August 30, 2018

Church Leaders Want More Members Involved in Distributing Literature

Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division, and Adventist Review

Imagine the impact 21 million Seventh-day Adventists could have around the world with the message of hope by simply sharing a book, a magazine, or a tract. That was one statement posed on day one of the American Tri-Division Publishing Directors Workshop in Riviera Maya, Mexico, on August 27, 2018.

Nearly 150 publishing directors, administrators, and publishing house managers from the Inter-American, North American, and South American church regions are meeting this week to promote the exchange of ideas, strategies, and methods for Seventh-day Adventist literature distribution.

It’s All About Mission

“The mission of the publishing ministries exists to proclaim through media the gospel of hope to the whole world in this generation,” said Adventist Church publishing ministries director Almir Marroni, who is also the main organizer of the event.

That mission was at the forefront of publishing ministries even before the church was officially organized, when believers during the Millerite movement worked arduously to print and distribute literature, Marroni said.

“The impact of the publications back then [the 1840s] was wonderful. There was a very organized system of distribution when there were no colporteurs or publishing houses, [but] all the members were involved,” said Marroni. “Something moved these people to focus on publications.”

Publishing ministries have grown from the Tract Society in 1870, the establishing of colporteur or literature evangelist work in 1882, and the launch of the student literature evangelist program in 1900. It has recently organized intentional projects of mass distribution of missionary literature through church members. These projects have resulted in the distributing of millions of pieces of literature thanks to dozens of publishing houses operated by the church today. But more member involvement is essential to finishing the work of reaching the lost, Marroni said.

“Not everyone is called to be a literature evangelist, but as members, we are called to be missionaries, and publications are a very important tool for reaching others,” Marroni said. According to him, after the literature evangelist program was established, fewer and fewer members were involved in distributing literature. “There was not a proactive action on the part of the church to systematically motivate members to distribute the church publications,” he said.

Every Member Involved

Getting back to mobilizing church members to distribute Adventist literature all around the world is one of the main strategies that the publishing ministry leaders have been pursuing in the past few years, according to Marroni.

Every year in April, a new missionary book is released for wide distribution around the world. The books are printed at low cost so that church members can afford them and distribute them in their communities, Marroni said.

The missionary book for 2019 is entitled Hope for Today’s Families, by Willie and Elaine Oliver, and is set for worldwide release on April 21 of that year.

The plan for the missionary book is to give members an opportunity to get involved, be encouraged, and become missionaries of the printed word, Marroni explained. “With an army of 21 million members, if they believe that the simple act of sharing a tract, a magazine, a book can produce a great result,” he said. “If the 21 million members distributed one book per week, that could mean more than 1 billion books in a single year.”

South American Division publishing leaders said more than 190 million missionary books have been distributed during the past 10 years; Inter-American leaders reported more than 30 million; and the North American Division, through its Pacific Press publishing house, has distributed more than 101 million books, tracts, and magazines since 2015.

Day one of the publishing meetings saw the cementing of the seven general goals of Publishing Ministries, including sowing literature; defining a “life mission” for those who are called to literature evangelism; and developing talents and providing financial resources for Adventist students. Other purposes include entering unreached territories; participating in the planting of new churches; attracting people interested in the Adventist message to the church; and being a self-supporting ministry, leaders said.

Publishing leaders went over steps to promote literature distribution in their respective regions.

The American Tri-Division event is the fourth event organized by the world church to bring together publishing directors to unify efforts in distributing publications. Publishing directors’ workshops have already taken place in Africa, Europe, and Asia, with the Americas as the last leg of the comprehensive publishing initiatives this year, said Wilmar Hirle, associate publishing director for the Adventist world church.

In the coming days, publishing leaders will discuss challenges and opportunities of part-time literature evangelists; how to develop student literature evangelists; how to provide spiritual nourishment to church members; and how the three divisions are advancing in publishing ministries strategies, their challenges, and more.