Books and Missions

by | Mar 19, 2019 | All, Axe to the Root, Master


Bojidar Marinov


Why do foreign missions need to start with books?

Assigned reading: Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book That Made Your World


Welcome to Episode 86 of Axe to the Root Podcast, part of the War Room Productions, I am Bo Marinov, and for the next 30 minutes I will be talking about my favorite topic: foreign missions. Let me tell you a secret about myself: whatever else you thought I was, I am first and foremost a missionary at heart; I want to see foreign cultures evangelized for Christ, and I want to see true message and true challenge to all the cultures to submit to Christ. Now, contrary to what most Christians say today, I don’t think everyone should be a missionary – at least not in the traditional sense. Christendom needs more than just make everyone a missionary, and the more it grows, the more it will require a division of labor. It needs financial experts, entrepreneurs, teachers, engineers, lawyers, writers, artists, etc. In a sense, of course, all these are part of the greater mission task of the church, because they all speak of the superiority of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and we will have a future episode of Axe to the Root that will speak to the fact that evangelism is much more than simply preaching and trying to attract people’s attention with psychological methods. But even then, the task of bringing the truth of the Word to other cultures is still a very specific task, and there are people called to it, and they should be particularly trained to do it. Evangelist, after all, is a special ministry in the New Testament (Eph. 4:11), and I also believe that the ministry mentioned as “apostles,” is actually what we call today “missionaries.” The modern church has surrounded the word “apostle” with an almost mythical and magical meaning, to mean some superheroes of the early church who can’t be seen around today, but that is an ideology only adopted in the last century and a half. For most of its history, the church simply called its missionaries “apostles,” and no one saw any problem with it: Patrick, Apostle to Ireland, the Twelve Apostles to Ireland, Boniface, Apostle to the Germans, Cyril and Methodius, Apostles to the Slavs, John Eliot, Apostle to the Indians, John Knox, Prophet and Apostle of Scotland, etc. So, the biblical ministry of apostles is simply missionaries, and the word “missionary” was first used to replace “apostle” by Jesuits in the 16th century with the purpose to establish “apostle” as a very special post or office in the church which ceased in the 1st century. Modern Protestants and especially cessationists have just adopted the Jesuit use of the word. Either way, my purpose here is not to insist on the restoration of the Biblical word “apostle”; and, indeed, “apostle” and “missionary” mean the same thing anyway, one in Greek, the other in Latin. My point is that even in the Bible, a missionary still has to be a person with a special kind of ministry, someone who is first called before he is “sent” (which is the meaning of “missionary”). Anyway, for the practical purposes of our topic today, it doesn’t really matter whether you insist on the modern word “missionary” or want the original Biblical word in Greek, “apostle.” My point was that while every single Christian is a missionary of a sort, bringing the Kingdom of God to his area of work and social activity, still, there are people who have a special gift and call of being missionaries.

Over the last three years, since I started this Axe to the Root podcast, I have used it to advertise the mission organization I started almost 20 years ago, Bulgarian Reformation Ministries. As a matter of fact, I have been on the mission field for much longer, 26 years, and BRM is simply an US-based non-profit representative of what we have been doing in Bulgaria for 26 years. Since I started advertizing BRM here, a number of listeners have been asking me questions about the nature of our mission. And since I have made claims that our mission is very different from what modern missions are, I have been asked the question, “How is it different?”, multiple times. Different reasons for asking the question: most people want to know what makes it different because they donate to missions and they want to make sure they understand what they need to be looking for in a mission; a few because they are called to go to the mission field and they want to know of successful models to mimic and implement – and our model has been quite successful. Believe it or not, there were a few individuals who wanted to understand my mission methods because they believed they could be replicated in either politics or business; and it may as well be the case, given that the same Biblical principles should apply to every area. So, this episode is a partial response to at least one of the questions I have been asked. Not to all of them, to be sure, because it will take more than just one episode to do it. Only one question, which has been asked many times: “Why books?” I have been quite insistent that a true mission must be more focused on books than on planting churches. Or even on “making disciples.” In fact, I even believe that putting books on the market is a better tool of making disciples than planting a church and having people gather once a week or even three times a week. (Actually, to be precise, I don’t believe in the hype of “discipleship” semantics as a special way of training people. But that I will leave to a future episode. For now, let’s focus on the question, “Why books?”)

You know how modern missions work, for the most part. About 15 to 20 years ago, the International Mission Board did a survey on the amount of money the world’s churches donate to foreign missions every year. The total was about $2.8 billion. The lion’s share of it, as is to be expected, fell on the shoulders – and the purses – of US Christians: $2.5 billion. The other big supporters of foreign missions were the UK and South Korea. So, let’s acknowledge the truth: American Christians are not stingy when it comes to foreign missions: they contribute between 80% and 90% of all the support for them. Translated in gold at current prices, $2.5 billion is 60 tons of gold every year, for foreign missions. That’s probably as much as the whole church paid for missions between AD 30 and 1900. And we today pay as much every year. No matter how critical we can be of the American church, this is something worth celebrating and praising.

There’s a “but,” though. And that “but” is in the fact that while American Christians are so generous when it comes to foreign missions, they are just as gullible as to how that money is spent. Suffice to say, there is next to zero control and accountability when it comes to missions. And the results are obvious: just look at the world today and tell me, how much impact have our missions had? Have we changed the world to the better? Where are the christianized nations as the result of our money that we have spent? Where are the cultures that converted from paganism to Christianity as the result of the money we have spent? Missionaries in the past went out and converted whole nations. Where is this today? Why are we spending that much money if there is no visible result? In an early episode of Axe to the Root titled, “Denethor Ministries,” I asked the same question about donating money to our domestic ministries: Why are we spending so much money on them if the results are negative? We could have spent the money on booze and have better results. And the same applies to the mission field.

Every time I look at modern missions and the way they are done, I think of Waylon Jennings’s song, “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” No, I am not a big fan of country music, but I have a friend who deserves to be mentioned here, Joe Driscoll, who believes that Waylon is the greatest country singer ever. And since I trust Joe, I decided to hear some of Waylon’s songs. And Joe was right. So I am a Waylon’s fan now. But I digress. So you probably know the song:

Lord it’s the same old tune, fiddle and guitar

Where do we take it from here?

Rhinestone suits and new shiny cars

It’s been the same way for years

We need a change

So, yeah, that’s how I feel about missions when I watch modern missionaries work on the mission field. Especially modern Presbyterian and Baptist missionaries, but many others as well. Charismatics, for the most part, are a bit better, but only by a bit. For the last 60 or 70 years, a certain model has been established for missions: large bureaucratic mission organizations associated with this or that large denomination in the US, dispensing endorsements for candidates for missionaries to go visit churches of those denominations, taking certain percentage of the donations, and then, after the missionary goes to the mission field, they are closely monitored and controlled to follow the policies – and the politics – of their mission organization. Of course, the endorsement is only given after the missionary has spent a good amount of money on seminary education, which is not cheap (getting a seminary education may be more expensive than getting an advanced engineering degree at an elite university). So the missionary is pretty much chained to obey the rules, otherwise, without an endorsement and the money that comes with it, he may have trouble paying his student debts. Which is OK, though, because if he follows the rules, the money is not small; and I have seen missions where dozens of missionaries “serve” in a country, living in mansions for $1,500 a month, while the local population survives on $150 a month. So I am looking at this gigantic scheme and I am thinking, “Are y’all sure Paul done it this way?”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about the money. Now, I do think that it is a wise tactics to try to get down to the economic level of your listeners – not for manipulation reasons, but to understand their real problems and try to find real solutions. That’s why Charismatic missionaries are eating the lunch of all the other denominations on the mission field, because their missionaries try to live in the same conditions as the locals. Paul specifically said that in his missions, he was poor while enriching many people (2 Cor. 6:10). But still, it is not an ethical imperative to be poor. There is nothing wrong with a missionary and his family to be rewarded for the sacrifices they make living away from home, in a foreign land. So, that’s OK, we are not paying our missionaries too much.

The problem is not in how much money missionaries are paid or spend, it is in what message they are taking to the mission field. I have already talked about this in a previous episode of Axe to the Root, Episode 35 titled simply, “Missions.” Modern missions are the product of modern seminaries – after all, all these bureaucratic giants of missionary organizations don’t grant you an endorsement before you have graduated from that seminary. But modern seminaries – especially in the last 50-60 years – have shrunk the scope of their teaching to a few subjects related to basic soteriology, personal psychology (counseling), and largely unapplied systematic theology. They have failed to address the whole man, in the comprehensive world of his endeavors (economic, social, judicial, educational, scientific, etc.), producing graduates that are convinced that the Word of God has nothing to say on all these other areas, or whatever it has to say has no bearing on the truncated set of intellectual propositions they call “the gospel.” As a result, modern missions have failed to address the whole man. They have remained confined to the periphery, in terms of addressing the culture. As a result, in general, the Christianity brought by the missionaries has been relegated to the periphery. Only where missions and churches have returned to addressing the whole man, they have been able to capture the hearts and minds of many people. But, as I said, we have already covered this issue in general in an earlier episode. Now we are talking about books and the place of books in missions. Why are books important?

Several years ago, Vishal Mangalwadi, the foremost Christian philosopher, thinker, writer, and social reformer of India, published a book: The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization. It is an amazingly insightful look into the very heart and soul of the West, and how and what formed the West to become what it is today. Modern historians are keen to look for the soul of the Western civilization in ancient Greece and Rome, and probably the earlier days of the pagan Celts and Germans, but Mangalwadi points to the fact that the heart and soul of those cultures – if they even had a heart or a soul in the first place, which is doubtful for some of them – was radically different from what we have in the West today. He in fact traces the heart and soul of the Western civilization to another culture, namely, ancient Israel. And then he continues to show, in an amazingly skillful manner, how the Bible was the book that created that heart and soul of the European civilization. Mangalwadi left no stone unturned in his quest: he examined the philosophy and the epistemology (that’s theory of knowledge) of the West, individual and corporate identity, authority and service, the nature of man, rationality, he even covered technology, science, medicine, the concept of heroism, social change, even economics and the concept of wealth, education and the university, etc., etc., etc. Amazing how an Indian can see what our own “Reformed” celebrities in the US not only don’t see, but sometimes vehemently deny.

In chapter 11 of that book, he makes a claim that is one of the most insightful claims made by a modern Christian author ever: he says that among all these other areas, literature was a special area that the Bible gave to the West. Not that the world didn’t have literature before Christianity; there were, of course, many books written in the ancient and the classical world, and there were even libraries. The Great Library of Alexandria is estimated to have had anywhere between 40,000 and 400,000 scrolls. Mangalwadi, however, pointed to the fact that Christianity changed the very nature of the stories told. There was no meaningful self-criticism in those stories, and therefore nothing that can contribute to the ethical-judicial growth and maturity of the culture. Christianity changed the stories all the way to the very root of their meaning and purpose: the notions of heroism, growth, victory, sacrifice, etc, were changed completely. Pagan stories glorified powerful men who achieved their fame through power, domination, and sacrificing others for their cause. Christianity changed the stories to glorify God by presenting weak and fragile human beings whose heroism was proven by service, brokenheartedness, humility, and self-sacrifice. I have written about it in my article on “The Two Aurelii,” on the Christendom Restored .com site. Mangalwadi points to the rise of European – and especially English – literature, and then he even points to the influence of Christianity in modern secular literature: what he calls a “religious sensibility” in the writings of even the most committed modern atheists. And he doesn’t limit it to Europe; he also examines the history of literature in his native India and shows how the Bible had enormous, even if rather unacknowledged, impact on what is known as the “Indian Renaissance.”

Mangalwadi is right on all this, but I am sure you will be asking the question: “Is that all?” Is that the reason I believe books are so important for missions: so that the local readers have the right fiction stories to read? Is this what I mean when I say that a missionary must be a translator, and must work first and foremost for building an intellectual foundation for his mission in the future? Is this what Bulgarian Reformation Ministries is doing: translating stories? If that’s the case, then it ain’t much. Most of the Western stories are already translated in Bulgarian anyway, over the last couple of centuries. Why do I bother to mention this, and why do I bother to insist on books so much?

The answer is: “No this isn’t all.” I believe that Mangalwadi is right, but being a humanities professor, he omitted a very important part of the aspect of literature, one which is less glossy and spectacular than the fiction part of it, but way more important in building the Christian civilization which replaced the pagan civilization. It is so obscure to modern Christian commentators that none of them mention it; and yet, our modern world is more shaped by that part of the aspect of literature than anything else.

What is this important part of literature?

Technical literature. The “how to do” manuals. The “how to build” instruction books. The “how to solve problems” textbooks for leaders and businessmen. The “how to find answers” encyclopedias to inspire scientists and engineers to seek to improve their knowledge of creation and their mastery of its powers. The “how to judge” law books that take on the issues of applied justice in our local communities and the specific practical relationships between an individual and individual, and between an individuals and the social institutions. I bet you never thought about this. And I bet you never knew this problem existed. I can surely bet most of my listeners are not even aware that today, reference books and manuals and how-to guides are about 60+% of all the literature that is published. You thought it was the fiction books and the stories that were the bulk of it, right? No, buddy. In the 20th century, before the arrival of the internet, the largest book publishing business was in publishing cook books. Even today, with the Internet, every kitchen in every American home still has a special shelf large enough to hold several fat cook books. Not every home had a book shelf in the living room, but every kitchen had cook books. The same applied to technical manuals and reference books: every garage had them. Every law firm had them. Every office had them.

Let me explain to you what the problem was, covenantally, why it was an important religious problem, and how Christianity solved it, and what tenet of Christianity made it solve it.

Some time ago, I was present at a lecture by a theologian who was part of the “federal vision” movement. (I am not sure if it exists anymore, but the younger ones of my listeners can google it.) He was praising a particular method of education called “Classical Education.” Now, I have my beef with the concept of Classical Education but I am not going to share it here in this episode. What is important, however, that teacher took the position that the main subjects we needed to teach our children were what is known as the “liberal arts”: literature, history, music, language, philosophy, may be some general sciences like mathematics and physics but only in the most general, theoretic way. His point was that the ancients (Classic Greece and Rome) view these sciences as the right kind of education for free men (hence liberal arts, nothing to do with leftist ideologies). The practical disciplines – engineering, applied math and sciences, professional and technical disciplines, etc. – were below the level of a true gentleman, of a true free person, so in the classical world they were left to the slaves or to the lower classes.  After all, the slaves and the lower classes were those who were expected to really work for a living and to try to deal with technical and professional issues. The elite of the land – the free men – were not supposed to be bothered by such things, except in a very general way, and only in the way of managing and controlling all those slaves and common folk. (I am not kidding, this was in the lecture.) So his sales pitch was to the parents of Christian children that they should give their kids a really liberal education – again, nothing to do with modern politics, just education for free men, for the elite – while leaving technical and professional education for the unwashed masses. Etc., etc. I am not going to continue with all the details of his lecture, suffice to say that a certain supposedly “Christian” educational institution which follows that principles has produced dozens of such graduates educated along these principles, and they are quite irrelevant to the world today. But that is a matter of another episode.

What is important is that the lecturer was right about the philosophy of learning, education, and knowledge of the Classical world. That’s true, that’s how the Greeks and the Romans thought. You could have those Roman patricians teach their children history and philosophy etc, but engineering or entrepreneurship or science or applied technical skills they left to their slaves and to the plebeians. The pagan world was a world where being a servant was a despised station in life; and therefore any education or training that would train a person for a life of servitude was considered below the level of the distinguished elite.

But literature in the Classical world was a past time of the elite. The ordinary plebeian on the street, or the slave, had no time to read books (if they were literate in the first place), let alone the time to produce them, even if they were simple technical manuals for their jobs. It was only the nobles, the patricians, who had the time to compose books and the money to produce them and buy them. Whatever lore was among the common folk and the slaves had to be spread by memorization and recital. Writing and literature was only characteristic to the ruling classes. Worse than that, in some places, the laws explicitly banned certain classes from being educated enough to read. In Sparta, it was a capital crime to teach a slave to read or write. In Athens, the slaves could be taught, but they were banned from knowing the laws. In Rome, for centuries, the patricians kept the lower classes from having any knowledge of the laws. (Every time the plebeians revolted and asked for political rights, the patricians responded, “You can’t have political rights, you don’t know the laws.” While they themselves were those who kept the plebeians uneducated about the laws. But they still used them as soldiers in the military.) Even in modern times, laws against educating the slaves were passed in the Southern states in the US: look, for example, at the North Carolina law of 1831 that threatened severe fines and prison and even lashes for teaching slaves to read.

And since books and reading and literature was a play of the elite, and the elite never bothered with technical and professional stuff, technical and professional literature never developed. Of course, Rome and Greece have always been hostile to any idea of technological progress, and their rulers killed many more inventions – and inventors – than they adopted in practice, so there is that. But also, there wasn’t even the idea that literature could be used to spread the knowledge of how to do things and solve problems. That would mean servanthood. And the elite of the classical world wasn’t interested in that. It wasn’t liberal enough for them.

In addition, technical knowledge was seen also as a form of power among the lower classes, and especially among the privileged guilds among them. So such technical knowledge was very rarely written down; it was always transmitted by direct verbal training in apprenticeship. Even among those who possessed such knowledge and could have written it, it was unusual to see them spend the time and effort to write it down. In fact, it applied to theoretical science as well. We all know about Pythagoras, but very few know that Pythagoras never practiced mathematics as education and knowledge that should be made available to large masses of people. He had a cult of like-minded people around him and they practiced mathematics only as as sort of magic that would give them arcane knowledge about the  secret nature of reality. They concealed their theoretical findings in riddles and charades so that no common man was capable of knowing what they were discussing. The same attitude to knowledge was common to all classes; technical professionals jealously guarded their knowledge and expertise, and only revealed it to apprentices who were sworn to keep it secret and continue the legacy of their masters.

No matter how large a literature the classical civilization had created, Christianity dwarfed it within just a century or two of its founding. By the end of the second century, Christian theologians and apologists had written more books than anything the classical world had seen by that time. And, unlike pagan literature, these books were not kept for the elite. The churches trained their members to read and write – even the slaves. After all, it was a religion of the Book, and being a Christian hinged on how well the worshipers could read and understand written texts. Christian books of all sorts were being written and copied and spread throughout the small Christian community in the Empire. Bishops in those days traveled with their chests full of books, and young men were specifically trained to copy books as soon as they arrived to their church. The first monastery communities were not always ascetic, they were simply people devoted to preserving the knowledge of the many books written and published among Christians at the time.

This first wave of literature was, to a great extent, simply a mirror of the pagan literature: the majority of those works were theological, philosophical, or biographies and auto-biographies. The goal was to produce a new worldview, completely different from the pagan worldview, and to paint a picture of the world that was opposite to the picture pagans knew for centuries. But even in those early centuries, Christian authors started to break the chains of the older conventions in writing. Gradually, Christianity started producing also manuals for practical living.

Of course, even the first Christian biographies and autobiographies were meant to be such manuals. After all, since the “heroes” were not the super men of the pagan myths but weak, fallible men to whom the majority of readers could relate, this inevitably created the expectations that reading and learning from the life of a hero of the faith will give answers to many ethical and practical questions many people were asking. But there was more. The first manuals for successful and righteous family life appeared. The upbringing of children was of special interest to the early church fathers – something the classical world cared nothing about. Practical advice for the conduct of spouses in the families was a common topic. By the end of the 2nd century, “how to” books appeared on different other issues – like how to treat one’s Christian slaves, for example. The first books of legal instructions appeared for judges. By the end of the 4th century, Augustine was already writing on how Christian rulers were supposed to rule, and what course of action really makes a state Christian. It was in the 4th century, as the Classical civilization entered its decline, when interest to more technical topics appeared – not just legal or family or dispute resolution issues, but also on financial solutions, business solutions, and even technology and science. Augustine’s The City of God had an unexpected impact: on one hand, it was simply philosophy and history, depicting the cosmic conflict on earth between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. On the other hand, however, it left the conclusion that Christians were now supposed to actually build a city – since the City of God Augustine was talking about was not a city in heaven but one on earth (but with heavenly origin). So the question was now: How do we build that city, in practice? How do we build such a civilization that will be opposite to the earthly city, and will be successful?

What also helped was that Christianity flatly rejected the elitist attitude of the pagans. Where the Roman elite stuck to their liberal arts because the technical arts were too “servantish” for them, Christianity gladly accepted that challenge. Authority came through service, and Christians had no problem with being servants. Even their bishops – the elite – were expected to be servants to people in need. (Whether they were or not is a different issue.) So for Christians, making literature about practical living and work and solutions was not something undesirable; to the contrary, it was a fulfillment of their task of being servants to the world.

The final completion of that transition came in the first two decades of the 7th century. Isidore of Seville, a Bishop of the church in what is today Spain (the Visigothic Kingom at the time) compiled and published the first known encyclopedia in the western world: The Etymologies. The work was started by his older brother, Leander, who was a bishop before him, and used his fortune and power to compile a massive library of all kinds of texts, before the final dissolution of the classical world. Based on his brother’s library, Isidore set out to compile all the philosophical and practical – note this, and practical – knowledge the world had by that time. The result was a 20-volume encyclopedia. It contained philosophy and theology and history, etc. but half of that encyclopedia was devoted to topics that were never large topics in the literature before: how to do agriculture, animals and plants and their practical value, construction, medicine, metals and stones, technical tools and their use, types of food, clothes, ships and navigation, etc. , etc., etc. There was even a chapter on the types of games and their practical relation to warfare and jurisprudence, and even international law.

Right there, in that book, the real power of Christian literature was revealed. For the first time in history, knowledge was not fragmented into separate pieces for each social class and caste. It was not idolized as some sort of a deity of its own. It was not hidden as occult magic away from the eyes of the unwashed masses. If you want to know where the Christian civilization really started, in practice, it was there, in 7th century Spain, with Isidore.

Was his book important? Listen to this: 850 years after he wrote his book, Johan Gutenberg in Germany invented the movable type. Within the first 100 years after this invention, the most produced books was the Bible. The second most produced was Isidore’s Etymologies. Within 100 years, about 80 different editions of it appeared. We can surely say that a book that is still a bestseller 900 years after its publication is an influential book. And indeed, between AD 600 and 1500 The Etymologies were the central book to which rulers, entrepreneurs, legislators, financiers, builders, scientists, and many others went for consultation when they needed knowledge. The Etymologies were certainly not exhaustive, but they gave the format in which practical knowledge was to be compiled and presented. The book was the main source of knowledge and education for counselors of kings and princes and popes from Charlemagne to Louis XIV. Today, historians and archeologists still discover copies of it in different monasteries – the earliest of them coming from Ireland, translated in the old Gaelic language.

What is not very well known today is that missionaries in the centuries after Isidore went out not so much with theological knowledge about abstract things – although, that was important – but with books that had practical knowledge about practical solutions. Cyril and Methodius, when they started their mission to the Slavs, translated volumes of books on solutions for agriculture, trades, industry, and many other topics – including details like pruning trees and conserving food. The same was true for other missionaries. In fact, as late as the 19th century, the majority of European missionaries went out as practical problem-solvers rather than as theoretical evangelists – think David Livingstone, for example, who went to Africa prepared to deal with a number of practical problems, from fighting slavery to curing malaria. In the late 19th century, Christian missionaries to Egypt were converting local populations by simply starting free schools for girls from poor families, teaching them reading, writing, and trades for gainful employment later in life. In fact, the mission effort in the world didn’t change to the modern purely theoretical and truncated so-called “discipleship” until after WWI – although, admittedly, the seeds for this deadly pietism in missions were planted as early as the mid-19th century.

And here we get to my point about books and missions. If I am right about missions: that a mission is not about planting churches or converting individuals (although, both are a small part of a true mission), but about building a completely new culture (the City of God) to replace the old pagan culture (the city of man), then the main effort a missionary is supposed to focus on is disseminating practical knowledge of “how to.” How to change the laws and customs of a nation; how to run the courts; how to run the economy; how to build businesses; how to do science; how to create new technologies and apply them; how to make your family successful; how to raise your kids; how to do education; how to establish true community fellowship (not simply a “church” where all is focused on some ritual once a week), etc., etc. The task of a missionary then becomes to build a new literature, a literature that would establish the intellectual foundation for a new civilization. Not just what that new culture should believe about God and His salvation, but also how that belief is applied in practice, to the everyday life and work of the individual men and their institutions in that culture. Since all of life is religious (remember, culture is religion externalized), then all of pagan life is idolatry – including its thoughts and practices and institutions and policies. For a missionary to be faithful to his task, he needs to issue a challenge against all this idolatry: thoughts, practices, institutions, policies. In order to do that, he needs to present the alternative of salvation in all these areas: thoughts, practices, institutions, policies. He needs to start building a civilization. And that only happens through first giving the culture the books to build it. Books that say how it is done.

And that’s what our mission in Bulgaria is doing. And what all other mission should be focusing on: creating that intellectual foundation. Without books and a foundation of practical literature, a mission is only spinning its wheels in the air. It gets nowhere, and eventually dies.

And my desire, as someone who is a missionary deep in my heart, is to see every nation on earth have such a mission. It is not my job – and neither is it your job – to go to every nation individually to start such a mission. But we need to diligently seek people who are called to do it, and support them faithfully.

The book I will assign for reading this week is Vishal Mangalwadi’s The Book That Made Your World. Read it, but remember, he is not telling even half of the story. There is much more. And that much more needs to be implemented today.

And while thinking about it, think also of Bulgarian Reformation Ministries, a mission organization committed to . . . what? You got it: to building the intellectual foundation for the future Christian civilization in Eastern Europe. It is by no means the only such mission anymore: new such missions have appeared in other places – the Czech Republic, Costa Rica, Brazil, etc. They all deserve your support. But I will, of course, root for my mission. Visit, subscribe to our newsletter, and donate. God bless you all.


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