[rb_dropcap]P[/rb_dropcap]icture this. All around, dusk is fast falling. It’s time to cook the evening meal and you need to light the stove. In the distance, you see a faint glow. It is your neighbour’s stove, already lit. You go over to fetch an ember from her wood-fired stove. That small ember sets alight your scrunched up paper and wood chips. Soon the crackling fire gives light and warmth to your home. It lets you feed your family. And then it’s your turn to contribute an ember to light the next neighbour’s home.
Up in the chilly highlands of Limuru, Kenya, this poignant word picture touched me deeply. This was Distinguished Trainer Lawrence Darmani’s illustration from his childhood in Ghana, and was the basis of his call to all gathered on the last night of Littworld 2012, to continue to keep the light of Christian publishing burning. Because, as John Piper said in “The Ripple Effect of the Word”, “There are many great old books to read, but each new generation needs its own writers to make the message fresh. Read and pray. And then obey.” (John Piper, A Godward Life, Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1997, 59.)
I warmed to this illustration (pun unintended…honestly) because it spoke to me of two things close to my heart, publishing and relationships. As followers of Christ, we have the privilege of a relationship with One who fleshed out the Word when He walked the earth, and who left us with the Living Word, The Bible. So, we are people of the Word. And it is up to us to flesh out the Word so that those around us can see/hear/taste/smell/feel its message.
Growing up, I did not have the blessing of being in a Christian household, but my parents were firm believers in books and reading. So my diet ran the gamut of comics like Beano, Dandy, and Junior Classics Illustrated, to novels and non-fiction. As I devoured each succeeding series from Enid Blyton and fancied myself in the shoes of Jane Eyre, some inkling of the Truth was internalised within me—that good would win in the end, that standing up for what was right would be rewarded in the last chapter. The God that Jane Eyre so wholeheartedly believed in touched me in a way that my uninformed spirit did not fully recognise. But He got me seeking. And when the time came for me to fully embrace this new relationship with a loving Father, it was the most natural of things. I had been prepped, you see. By the books I’d read.
So, if I sound like an evangelist for salting and lighting the world through the books we expose people to, I make no apologies for it. How many non-believers are likely to step into a Christian bookstore intentionally? Very few. But we can fill the shelves of general bookstores with volume after volume of good reads—all manner of general titles, both fiction and non-fiction, infused with Christian values and a Christian worldview. In a postmodern world where people are choosing the truths that “suit” them, we need to saturate society with God’s truth. In packaging that will disarm them.
If truth be not diffused, error will be; if God and His Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendancy; if the evangelical volume does not reach every hamlet, the pages of a corrupt and licentious literature will. (Daniel Webster, in Ernest Reisinger, “Every Christian a Publisher”, Free Grace Broadcaster, no. 51 (winter 1995), 17.)
Where does this leave those who are not in the publishing industry? Ah…remember the other thing close to my heart? Relationships. My fledgeling faith would probably not have gone as far, as fast, if it had not been for good Christian folk who spoke into my life. I also needed to see the faith modelled. The mentors who chose to walk with me fleshed out for me what it was to live out 1 Peter 3.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15, 16 NIV)
We need everyone on board if we are going to change the world for Christ. We need people who will publish good books, but also those who will bless others with good books.
It is amazing to watch people in an airport. In airports alone, at any given moment, there must be hundreds of thousands of people reading. One of the things we Christians need to be committed to, besides reading, is giving away thoughtful books to those who might read them but would never buy them. (Piper, A Godward Life, 59.)
We also need people who will walk alongside those who have needs and questions. We need genuine, authentic people (like my beloved) who will tell it like it is, but also show the way to hope.
I think of Lawrence Darmani growing up and his relationship with his neighbours. It must have been one of trust and mutual giving. Imagine someone barging into your home to ask for an ember for his or her stove. In the semi-darkness. It can only be something you would entertain because you were, to begin with, willing to give, to share. I will keep his exhortation in my heart and spirit for a long, long time to come. It only takes a spark…