Books to nourish the Latin American Church
Over the two thousand years of Christian history, books that help us to understand and apply the Bible have been central to the growth of healthy churches.
The first people to take the gospel to Latin America understood this. In those early days, Christian bookshops were opened in Brazil and Peru, colporteurs carried books into the Andean mountains, and a Christian book van travelled the length of Argentina.
Today quality Christian books that are relevant to Latin American life are still vitally important… but they can be hard to find.
Latin Link’s Ian Darke comments:
“all the church leaders I know in the UK have wonderful libraries of books, including commentaries, pastoral guides and materials on ethical challenges.
“It’s so different for my pastor friends in Latin America. They have far fewer books and resources, less — if any— training from a Bible college, and yet with these scanty resources they have to deal with all the challenges of leading a growing church in a complex world. To make matters worse, some of the few ‘Christian’ books available in Latin America are superficial to the point of being useless or clearly unbiblical. For the Latin American church to grow strong and deep in faith, it needs good nourishment.
“That’s why I’ve spent decades working with publishing ministries across the continent – ministries that aim to produce materials that are Biblical, accessible and truly speak to the Latin American church context.”
We asked Ian to explain more about the impact of a good book.
What’s the most exciting book you’ve worked on?
Ian: One of the most significant projects I’ve been involved with is the Latin American Bible Commentary (Comentario Bíblico Contemporáneo).
Back in 2007 a group of senior leaders of the Latin American church came together to share their concern that there were just too few resources to help Latin Americans study the Bible deeply. Yes, there were commentaries in Spanish and Portuguese. But these were translations and from another culture. UK readers may know the feeling of reading a Christian book that feels ‘too American,’ with examples and illustrations we don’t understand. They can be hard to relate to. It’s like that with many Christian resources here, which feel ‘too foreign’. Latin American church leaders needed something that came from and spoke to their own culture.
It was an ambitious project that involved over 100 Latin American theologians. The whole team was passionate about the project, because without a resource like this, strange, unhelpful and inaccurate Bible teaching easily takes root in churches.
After 12 years the Spanish edition was finally published in 2019, so distribution began just before the pandemic.
Last year, the Portuguese edition for Brazil was published at long last. Distribution is an ongoing challenge – getting the commentary to church leaders and other Christians in every region across the whole of Latin America. Most need a printed copy, but some can access digital versions, which we are also offering.
What are the next challenges for Christian publishing in Latin America?
Ian: As well as encouraging and supporting writers, we need to inform churches of what is available. This may sound simple, but is a challenge. Publishers need more people with communication and ‘marketing’ skills.
Then once they know of a good book, they need to get hold of it. With no equivalent to Amazon, distribution is a challenge. When shipping books between the countries of Latin America you soon discover that each country has its own import and customs duty requirements, for example!
One of our main concerns now is to foster a love of books and reading within Christian families. Our network of Christian publishers, Letra Viva, has found that the value of reading is often underplayed in families and churches. This is sad since good reading habits contribute so much to children’s development as well as everyone’s spiritual growth.
The publishers of Letra Viva have just worked together to produce ‘Pass Me Another Book’, a simple guide to reading the Bible and good books, for Latin Americans, by Latin Americans. It’s full of practical hints for families and churches and we hope it has an impact across the continent.
Could you use some help?
Ian: Most of the Christian publishers in Letra Viva are still small and need more gifted Latin American writers and editors – I’d love you to pray about that. And if there were an experienced publishing professional who would like to serve in Latin America then I could certainly use a colleague!
- For God to raise up more gifted Christian writers, editors and publishers to nourish the Church across Latin America.
- That ‘Pass me another book’ would encourage a love of reading in homes and churches.
This article was first featured in the 50th edition of Latinfile. Read the Latinfile collection here.