mai“I feel like a tadpole,” he said, as a preamble to the devotional he was about to share. This, from someone who’s been to the ends of the earth and back (well, nearly) to provide training and instructional design consultancy work. I was attending the Annual Board Retreat of Media Associates International and, as the newest kid on the block, you can imagine how much smaller I felt. As far as I’m concerned, this Board is peopled by luminaries from the world of evangelical Christian publishing. We have a senior vice president of a long-established American publishing house, a retired international rights director of a British publishing house, a popular American author who has written 83 (!) novels for teens and women, and an award-winning blogger from Kenya, just to name a few.

But if there is one common characteristic of the Board members that has lifted me up from my amoebic state, it has to be their humility. Each one did not think more highly of himself/herself than he/she ought, there was mutual respect (love) shown, and there was an eagerness to honour one another. Sound familiar? Sitting at the same table with these giants, I was so reminded of Paul’s injunctions in Romans 12:3-6a, 10-12 (NET),

For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith. For just as in one body we have many members, and not all the members serve the same function, so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another. And we have different gifts according to the grace given to us. … Be devoted to one another with mutual love, showing eagerness in honoring one another. Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer.

How often have boards/organizations/churches been blighted by misguided factionalism, politicking and strife? Vocal minorities hold sway because the rest are cowed into silent submission. You must pardon the slight bile in my throat. Watching A Man for All Seasons on my flight back to Singapore resurfaced in me an awareness of the darkness that lurks in many a heart. You will understand, therefore, why the MAI Board has been such a balm to the soul.

This microcosm of the body of Christ indeed does have many members who do not all serve the same function. There are writers, editors, publishers, IT specialists, an academic, and an investment banker. But they are devoted to one another and enthusiastic in serving the Lord. Many would think nothing of volunteering their time, expertise and resources in some of the hardest corners of the earth. Their aim — to see that “materials that grow from the soul and soil of each culture can begin to address the issues, concerns and priorities of readers”. (

In recent times, with many foundations making changes to their giving policies, MAI has been facing greater difficulties meeting its operational expenses. This has weighed heavy on the President’s mind, and it shows. Everyone, and I mean everyone, on the Board is now looking for ways to ease the burden of fundraising off the President’s shoulders, and rightly so.

In his book Doing Good even Better, Edgar Stoesz says:

Nonprofit organizations are about people. People own them—for a purpose. People, with all their gifts and foibles, run them. Organizations do not run themselves. … It follows logically that organizations are only as great as the people who are involved in them. They depend upon the synergy that results from the interaction of people who are reasonably of the same mind. (Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2007, p. 11)

Ho, ho, talk about “gifts and foibles” … we have those aplenty, for sure. “Interaction”, check. “Of the same mind”, check. And so the synergy abounds. It does make for an interesting mix of solutions when it’s all hands on deck to meet needs that arise. Two years ago, when funds were needed for a Publishing Forum in Europe, three intrepid Trustees donned their boots and walked over 200 kilometres along the River Thames. Many blisters, plasters and aching muscles later, several thousand British pounds had been raised towards the equipping of writers/editors/publishers at the Forum.

Although Stoesz said that “organizations are only as great as the people who are involved in them,” in the new math of God’s kingdom, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. See what a band of fishermen and tax collectors was able to do a couple of millennia ago. It’s almost a cliché to say that nothing is impossible with God. But it just happens to be true. And so, in the years since 1985 when MAI was started, countless lives have been touched and changed through locally created literature because a small group of visionaries dared to dabble in God’s math. No one was in it for himself, and each considered the other better than himself.

Is God nudging you towards doing something in His kingdom? Want to know one of the keys to a fruitful ministry? A deep humility before God and man. I guess feeling like a tadpole isn’t such a bad thing after all.

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7 NET)