ou must begin to print a little paper and send it out to the people,” declared Ellen White to her husband, James. That was in November of 1848, after she had just received a poignant message from the Lord. “Let it be small at first,” she continued, “but as the people read, they will send you means with which to print, and it will be a success from the first. From this small beginning it was shown to me to be like streams of light that went clear round the world” (Colporteur Ministry, p. 1).
Following the prophetic counsel, James White set about to publish the first church paper. That first publication was an 8-page treatise on the true Bible Sabbath, and it was named The Present Truth. From that small beginning, a tiny print run of just 1,000 copies, the light of truth in printed form has continued to grow until today, truly encircling the world like streams of light.
Currently there are 63 Seventh-day Adventist publishing houses around the world. They publish in 136 languages, and they are producing 456 periodicals and thousands of book titles. Upon that powerful vision, God has surely invoked His blessing.
During this quinquennium, we have adopted the theme “Keeping the Vision Alive,” which is
reflected in our goals and plans. Along with the larger church, we also echo our mission in the form of a slogan: “Share a Book and Tell the World.”
In publishing, our function bears the dual purposes of evangelistic outreach to the public and spiritual nurture within the church body. In order to accomplish this we—following the guidance of Ellen White (manuscript 126, 1902)—focus upon two aspects of literature ministry, namely, selling through literature evangelists and sharing through church members.
Evangelism Through Selling
The global nature of the Advent message calls for workers on a global scale. “God calls for workers from every church among us to enter His service as canvasser evangelists” (Colporteur Ministry, p. 20). Our world team of leaders and colporteurs are united, and they are serious about attaining to the new level of 60,000 participating literature evangelists worldwide. In addition to our regular corps of dedicated literature evangelists, we are maximizing our student literature evangelist (LE) programs by organizing a Student Association of Literature Evangelists (SALE) in each of our denominational universities, colleges, and academies worldwide.
To maintain and continually motivate such an army of workers, the department fosters numerous elements within the support system. Among them are the following:
Members of a student LE club in one of our schools - part of the more than 18,000 student LEs in 2009
The Literature Evangelist magazine in a new format: We changed the image of our quarterly Literature Evangelist magazine with an updated design and new relevant content for literature evangelists around the world.
Publishing Leaders Digest: This is a quarterly publication in digital form, now consisting of 6-8 pages per issue. It is distributed electronically in PDF format and serves as a resource for field leaders, and publishing house and ABC managers throughout the world. Along with news and special reports, it contains motivational and leadership guidance to encourage creative thought and progressive ideas for advancement. It is also sent to administrators and others who can request to receive it regularly. It can also be read and downloaded at www.publishing.gc.adventist.org.
General Conference Publishing Web site: This is the department’s online vehicle of information. Promotional programs and initiatives, publishing house products, inspirational events, and personal testimonies may be found here. Visit us online at www.publishing.gc.adventist.org.
Divisionwide LE Congresses: In 2008 and 2009 the department conducted divisionwide LE congresses in all but two of our world divisions. These gatherings revive the spiritual fervor of literature evangelists, renew commitment to their special calling, and educate on matters of policy and effective literature ministry. They also raise awareness and interest in the excellent opportunities now available in the exciting vocation of literature ministry.
Increase of 15,000 workers: In the year 2000 we started the new century with 28,000 literature evangelists in the world field. Today, by the grace of God, the church has 46,000 men, women, and youth carrying Christ’s love to the people of the world. Of these, 18,000 are youth from our academies, colleges, and universities.
Increase of sales: During the past five years our LEs sold the equivalent of US$535 million worth of literature. Considering the different world economies, this figure represents hundreds of millions of books and magazines. It represents a sales gain of US$171 million over the previous quinquennium.
Literature Ministry Seminary Curricula: To maintain proficiency in training workers, the department has developed new training curricula. These are utilized in the 17 Literature Evangelist Training Seminaries (LMS) where a dedicated building for the LMS training center has been established and those fields where the LMS is conducted in other settings. Literally thousands of leaders and literature evangelists are blessed through the thorough training derived from dedicated teachers of literature evangelism.
Evangelism Through Sharing
More than 53,000 people were baptized in 2009 as a result of LE contacts.
We encourage the world church to put into practice the divine counsel, suggesting that “every believer” is called upon to “scatter broadcast tracts and leaflets and books containing the message for this time” (The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Nov. 12, 1903).
In response to this ideal, we have begun the Worldwide Missionary Book of the Year Project in order to mobilize our church members to take an active part in evangelism through the sharing of literature. “Every Member Sharing a Book” describes the motto of this initiative for this quinquennium. The missionary books used thus far included: The Ten Commandments, used in 2007 and 2008; The Second Coming of Christ, for 2009; and in 2010 we are using When God Said Remember.
Numerous methods of sharing have been modeled in various parts of the world. In South America, thousands of members invited friends to their homes for a shared meal on one special day. They witnessed a video presentation together, and then shared with them the missionary book. Romania developed a strategy to place the Missionary Book of the Year into every household in the nation. In Poland our members formed an orchestra to play in amusement parks while distributing books. Many individual members have donated time and resources for the Lord’s work through this ministry. Out of their love for the Savior and a passion to witness, one member distributed more than 90,000 books in ten months and others shared more than 10,000 books each. In 2009 all the members of the world church shared more than 15 million books. The South American Division alone was responsible for distributing more than 7 million copies.
We rejoice in the fact that a quarter of a million people have joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church in this quinquennium thus far as a result of the penetrating influence of the publishing ministry. For this we praise God!
This article was published June 24, 2010.