Monday, January 17, 2011

Reformed Publishing in China

A friend forwarded to me an article written by Michael Haykin which was originally published in The Banner of Truth Magazine (January 2011) and recently posted on the Desiring God website.  The title of the article is "The Emergence of Legal Christian Publishing in China."  I recommend that you read this and be aware of what the Lord is doing in his kingdom.  I am encouraged.

I recently heard about the growing tolerance of Christian under certain circumstances and in certain places in China.  This was exciting news, but I didn't realize that some freedom has been extended to the Christian publishing market--especially the Reformed Publishing market.  This is very exciting.

Here are a few excerpts from the article that summarize the opportunity and the need which is worthy of the American Reformed community's attention (emphasis added is mine):
Most amazing of all is that in comparison with traditional evangelical publishers, Reformed publishers have a significant advantage when publishing in China. Currently, the Chinese publishing houses—all under government oversight—tend to give approval more frequently to certain genres of Christian books than to others. The books most often approved are biographies, old books with historical value (Pilgrim’s Progress, Institutes of the Christian Religion, e.g.), and marriage and family books. The Reformed community will immediately see the significance of this. How many biographies and old historical books does the Banner of Truth have? How many does the Evangelical Press have? For the past thirty to forty years, Reformed publishers have been publishing these books in great numbers which gives them a very unique advantage in filling the publishing vacuum in China. We can be certain that the vacuum will be filled with something. The key question is: What will fill that vacuum? The cults are not without presence in China.
The good news is that several publishers, such as Banner of Truth, Evangelical Press, and Solid Ground Christian Books each have at least 25 books that will likely pass government censorship in China (i.e. receive a Beijing issued ISBN). Other publishers such as Reformation Heritage BooksShepherd PressInter Varsity Press (UK)P&R, and others, all have titles that will also likely pass censorship. Publishing contracts for these books could be signed tomorrow if funding were available.
For approximately $1 million USD, fifty to sixty Reformed titles can be translated and published in China. To some, this might sound like a very large amount of money, but when compared to what US churches are spending on building and renovation projects, this is actually a very modest figure. According to the U. S. Census Bureau: “Churches in the United States spent about $7 billion on church buildings in 2009.” One to two million dollar building projects are quite common. However, which is more strategic for the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the strengthening of the church worldwide: spending $1 million dollars building a new church gymnasium or Sunday School wing? Or, using that same million dollars to publish fifty to sixty books in a region that has one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the world, that exists in one of the biggest publishing vacuums of Christian books in the world?
The need of the hour is for men and women in the Reformed community to think globally, to think critically and make ministry and financial decisions in light of Scripture and the rapidly changing needs of the church worldwide. Christian publishing in China is still very much in its infancy and publishing quality titles now, while the number of legally published books is still quite low, can have an enormous impact on the future direction of the Chinese church. However, if we sit still and do nothing, the non-Reformed titles—which now largely define the market—will continue to shape the future of the church in China. What direction Christian publishing in China ultimately takes remains to be seen. Either way, we can be sure that it will have a decisive impact of some sort in the days to come.
Happily, concerned Christians around the world can get involved. In the past year, a new opportunity has emerged to help fill the publishing vacuum in China (which has 501(c)3 tax exempt status in the US):  The Robert Morrison Project.  Established in 2009, the Robert Morrison Project specifically aims to legally publish Reformed literature in China. Over the next five to ten years their goal is to publish 50 titles in China and the first 22 are all from the Banner of Truth Trust. Individuals and churches may sponsor the publication of specific titles. To learn more about this opportunity please visit their website or contact them by email.

  • Since January, 2008, has been offering Chinese literature through its online bookstore,
  • Desiring God also offers Chinese titles which you can find by using their Language Index and selecting Chinese-Traditional.  
  • If you know of any other Chinese language resources, please let me know and I'll add them to this list.  Thanks!