that I had received from customers in the past. This particular person wanted to order a larger than normal quantity of books and they needed to confirm some details about their purchase. I had actually been waiting to hear about this purchase for some time and was glad to be able to answer the questions. As I read the e-mail closely, however, I realized we had a problem. The books in question were needed for a conference in the Philippines and the customer had been working for quite a while raising the funds to buy 1000 copies. Unfortunately, when I got the e-mail, we had only four or five weeks before the conference was to take place and not enough time to ship the books in any economical way. It was time for an “only in CLC story” to unfold.

I quickly contacted our CLC team in Manila and asked if there was any chance that they could get these books printed locally for me and they said they would look into it. After some investigation, they found a printer who could work with us and we set about getting the files sent and paperwork signed. Within a few short weeks, these books were printed and delivered to the customer in the Philippines and the pastors were able to get the books at the conference and never knew about the heroics behind the scenes that made it possible. As we celebrated with our small publishing team here in the USA, I realized a very important truth that day – there are some things that small publishers can do pretty well. Flexibility and accommodating unique requests is becoming a part of our DNA.

Not long before this story took place, I had received another interesting request. One of our long time customers wanted a large number of a certain title for a special promotion. As we chatted, the requests and ideas kept coming. Could they have a special cover? Could they design the cover themselves? Could they have a new forward and back cover copy? Could they have their ministry logo on the book? By the time we had finished the conversation, it was clear that they wanted and needed a unique book and they were willing to invest time and resources to make that happen. Our team chatted about it and quickly concluded that we could make this work and a wonderful collaboration got started. After just a couple of months of working together the special edition of this book was completed and sent to the printer. All of this for what would have been a relatively small order for a larger publisher and most likely would have been denied.

Publishing is a challenging business and getting even more challenging as the customer landscape and the demands of the reading public keep changing at lightning speed. In the midst of this whirlwind of change the flexible small publisher has a wonderful and exciting future. Print-on-demand (POD) technology and the growth of e-books have positioned us to be able to do things that we could only have dreamed of in the past. No longer do we have to print several thousand copies of a book to make it viable economically. At the same time, our ability to make quick decisions and respond to author and customer needs in a matter of weeks, not months or years provides us some unique opportunities that we are just beginning to uncover.

As the publisher for CLC, I am only beginning to understand the power of our global ministry to expand the reach of our authors around the world. Just this week we answered a request for a customer in the USA for some Spanish language editions of a book that our team in Colombia did not have in stock. Normally we would have had to wait months to get these books if they decided to reprint them at all. Instead, we made a quick agreement with of sister team in Bogota and got the rights to the files for these books and are doing a small POD print run locally.  We will be able to get these books in our customers hands just in time for their needed use. It is not uncommon for us today to acquire a new book from an author and ultimately see it published in multiple languages around the world. Our little publishing house is having an outsized impact for the glory of God.

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The Making of a Man

alex-and-brett-harrisI could not believe what I had just heard. I was only fourteen years old and had been invited by my grandfather to go to a church where he was preaching. I loved to hear him speak and had jumped at the opportunity. Right in the middle of his sermon, however, he had stopped and said that his grandson was now going to come up and share his testimony. I looked around to see what grandson he was talking about and then like a bolt of lightning it hit me – he was talking about me. How was that possible? He had not mentioned this to me beforehand and had never asked me to do something like this in the past. I was not prepared and I was sure that he must have made a mistake. Despite this, I got out of my seat, went to the front and said a few words. I cannot remember a thing that I said, but I will never forget that moment.

This week, I met with my friend Tim and he shared a similar memory from his teenage years. He was only sixteen and was getting ready to help lead a worship service with the rest of his youth group when his pastor walked in. His pastor said in a kind of offhand way, “So Whose Going to Preach?” Without thinking too much, Tim said “I’ll Do That.” Too his great surprise, his pastor took him seriously and Tim became one of the youngest people to ever preach a sermon in that church. Like me, he did not feel prepared, did not expect this to happen, but will never forget that moment. Today, Tim is a full time pastor and he began his journey to ministry that day as a sixteen year old.

Three years after that momentous event as a fourteen year old, I was called on again to speak in public. This time I was ready. My grandfather, who was my mentor and spiritual hero, had died and I was asked to speak at his memorial service. Despite my sadness on that occasion, I could not wait to challenge other young people to a life of service and sacrifice that he had lived before me. In the ensuing years, I have been called on many times to speak to groups large and small. While I was always an extravert and full of opinions as a young person, I had never seen myself as a public speaker. Somehow he had and he took the risk to give me the opportunity to exercise a gift that he saw in me. Who knows whether this would ever have taken place if he had not “called me out” on that fateful Sunday?

Sadly my experience and Tim’s does not seem all that common these days. While young people are often allowed to use their gifts in the context of youth ministry or a carefully controlled context, rarely are they allowed demonstrate these gifts among adults. Some of the most marginalized kids in the church are the most outspoken and opinionated. They are the ones who are always laughing at the wrong time, wearing attention-getting attire and constantly getting in trouble. Pretty quickly they learn what is accepted in a church environment and they conform or leave. Very often their conformity results in silence and passivity and ultimately a total disconnect with the church itself. They do not see how they fit in and find their validation in the accolades of their non-Christian friends. Future preachers, Christian workers and leaders of Christian ministries are walking out the back doors of the church or are falling asleep in the pews.

It seems like a new paradigm is needed. Like Jesus, we need to see people as full of potential and not just as problems to be solved. He found great worth in prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners. It is high time that we do the same with this next generation of church kids. They may have very different views than we do and see the world through completely different lenses, but they are no less loved by God or any less important than we are. Who knows where the next Billy Graham will come from? Maybe he is a bored and distracted teenager sitting in the back pew of the church who is just waiting to hear his name being called? Are we willing to make that call?

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My Epic Panama Adventure

So this week, I had the adventure of a lifetime as I was able to take my son Mike with me to visit my brother and his family who live in Panama.  Here are some pictures of our time in paradise (or so I am told).

#15We arrived after an uneventful flight from Houston and loved the warm air that welcomed us to the tropics.

#12Mike was ready for our hike on the first day and enjoyed seeing his cousins again

#7After a vigorous hike, we reached an overlook and had an amazing view of the city

#10Panama City is a really big place and growing larger all the time

#17CLC’s store at the Albrook Mall is one of the nicest in the world.

#9What a joy to see Milton and Marisol Cheng again.

#11It was a delight to meet one of our customers purchasing a book that we first produced in English in the USA.

#5No visit to Panama would be complete without a visit to the Canal – one of the wonders of the world.

#18Being a good literature missionary, I did have to find an appropriate place to read.

#19Jim and I enjoyed some very tart lemonades and yes that was our “actual” view.

#21Nobody can tell that we are brothers since we look so different.

#16Given that this was an educational trip for Mike, he was required to order his own lunch in Spanish and did a great job.

#3In the middle of the week, we traveled to the incredibly beautiful city of El Valle de Anton

#14The color of the flowers was stunning

#4Mike got to zip line for the first time

#2I got to ride a horse for the first time

#6Mike loved exploring the outdoors

#13I tested out the many rickety bridges

#20Jim and his beautiful family

#22Mike and his cousins – always the protector.

#1One of my favorite pictures from this week and a reminder of God’s incredible creativity.

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