“When I visit the homes of new church attendees,” Madu* said, “I often learn that some of the only ‘Christian literature’ that they own was published by false teachers.”
“The African Christian book market is flooded by the titles of false teachers,” he explained, “and it has been that way for many years. Even in Christian bookstores, the shelves are dominated by such books. Many people in our communities are unaware that these authors are false teachers, and they would not think twice about buying their books.”
Why Publishing Matters in Missions
Let’s face it. Parts of the Bible are hard to understand.
The apostle Peter even thought so (2 Pet 3:16), despite spending years in Jesus’ inner circle (Mark 5:37). For that reason, it should not surprise us to read that a foreigner like the Ethiopian eunuch also had a hard time understanding the word on his own (Acts 8:30–31). As we look out among the nations today, the situation is much the same, and just like the Ethiopian eunuch was blessed with understanding from Philip (Acts 8:35), we can all find tremendous help from someone showing us what the Bible means. “If we are going to outmatch these false teachers when it comes to their strategy of cultural penetration,” Mark went on, “a casual or passive approach simply won’t do. It won’t be effective.”
The problem, however, is that reliable guides like Philip can be hard to find.
In many countries, it’s often the false teachers who stand ready to offer their “assistance.”
Madu’s testimony illustrates that the evangelistic strategies of false teachers go well beyond “razzle dazzle” crusades. Many people don’t realize that false teachers are deeply invested in foreign publishing. These teachers see the strategic importance of books, and so, in Madu’s words, they do what they can to “dominate” the bookshelves, get books into people’s homes, and distort the Bible quietly.
So while faithful Christian campaigns labor away to provide Bibles across the waking world (and praise God for them), we have to realize that the enemies of God are also laboring to provide the world with books that distort those Bibles (2 Pet 3:16).
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Here’s How False Teachers Work the Field:
TMAI President Mark Tatlock was able to speak with a pastor who once worked for a renowned prosperity preacher. Having been saved out of that movement, this pastor was willing to reveal insider information regarding the false teacher’s “playbook” for international publishing. Mark summarizes the conversation below:
“These false teaching ministries have a very well-defined strategy to penetrate a country with their doctrine and gain a foothold of loyalty to their movement,” he began. “They don’t just load up shipping containers with books and send them around the world; they create their own markets, sometimes from the ground up. They have a far more proactive and industrious strategy than you might think.”
It begins with groundwork:
“The ministry will identify local bookstores and publishers to cooperate with. Upon making deals, they can secure spots for their books on the shelves that everyday people might come to when they’re searching for someone to help them understand the Bible.”
They also recruit local pastors:
“They’ll also send an advance team into a new country, identify several key denominational leaders in the region, gather them together, and then promise to invest in their ministries with books and printed resources if they consent to the offer. In many cases, these targeted pastors live in poorer and developing countries, so the temptation for them to agree to this kind of support is high.”
“They eventually direct that network of pastors to drive their people to get these books, whether for money or for free. In doing this, the local church leaders help to make sure that false teachers gain name recognition in their communities.”
From there, the public campaigns can begin:
“Eventually, when there’s enough interest in the local community, a huge crusade is announced and they fly the preacher in to speak at a large stadium, where they continue to push the content aggressively to a large audience, perhaps 10 or 50 thousand people. Before you know it, thousands of people are swept up into false teaching, sometimes unaware that they are actually listening to distortions of the true gospel.”
“This is the level of strategy that we’re up against.”
Here’s How TMAI Is Responding:
When we encounter clever schemes like these, we remember that God is not mocked (Gal 6:7). Peter says that these teachers distort the Scriptures “to their own destruction” (2 Pet 3:16), and we know that amidst their evils, our Good Shepherd is still saving His sheep—even from the midst of these wolves (John 10:27–28). “We must look for every legitimate opportunity to maximize our own in-country network and get the best theological tools into the hands of local church leaders. We obviously don’t want to mimic these false teaching ministries, but we must continue to cultivate a proactive posture toward resourcing the global church.”
One encouraging example of this comes from TMAI’s regional director for Africa who recently informed us that several men who worked at a false teaching “church” have come to know the transforming love of the Lord Jesus Christ. According to him, this “church” was even more heretical than mainstream prosperity preaching churches, and yet, even there, Christ had people to save. Today, those men know that their sins have been completely washed away by the blood of Jesus, and they now attend a biblical church pastored by a TMAI graduate.
We must always trust the Lord to save His people through His word (Rom 10:17). And in that posture of dependence, we want to pursue our God-given opportunities to put the word before them and help them understand it.
We see that one of the largest gaps in training on the mission field today is in the supply chain of resources that clearly explain the whole counsel of God.
In this absence of good and godly books, we see that the field is not left unattended and neutral. False teachers are working aggressively to cultivate it with their own content, and they spend millions to make sure the nations know their names.
That’s why TMAI is deepening its investment into indigenous publishing. We want to help our schools continue to publish and distribute godly books that help people know the name of Jesus. Alongside preaching, publishing remains a powerful way to counter the lies being printed on today’s mission field. And as a ministry that resources the global church, we cannot sit idly by.
“If we are going to outmatch these false teachers when it comes to their strategy of cultural penetration,” Mark went on, “a casual or passive approach simply won’t do. It won’t be effective.”
“Instead, we must look for every legitimate opportunity to maximize our own in-country network and get the best theological tools into the hands of local church leaders. We obviously don’t want to mimic these false teaching ministries, but we must continue to cultivate a proactive posture toward resourcing the global church.”
As we look ahead to 2023, please consider supporting TMAI’s Publishing Fund to help bring godly books to believers around the world.
To learn more and to partner with us financially, click HERE
* Name changed for privacy.