Editor's Note: Cook Communications Ministries International is to be commended for a superb theme issue on Eastern Europe in its international magazine of Christian publishing: Interlit 36 (December 1999). The East-West Church & Ministry Report wishes to thank editor Kim Pettit for permission to reprint excerpts of seven articles from this issue. While supplies last, the cost of this theme issue is $3.00 each, available from CCMI, 4050 Lee Vance View,Colorado Springs, CO 80918; tel: 719-536-0100; fax: 719-536-3266; e-mail: email@example.com; web site: http://www.ccmi.org/.
In the 1960s and early 1970s Communist government regulations in Poland only allowed Evangelicals to publish five books per year. Each title could not exceed 3,000 copies. Instead of five different books, we often published 15,000 copies of one Bible. Until the late 1980s Evangelicals read almost every new Christian book published, in spite of their poor quality. There were no other Christian books available.
Late in 1989 political, economic, and social changes took place. Gradually, Evangelical believers became more active in publishing. They published material on the basis of their own preferences, without a clear strategy and without an attractive design. Now the content and quality of books must be good. It has become more difficult to interest Evangelical readers when they may have 40 to 50 new titles to choose from each year.
Poland has 40,000 Evangelical Christians in various denominations, which comprise around 0.1 percent of the total population. Most of the population is Catholic. Many are afraid to read something that is not published by a recognized Catholic publishing company. Some time ago, I asked a secular bookshop owner to consider selling a children's illustrated New Testament. At first he was enthusiastic, but when he saw that the Evangelical Mission published it, he was no longer interested. "If I sell this book, I may lose other customers," he said.
Evangelical publishers offer mainly translations, which usually are alien to the Polish culture. When Catholics read these books they say, "It is a foreign religion. We Poles have Catholicism." How can Evangelical publishers approach this problem? They must recognize that Poland is not a country where the gospel needs to be proclaimed, but rather explained. For many, belief means being a member of the State Church. It does not mean having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Evangelicals must explain the gospel lovingly in good quality literature. Christian publishers should strategically look for and develop more national authors, and also find more alternative channels of distribution. Polish Evangelicals need to use every way possible to reach people, whether it involves selling books from a table on the street, through secular bookstores, on the Internet, or through direct mail. Poles need books in which biblical truth is explained.
Tadeusz Tolwinski is pastor of Misja Ewangeliczna [Evangelical Mission] Church, Torun, Poland.
Edited excerpt reprinted with permission from "Explain the Gospel," Interlit 36 (December 1999): 7.
Year by year Polish churches are slowly emptying. In Catholic churches, Sunday visitors are down from 58 percent (1989) to 23 percent (1999). Even big ministries like Campus Crusade for Christ are experiencing crises. During the last two years, 90 percent of Evangelical Christian publishing houses in Poland were closed or have gone bankrupt! The success of Christian publishing in Poland does not ultimately depend on economic strategies. Sensible investment and management are valuable, but our success really depends on the spiritual development of the Church. Our market consists of readers who turn off the VCR or the TV set, study the Scriptures, and decide to follow Christ. They are God's gift--and need our prayers like never before.
Piotr Waclawik is president of Vocatio Publishing, Warsaw, Poland.
Edited excerpt reprinted with permission from "Spiritual Warfare," Interlit 36 (December 1999): 7.
In the Czech Republic, Evangelicals are fewer than 0.5 percent of the population, which is even less than the proportion found in some countries of the 10/40 window. Only five percent of the Czech population attends church. The rest is atheistic or deliberately pagan. Even so, Evangelical churches are growing exceptionally, while other churches experience stagnation.
Christian publishing has grown very much since the revolution in 1989. Although most are denominational publishers, their products still reach many people. Two magazines have particularly helped Evangelicals. The first, Struggle for the Soul (Zapas o dusi), has a distribution of 10,000 copies and is free. The second, Life of Faith (Zivot viry), published by an interdenominational Christian mission society, has a circulation of 3,500 copies. In its nine years of existence, Life of Faith has helped Christians to overcome barriers by presenting information from the whole Czech Evangelical spectrum. Life of Faith's editorial board includes Charismatic, Pentecostal, and reformed Evangelicals. It is amazing to me that the small market of about 40,000 Evangelicals sustains this many editorial houses.
Tomas Dittrich is editor-in-chief of Zivot viry magazine.
Edited excerpt reprinted with permission from "Towards Growth?," Interlit 36 (December 1999): 10.
Arpad M. Foszto
"Romanian history still affects the present state of Christian publishing because it created a mentality among Evangelicals of getting things for free. Most publishers, in terms of both book publishing and periodicals, are affected by this. They are not able to get back the money they invest," says Danut Manastireanu, a Baptist pastor working towards a doctorate from London Bible College.
One of the biggest Evangelical Christian printing houses in the country is the Romanian Mission Society (RMS), led by Iosif Ton, a Baptist pastor. Since 1991 RMS has printed 52 titles. Most are theological books. Some of them were printed in relatively large numbers for Romania--30,000--and are now in their third edition! Tomuta Nicoleta, a member of the financial department of the company, stated RMS sells mainly in state-owned bookstores, which have clients from all denominations. Some best-selling titles are Millard J. Erickson's Christian Theology, William Barclay's Flesh and Spirit, and Anthony A. Hoekema's The Bible and the Future.
Although there were a lot of Christian publishers after 1992, only those who receive funds from the West have survived. Another problem is that publishers in the West are producing materials in Romania and still distributing them for free, which undermines local publishers.
"One important feature in Romania is the influence exercised by non-Evangelical literature. Orthodox publishers produce titles that compete with Evangelical publishing. Many of these books are of high quality, written by important authors, have solid theological content, and create an interest in theology," says Manastireanu. "People with university degrees are searching for good theological literature. Finding very little of this in Evangelical publishing, they resort to Orthodox and, lately, Catholic publishing."
Effective Evangelical publishing in Romania needs a larger base. This can't be done in strictly denominational publications. On the other hand, publications that "smell" ecumenical are not well received in the non-intellectual Evangelical environment. So those reaching a larger base risk losing Evangelicals.
Arpad M. Foszto is president of "Link Romania," Iasi, Romania, and is a member of the Brethren Church.
Edited excerpt reprinted with permission from "Romanians Hunger for Spiritual Books," Interlit 36 (December 1999): 8.
Kosta and Nada Milkovi
When Macedonia was a part of Yugoslavia, Macedonian books were not published because the official language of the federation was Serbo-Croatian. When the federation broke up, Macedonia began to pay attention to the need for materials in the local language. This was an opportunity for Christians. Since then Macedonia got its first Old Testament translation and two translations of the New Testament have been republished, along with Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
The Kosovo refugee crisis has made people more receptive to the message of the gospel. With the aid relief, Christians have been able to distribute tens of thousands of copies of New Testaments and other Christian material, but the need for locally written Christian literature is still great. There is not a single Evangelical title written by a Macedonian. There is a lack of capable, trained Christian writers. The Christian community is dependent on translations.
However, the choice and funding of books to be translated into Macedonian are often done by foreign agencies. "The initiative is usually from abroad. The Macedonians who do the work on a particular book are not the ones who run the project but are simply hired men working for foreigners who decide what is best for our country," says Dr. Ivan Grozdanov, a Baptist pastor in Skopje. Even when a translation is published as a result of local initiative, the choice is usually a denominational title that hardly appeals to a wider audience.
The Student Evangelical Association of Macedonia (SEAM), which is affiliated with International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) worldwide, is a publisher determined to serve local needs through careful research in selecting books to be published. SEAM wants to encourage good Macedonian Christian writers to write books, articles for magazines, and booklets. Creative promotion of well-designed, high-quality books is a high priority. This includes visiting all churches and, when promoting books, explaining why those books have been chosen and how they will benefit Christians. People in the church have to learn to buy books and not expect everything for free. The challenges of publishing for Macedonia are big, way too big for us to deal with on our own. But we trust the Lord will give us patience, wisdom, and perseverance.
Kosta and Nada Milkovi serve as national coordinators for the Student Evangelical Association of Macedonia.
Edited excerpt reprinted with permission from "Macedonia, New Challenges," Interlit 36 (December 1999): 17.
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