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Greed Not All Bad

- 11/01/08  

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November-December 2008

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Hi, ! 

In many countries, Christians comprise a tiny fraction of the population. Believers must be wise as serpents, and so too must the local publishers who seek to strengthen the Church. In this issue, read about how Muslims are following Christ in Islamic nations, and how an Indonesian publisher navigates the challenges of working in the country with the world's largest number of Muslims.  

 


Secret Believers

Read the true stories of courageous Muslims who have chosen to follow Christ in Islamic countries in  Secret Believers by Brother Andrew and Al Janssen. These Muslim background believers struggle with hostile governments, terrorist threats and persecution by Islamic fundamentalists.

 

The book’s central figure, Butros*, is Brother Andrew’s protégé in the Muslim world. He and his new wife, Salima*, encourage struggling church leaders, witness to seekers and disciple new Muslim background believers (MBBs). The couple’s relationship of mutual service models Christian marriage to the Islamic world.

 

Janssen, who serves on the Board of Open Doors with Brother Andrew, has interviewed scores of MBBs, including at least three former imams. “More than half began their spiritual journey with a dream or vision of Christ, which led them to obtain a copy of the Bible,” he says. “Jesus is unique and He is drawing Muslims to Himself.”

 

MBBs desperately need Christian living resources on marriage and parenting, not to mention materials that explain the Bible. For most, the Bible is the only Christian literature they have, Jannsen says. With encouragement from Butros and Salima, Janssen and his wife developed and taught two marriage courses for MBBs in Indonesia this year.

 

Secret Believers suggests four practical steps that any Christian in the West can take to help our persecuted brothers and sisters.  See www.secretbelievers.org.

 

*Real names and places in the book have been changed for security reasons


Indonesian Publisher Navigates Challenges

Yunita Harahap is general manager of Bina Kasih Press in Indonesia, the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population. She describes their work in challenging environs.

Q: What is one of your most popular titles?

The Heavenly Man (Manusia Surgawi) is a biography of Brother Yun, a Chinese house church leader who suffered prolonged torture and imprisonment for his faith.

 

We have reprinted our translation (of the Monarch original) three times since its first printing in 2005. Brother Yun’s persecution in some ways matches the struggles of Indonesian Christians.

 

Q: Could you describe these struggles a bit?
Getting permission to build a church can take more than 10 years. So, some churches hold services in malls and houses. In parts of Indonesia, churches have been closed or banned because they were rejected by non-Christians. Even though our constitution grants freedom of religion, some people do not practice it.

 

Q: What are the challenges of publishing in the nation with the world’s highest Muslim population? 

Indonesia’s many Islamic sects range from moderate to conservative to fundamentalist. We need to understand this diversity in order to choose appropriate themes and creatively include the Good News in our books. The challenge is to present God’s truth with integrity while respecting the religious sensibilities of our fellow citizens.

 

Non-Christians hold key policy and decision-making positions in our country. Because this includes communications media, we are restricted in how we discuss religious issues and spread the Good News through media. 

 

Q: Could you give an example from one of your titles?

The Heavenly Man originally contained chapters describing an evangelistic method and plans for evangelizing the “10-40 Window.” We decided not to translate and publish that information so as not to cause trouble for Indonesian Christians. 

 

Q: Talk about your investment in local writers. 
Local writers naturally understand our country’s problems and issues that can be used as writing themes. In 2003, we started a writers club in which we promote learning by doing. Participants bring stories of their own to be discussed at the meeting and submit pieces for our
writers blog [in Indonesian].

 

At Bina Kasih we rewrite our manuscripts based partly on the input of club participants. Recently we published two new children’s books written by club members.

 




Greed Not All Bad 
 

At a recent MAI workshop, an aspiring writer crafted an article on the dangers of youth drug addiction. As she explained her manuscript to me, it sounded like she was trying to reach two audiences: 1) youth:  Just say no to drugs! and 2) parents: Help your teenager resist the temptation of drugs.


I told her it would be difficult for the same article to connect effectively with both audiences, since a powerful article for teens would require a different style, focus and choice of language than a convincing piece for parents. She needed to choose her primary target audience and write accordingly.


My writer friend wrinkled her forehead, then asked disarmingly, “Is it greedy to try to reach both audiences?”


What self-respecting writer wouldn’t want to reach the largest possible audience? And for the Christian writer, eyeing the whole world in light of the Gospel, the greed factor sometimes grows even larger. Indeed, such “greed” is not all bad.


And yet, trying to reach everybody we might fail to communicate with anyone. And, if we get discouraged that our audience is too small, we might be tempted to shrug, “It’s not worth it,” and quit writing. That would be our biggest mistake.


Think of the Bible translators toiling in obscurity to produce Scriptures to be read eventually by a few thousand readers. Or, consider the publishers in secular countries who create books, articles and curriculum for a church that is less than one percent of the total population.


Should they give up because of the small numbers? Hardly. That would be like a writer in Mongolia, a nation of 2.5 million people and 40 million livestock, writing for yaks because of the bigger market.


OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But I’m reminded of Luke, who invested countless hours in writing the story of Jesus’ life and ministry for one person—his friend, Theophilus. As if that weren’t enough, he followed up with another lengthy letter to his audience of one, Theophilus, that became the New Testament book of Acts. 


Did Luke know his letter to Theophilus would one day land in the hands of Christians across the centuries and in hundreds of languages? Probably not.  Or, what about Paul, writing letters to the churches in in Corinth, Ephesus and Philippi. Did he envision the letters reaching the church universal?

So, that is the curious twist. Sometimes, but certainly not all the time, God takes one’s humble book or article—the proverbial few loaves and fishes—and multiplies it for the multitude.

 

 

  


 


J O H N   M A U S T

M A I   P R E S I D E N T 




 




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