|Volume 21 Number 5 May 2019||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Various Forms of
Today, there are many avenues of communication or streams of media. The word “communication” refers to the transfer of information, and certainly regarding the Gospel, that ought to be our objective as Christians, members of the Lord’s church, teachers, preachers and missionaries. The word “media” owes its origin to the field of advertising about 70 years ago; “media” refers to the process of expression. In a sense, we Christians have a product to advertise—the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the best product and beyond comparison to anything else one could promote on earth.
Especially when one thinks of mass media, several methods come to mind where numerous people have to them advertised the Gospel of our Lord, to whom are communicated the Word of God. There is teaching or preaching where particularly for the latter several persons comprise an audience. Mass evangelism may resort to the media of radio, television, the printed page, the Internet and magnetically recorded as well as digital audio or visual messages.
Typically, one presumes that the communication method or media portal that he uses is superior to all others. I once heard a televangelist among us boldly proclaim to a packed auditorium that only TV was worth the investment of the Lord’s money to reach the world’s population and that no other form of media deserved notice or use by the Lord’s church. Such an arrogant attitude is wrong on so many levels!
I have had radio programs, and I have participated in television programs stateside and abroad. However, my niche is in writing or use of the printed page. Consequently, were I to adopt the attitude noted above, I would totally discount radio, television and so forth, simply because I prefer to write. How ridiculous and foolish! Instead, after evaluation of what is likely to work in a given area and what funds are available to engage, for instance, in mass media, every method of communication that is likely to be effective and that can be afforded ought to be employed side-by-side. Each form of communication and media tools target different segments of an expanded audience, and any overlap between types of communication or media used reinforces the message about the Gospel of Jesus Christ (i.e., salvation, the church, the Christ, etc.).
The Printed Page Is the Second
Oldest Form of Communication.
God first communicated His Word to mankind orally and directly in the Garden of Eden. As far as we know, oral communication between God and mankind as well as oral communication between men endured as the sole method of communication for an indefinite period of time thereafter. Sumerian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics, dating back to about 1,000 years after creation, are widely believed to be the first or oldest writing systems discovered to date.
Oral communication or preaching was the method of communication used by Noah to warn the world of the impending worldwide flood. “And did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5 NKJV). The word “preacher” here means “herald” and refers to “a public crier.” Oral communication or preaching was the first means of mass evangelism. Noah lived about 1,000 years after creation.
God-given writing and subsequent distribution of that divine message in written form came next or secondly. It is uncertain whether the Book of Job or the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) was penned first. The Book of Job appears to have been written during or at least about patriarchal times, making it as old or older than the writing of the Ten Commandments and the first five books of the Old Testament. The Book of Job may be the oldest Bible book! However, other than assigning the date of the book to patriarchal times, a more precise date for its production cannot be ascertained. The Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses date to about 1400 B.C. or 2,600 years after creation.
Manuscript copies of the Old Testament books and translations of the Old Testament books became the primary way in which God’s Word was distributed to the world population. The Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint was begun in 250 B.C. The Hebrew manuscripts underlying modern translations of the Old Testament date to as early as A.D. 500, though a manuscript of the Book of Isaiah among the Dead Sea Scrolls is 1,000 years older than that.
The Printed Page Has Some
Distinct Advantages over
Other Forms of Communication.
Each method of communication has singular advantages and shortcomings, too. There are some disadvantages that negatively affect the effectiveness of various forms of communication. For instance, for live, oral presentations (i.e., preaching, television or radio), the listener must be present to receive the message at the right time and in the right place—with the inclination to heed the presentation. Not in the right place at the right time with the desire to receive the teaching or preaching, live teaching and preaching over radio or TV is ineffective. Magnetic and digital recordings as well as the Internet can mitigate the problem of time, place and interest regarding live preaching, televangelism and radio preaching. Of course, live preaching, televangelism and radio preaching do have the potential of reaching vast audiences at once. That makes them cost-effective choices for evangelism and edification.
The advantages of the printed page over some other forms of communication are several. The printed page is always ready when the reader is ready to read it and possibly make application to himself or to herself. The printed page is durable, even under the direst climatic circumstances, so that it will remain ready for a number of years. The printed page usually requires a less extravagant investment to be initiated. The printed page is readily accessible for future reference and ongoing study. The printed page can be used to target specific audiences lacking modern technology, which may not have access to TV, radio or the Internet. The printed page can be cost-effectively, compared to TV and radio, translated into various languages. The printed word provides a visual aspect to communication that is not afforded through radio or its recordings and that may not be used in public preaching. Auditors can hear and see the lessons.
The Printed Page Has
in Many Different Forms.
Scripture has been written on a wide range of materials, all of which more or less represent the printed page. These writing surfaces on which Scripture has been written include stone, ivory, bone, pottery, metal, wax, cloth, clay, wood, leather, papyrus and modern papers. Add to these blackboards, whiteboards, bedsheets, overhead projections, PowerPoints, the Internet, television and computer screens (inclusive of laptops, electronic tablets and smartphones). Some of these involve dual modes of presentation—audio and visual. Nevertheless, all of these represent different forms of communication that take advantage of the printed page in some way.
Molded My Methodology
Maintaining a low-budget ministry (not by choice), prevented and continues to prevent me from printing an excessive amount of literature. As I travel through the States and abroad, sometimes, I see enormous amounts of Christian literature (e.g., magazines, tracts, commentaries, etc.) that are not being and are not likely to be utilized. Brethren, we are either overprinting or failing in distribution of an abundance of Christian literature. I fear that both are true.
Consequently, owing to monetary constraints and being aware of excess literature lying around stateside and abroad, I make it a personal policy, generally, to not print more literature for overseas distribution than can be used or distributed in one year. Use it, we’ll print more! Give it away, we’ll print more! That’s fine for tracts, but printing books in foreign languages for use abroad may exceed the encouragement to use them up in one year.
Past Oversights in Stateside and Foreign Printing
Initially introducing the Gospel into a foreign field, missionaries can be excused for taking the lead in everything. Over time, failing to relinquish control and pass on to the nationals in foreign lands local responsibility has resulted in making many mission efforts hopelessly and perpetually dependent exclusively on American talent and money. This mannerism has carried over into printing Christian literature, too. What to print, when to print, where to print and how much to print sometimes are decisions wholly made by missionaries without consideration of what the nationals want or are willing to distribute. Consequently, in some instances at least, massive amounts of Christian literature slowly decay in tropical climates, only later to be jettisoned—a complete waste of the Lord’s money and the ruination of good intentions.
If our foreign brethren do not want something in particular that we want to print, printing it anyway will not guarantee that it will be used or distributed to others. We, myself included, need to be careful and mindful that something which we have written, as wonderful as it may be, could be something that is not fitted for a mission destination or is not something that the brethren desire.
In addition, foreign brethren sometimes encounter problems for several reasons regarding Christian literature produced through missionaries. Perhaps our foreign brethren did not ask for it, did not know it was coming and cannot afford to redeem it from their post offices; in such cases, that literature will go to waste. Sometimes, more copies of literature in a particular language (e.g., English) arrives than could possibly be consumed when the main language is something else (e.g., Hindi). That proves to be wasteful, too.
We must also help foreign brethren adjust their attitude toward Christian literature. Through my travels in Asia and South America, I have observed locked rooms or sheds filled with never to be used Christian literature comparable to looking into the private vault of a miserly man. Foreign brethren need to understand that the treasure in Christian literature only manifests itself when it is used or distributed, not when it is locked away as if it were someone’s horde of gold coins. Printing what can be used or distributed in one year helps disarm this tendency.
Yes, printing more volume drives down the unit price per piece to produce printed material. However, particularly in climates unfriendly to paper products or where the literature is not being utilized presently, unit price is irrelevant. What is affordable? Do the nationals want it? Will they use it or distribute it? Will they horde it? Does printing something in particular make me feel good or is it likely to be an asset in foreign evangelism and edification?
Printing Costs Money
To print something in a foreign language requires an investment. Usually, if a foreign brother asks if he can translate something you wrote, he is also asking for money to print it (and compensate himself for the privilege of translating it). After that, keeping it in print for future distribution requires additional outlay of funds.
There are several foreign languages even within various countries, such as India. There are 22 officially recognized languages in India with as many as 19,500 languages, dialects or variations. One Indian hotel owner in the USA told me of India that the language changes every 12 miles.
Consequently, the printed page in India (or many other countries, including the USA) may need to be translated into several languages. This, of course, is costlier than printing literature in one language for a nation. Personal judgment with a view to available funding and projected effectiveness must be weighed regarding into which languages to print Christian literature.
In My Case
In my case, some of my tracts and books have been translated into somewhere around 18 different languages. The bigger share of these translations and printing, too, occurred initially without my knowledge and financial investment, but were something of which I approve. It is increasingly difficult to print in my language (English) new titles, particularly while trying to direct funding placed into my hands by brethren to print and reprint various books and tracts in more than one foreign language. It is all a juggling challenge.
I freely grant permission for brethren overseas to translate my writings into foreign languages, with the firm and clearly stated affirmation that permitting translation does not carry with it an obligation on my part to fund the printing. That’s easier stated than successfully conveyed. It’s been my experience that unless boldly saying, “No, no!” foreign brethren often hear “Yes, yes.” “Maybe” and “I’ll think about it” especially are heard by foreign brethren as “Yes, yes” as surely as though we had said, “Yes, yes.”
With other brethren with whom I choose to work overseas, I enter into an agreement for translation and printing of tracts or books with the understanding that I will direct funding toward those projects. The problem here is that these good brethren will continue to rely on me for funding reprints and printing additional titles, too. It is more difficult to say, “No,” on these occasions than when answering brethren with whom we have not entered into an agreement for translation and printing.
My mission budget for printing is stretched beyond measure. I am or have been responsible for directing funding to printing projects in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada in India, besides three languages in Myanmar. These projects include magazines, books and tracts. The same meager budget provides for distribution in some instances.
In established foreign mission fields, permit foreign brethren to agree upon the printed materials to be printed, used by them and distributed by them. Otherwise, the best of intentions we may have are unlikely to come to complete fruition. Be prepared to assist with the expense of distribution of the printed page.
Be careful not to send unsolicited Christian literature to unsuspecting foreign brethren who may neither want it nor be able to redeem it from their post offices. Do not send more literature in a language than can be utilized in an area largely speaking a different language.
As a kind of accountability, do not print more literature generally than can be consumed or distributed by foreign brethren in one year. Teach foreign brethren to regard Christian literature as most valuable when it is used or distributed, rather than horded under lock and key. In my foreign efforts in Asia and in South America, I do not knowingly send or otherwise provide literature for congregations that are not using the Christian literature they already have.
As a part of accountability, I require two pictures of any printing project—one showing quantity and one showing quality (close-up). Usually, I also receive one or more copies. Pictures and samples help me with accountability to my supporters and are useful for future fundraising to produce more foreign literature.
Use the printed page. It has advantages beyond what some other methods of communication or media have. However, whenever possible, use the printed page in conjunction with other forms of communication or media. This targets sometimes different segments of the world, and any overlap serves to emphasize the Gospel message. The printed page in some form may not only appear in magazines, books and tracts, but it may also partner with other media, such as PowerPoint lessons, television, the Internet, computers (in all forms), signs, etc.
The printed page is the second oldest method of communicating the Word of God. Further, aside from preaching or teaching a group, the printed page is the first foray into mass evangelism and edification. The printed page and other forms of communication or media are partners with which the churches of Christ can and must evangelize and edify a bulging world population in the billions.
The Great Invitation
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden…” (Matthew 11:28a). This is without doubt the greatest invitation that has ever been given! Of course, the One Who gave this invitation really desired and desires that everyone will accept it. “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). Most everyone would like to enjoy what this invitation brings—rest, forgiveness, joy, peace, love and among other wonderful blessings, an eternal home in Heaven when life as we know it is over. While it is true that we can never earn this invitation (it is freely given), each one must accept the invitation on God’s terms. Sadly, not everyone has the spiritual ambition to accept our Lord’s invitation. What is involved in accepting this Great Invitation?
Firstly, there must be an awareness. In order to accept Christ’s invitation, one must be aware of his or her condition. If one is not aware that he “labors” and is “heavy laden” without acceptance of this invitation, then why would anyone “come”? On another occasion, Jesus put it this way, “…if any man thirst…” (John 7:37b). If one does not know he is thirsty, why would he seek water? Sadly, many folks are walking around “spiritually dehydrated” and never even know it! On still another occasion, Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst…” (Matthew 5:6a). Until we are aware that without Christ our spiritual bellies are “growling,” we can never accept the Great Invitation!
Secondly, there must be an apprehension. Simply stated, one must feel concerned and uneasy about his or her spiritual hunger and thirst! Sadly, some seemingly know they are lacking but are not really concerned about the remedy. Think for a minute physically. If a person is hungry, usually everything gets put on hold and life’s activities somewhat cease until he or she is fed. Even when a loved one dies, we usually have a dinner and partake of necessary food. Yet, far too often, spiritual hunger takes a “backseat” to life’s activities. We frequently allow the smallest interruption to keep us from our spiritual food. However, the blessing (“being filled”) goes to the one who is not satisfied about being hungry and thirsty (Matthew 5:6). The blessing (“rest”) goes to the one who is not content with “laboring” alone and being “heavy laden” (Matthew 11:28). It is the one who is completely dissatisfied with spiritual dehydration that is filled with “living water” (John 4:10; 7:37). We will never be filled with heaven’s “bread and water” (John 6:35; 7:37) until we are no longer happy to empty!
Lastly, there must be an action. In the Great Invitation, the action was clear, “come” (Matthew 11:28). In John 7:37, the action was clear “come and drink.” This is a personal choice on the part of each individual. This is one of the most difficult parts of sharing the message of Jesus that we often face. We desire for a certain person to obey and find this awesome storehouse of spiritual food and water, and yet, individually he or she has little or no desire. Christianity is a personal choice! Sadly, some make the choice not to accept Christ’s invitation. While Christians plead and encourage, there is a choice each accountable person must make! We will never experience the bounty of the Lord until we make that personal choice to do so.
As John closed the Book of Revelation, some of the last words were a plea to accept Christ’s invitation, “And the Spirit and the bride say, come. And let him that heareth say, come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). Dear Reader, our plea and our prayer is that you will accept this invitation. Otherwise, you will miss out on the greatest feast ever. Please accept it!