Pulpit Helps Around the World

by Justin Lonas

In the Western Hemisphere, printed material abounds. People pick and choose which publications to read, and publishers fight over readers' time and money. The Christian market is often the poster child for this-many publishers play on the spiritual aspect of life to further inundate the reader with print. In many countries, however, this is not the case. Whether due to government intervention, lack of infrastructure or poverty, the populace at large-and especially Christians - struggle to lay their hands on any printed work. This is exactly the situation in one country, according to a longtime friend of AMG who was in the office recently. In order to keep himself and his ministry safe, he asked that we leave specific details (names, places, etc.) out of this article. He said that hardly any Christian literature is produced in his country and that almost no Western Christian publications are allowed in. This is a growing concern because churches have been springing up faster than leaders could be equipped to serve them. This resulted in many churches being pastored by theologically untrained individuals. Enter Pulpit Helps magazine. In America, we're known as a convenient source of sermons and advice for pastors. In our friend's country, the articles that we take for granted serve as the spiritual lifeblood for many. Our friend said that it's hard to estimate how many people actually read the local edition of the magazine there because each copy is often shared between eight to 10 people-each person reads and copies desired parts of it before passing it on to someone else. A lot has to happen before even those copies can be delivered. The government refuses to allow overtly Christian materials to pass through the mail, so they must be distributed by various other means. Production on this edition of the magazine begins when our friend receives the American version (which is brought to him from a neighboring country which will allow Christian material to come in from the West) and earmarks certain articles for translation. After the translator puts each article into the country's language, our friend edits them for clarity (because straight translations are often unreadable to native speakers), assigns them a priority rating and gives it to the editor for placement in the national publication. Bylines are removed so the articles will appear to be generated locally, rather than in the West. "The presentation has to be changed to make it look local. The government is very suspicious of any Western influence. We are trying to be very [national]" Our friend then adds other articles specific to his country, including at least two regular columns-One, on the top of the front page, offering practical, biblical advice on Christian living, and one, at the bottom, directed toward non-believers. "[The followers of the nation's dominant religion] appreciate my column, because I appeal with the gospel to their mindset and use their terminology. It's very effective in reaching them," he said. Pulpit Helps is very valuable to the Christian circle as well. "It helps [the untrained pastor] prepare for service to God and nourishes his spirit. The whole Christian audience really appreciates it because it has teaching material, preaching material, testimonies, answered prayers, etc., but most importantly because it is informative to them," he added. Currently, his organization is attempting to reach a large population who share their country's language but live in a neighboring country by sending a disc containing all the information to a printer there who can distribute it there. Still, he said, most of the magazine's circulation is self-generated-spreading via photocopying and sharing, independent of top-down administration. All this is done through faithful dependence on God. Our friend said that they cannot really be supported by Western organizations (and certainly cannot be openly affiliated with them) and that most people who work full time to produce & distribute the magazine (in addition to numerous other workers with his ministry) do so on a volunteer basis, not requesting salary-a revealing contrast to much of Western Christianity's obsession with prestige, renown, and financial security. The Lord takes care of all their needs. "The Lord is no debtor. He wants us to appreciate what He has done. I don't want anything back but to serve. He keeps pouring down more and more blessing so I can't stop serving Him," he said.
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