Every family is different. My family was different for lots of reasons. We were missionaries, we lived overseas and we went to lots of different types of schools. If, however, you asked us what was the one thing that distinguished us most in those formative years of childhood, I think we would all agree – it was that we did life together. This was not just the result of being thrown together in strange circumstances in foreign countries, it was the result of the intentional efforts of our parents. Whether we were building suitcase forts with blankets for walls or riding bikes, it was not OK to leave anyone out. Our family dinners did not start until everyone was seated around the table and family devotions were an interactive experience with all of us participating in one way or another, even if we didn’t want to. Family vacations often involved hours (and I mean hours) of board games and adventures together. When my mother decided to start a neighborhood Bible study in our home, we were her little recruiters and we helped to lead aspects of these events as well.
Over seventy-five years ago my grandfather started a literature ministry that was a lot like a small family and they did life together as well. In the early days, this meant that the workers actually lived together all in one big house and ate meals and shared their joys and sorrows together. But, just like my family, the organization began to grow, and one day they had to leave the nest. Some left to start the ministry in other towns in England and others went to start the work in far flung places around the globe. Not surprisingly, these early literature pioneers and missionaries worked hard to be sure that the ministry responded to the needs of local believers and those seeking to understand faith for the first time. Quickly, as the ministry grew, this meant adapting to local cultures and circumstances and ensuring that local people became a part of this big international family. Today, CLC International is a huge family of people drawn from over fifty nationalities working to accomplish the very same purpose.
Like a lot of families, however, it is really easy to forget the past and imagine that the circumstances and situations you face are unique. In the Bible, we are reminded how quick the people of Israel forgot the God of their fathers. Today, our ministry is at a crossroad again. In the beginning, we faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles to start a literature ministry in the midst of World War II. The giants in the land are very different for our generation, but in many ways they seem no less daunting. So many big questions face us – Will people still be reading books in twenty years? Will people still need bookstores? In an increasingly secular world, can Christian books still be relevant and effective? How do we meet the needs of people in emerging and developing nations when our resources are so limited?
As I have contemplated these questions lately, I have been driven back to a core distinctive of our ministry. Despite all the problems we face, we still have Our One Thing. We have each other. We are a big global family made up of passionate literature evangelists and disciplers who have the same goal – to make evangelical Christian literature available to all nations so that people come to faith and maturity in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nobody else has our global presence and purpose. It is our unique calling and one that still excites me every day.