Missions, ministries, and oceans of wasted resources. Plus free ebook

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book coverIt has long been a concern of mine that mission agencies and other ministries should escape a proprietorial mindset of 400 years of print-on-paper culture. They frequently publish advocacy or discipleship books, booklets and group study guides (or hold the copyright to out-of-print titles) which sell only a few hundred copies a year maximum – a distribution output which will therefore be read by a very limited number of people, usually within a single country, and may not even pay for inventory costs.

If only missions and ministries could just let them out ‘into the wild’ in the form of free PDFs, Kindle and iTunes ebooks, and phone apps. Readership will likely go up by a factor of 10, 50 or even 100 times or more, and literature can be used in countries and by demographics who would not previously have had the opportunity to do so.

Of course, writing which is culturally very western and dated, or out-of-print missionary biographies from the 70s or earlier (which always tended to be hagiographies) are unlikely to be helpful to a wider audience, and can be cringeworthy. But there is much good stuff around which is culturally relevant, but imprisoned by being only distributed in print form. Meanwhile, Christian groups around the world may struggle to reinvent the wheel, or more likely, just do without. (Or, perhaps, fall prey to literature from extremists or cults.)

An extension of this tragic situation is copyright and the need to allow translations into other languages. Distant Shores Media strongly argues for a new ‘Christian Commons’ approach to our vast stores of usable written materials, in their new free ebook The Christian Commons by Tim Jore. This deserves a very wide readership.

Curation needed

There is also a big need, I feel, for someone to create a curated listing of various free online discipleship study booklets and ebooks, which are appropriate for a non-western audience. Without such a single one-stop source of reviewed resources, it is very hard for Majority World leaders, for example, to find good teaching or group discussion materials. Someone creating such a site would be doing an immense service for the gospel on a worldwide basis.

In this spirit, please feel free to republish or adapt this blog post in any way you wish.

Keith at Mobile Advance has also blogged about this situation – what he calls A Goliath of a Problem, which includes video of Tim Jore speaking at the recent Mobile Ministry Forum. Please share your thoughts on this issue on our comment section.

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3 comments to Missions, ministries, and oceans of wasted resources. Plus free ebook

  • margaret

    In DR Congo where I used to work, even heavily subsidisedbooks were often too dear for those who desired them. Costs of printing, transport, selling and soon made that even the Bible was beyond their means. Bibles, hymbooks where many hymns were never sung, …marvellous booklets sent by Scripture Gift Mission and others and given freely, even broadsheets like SOON… It would be marvellous if these were widely distributed electronically in the way you suggest.

    Ithink especially of the Swahili Everyday Living…. mwenendu wetu wa Kila Siku….out ofprint now,Ithink, but it wouldbegreatif itcould be accessed online.

    As a teacher, the possibilities are endless.

  • margaret white

    Selling and so on. What moderation do I need to give it? Put in missing spaces? or cut downnumberof words?
    Does anybody know if the Congo Swahili Bible is available online? Free? Or at what cost? I have English Bible on Kindle and ipad…but these other languages?

  • Mary

    Have you come across the resources put together by Joshua Project? http://joshuaproject.net/resources I make use of their Android app when looking for different types of Christian media available in other languages.

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