This article is Part 2 in a series titled “Why We Publish.” To read Part 1, click HERE.
Many of us know Martin Luther was a loud voice in the Protestant Reformation, but fewer people appreciate the ways in which he leveraged the tools of his time to make sure Europe heard what he had to say.
When we study the means by which the Reformers advanced the truth in their day, we see why it’s critical for us to invest in similar tools to do the same in ours.
The Tools of the Reformers
In 2021, TMAI President Mark Tatlock sat down with John MacArthur to discuss the major factors that contributed to the progress of the Reformation in Europe. Alongside widespread literacy and influential preachers, MacArthur identified two major tools: the printing press, and a significant stream of biblically sound writings.
If we’re going to provide material for other expositors and Bible teachers and even just Christian people to really come to grips with the Scripture and the word of God, they have to be able to read. Books are critical.
• The Printing Press
“There was no way for the average person to get to the truth prior to the printing press,” MacArthur said.
But it was not a coincidence that, only decades before Luther recovered a true understanding of the gospel, God equipped his country with the kind of publishing capability that would enable him to share his insights like never before. Commenting on the benefit of this technology, church historian Nick Needham writes:
“By 1500, over 200 [printing] presses were in operation throughout Europe. We can hardly overstate the cultural revolution which this brought about. Gone were the days when scribes (usually monks) had to copy out books by hand. For the first time, a publisher could make thousands of copies of a book easily and quickly, and put them into mass circulation. This meant that ideas could spread so much more swiftly.” 
So although it’s easy to overlook the importance of infrastructure, the world is still being blessed today because men like Luther leveraged it for the glory of the gospel.
• Biblically Sound Writings
We often think of the leading Reformers as powerful preachers, and rightly so, but MacArthur sees that they were also distinguished by the writings they produced: “Most frequently,” he said, “they were the ones who either wrote significantly and accurately…or had an influence on other people who wrote.”
“It’s writing down things that creates a movement,” he went on to explain. “To create a good movement, it takes deep thinking, and even God wrote a book because that’s the way you communicate where people can read and analyze and think about what it is that they’re being told.”
Even in MacArthur’s own ministry today, he stresses the critical importance of writing as a complement to preaching:
“Preaching is an event that has a spiritual impact in a condensed amount of time. So in order to make a real movement take place, I think there has to be more than preaching. I think there has to be writing. And I think people have got to have—in front of them—words that aren’t flying by…words that are frozen on a page. And that lends itself to their thoughtful consideration of those words.”
MacArthur concludes with a clear application for today:
“If we’re going to provide material for other expositors and Bible teachers and even just Christian people to really come to grips with the Scripture and the word of God, they have to be able to read. Books are critical.”
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The Need for Tools Today
Unfortunately, the tools that promoted the spread of the Reformation in Europe are only available to a fraction of local pastors around the world today. Some Christians don’t have access to publishing infrastructure, and for many who do, the need for godly books remains great.
If we’re going to have a reformation in the Middle East, we need written resources. We need to have the tools that the preachers and men of God will use to reform the churches.
To illustrate this need, a TMAI graduate in the Middle East named “L.M.” says that if he wants to find a theologically sound “Christian living” book for his Arabic-speaking father, he knows of just one pastor who publishes them inside his home country. These books remain extremely hard to find where he’s from.
Another graduate adds to this, further illustrating the lack of sound exegetical resources produced by writers in the Middle East: “I don’t know of a single commentary written by an Arabic speaking person for any book in the Bible,” he said. “Maybe there is one, but I never came across it.”
L.M. was clear: “If we’re going to have a reformation in the Middle East, we need written resources. We need to have the tools that the preachers and men of God will use to reform the churches.”
This Is Why We Publish
Taking a lesson from church history—and a look at the nations today—we realize that if we want to see a modern reformation sweep the Middle East—or Japan, or Croatia, or Honduras—we ought to invest in written resources and the men who make them.
That’s why our schools are hard at work to translate, print, and stock their local bookshelves with biblically sound materials. And beyond that, some of our graduates and professors have even become authors themselves in the effort to make a difference. Please pray for this work to continue, and for God to bring revival and reformation to their churches and communities around the world.
If you would like to financially support our indigenous publishing efforts, please click HERE.
Recently Completed Projects:
- Portions of The MacArthur New Testament Commentary series (33 vols.; multiple languages)
- Basics of Biblical Greek Workbook by Robert Mounce (Russian)
- Growing Your Faith by Jerry Bridges (Armenian)
Current Project Highlights:
- Grasping God’s Word by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays (Arabic)
- Romans by Thomas Schreiner (Russian)
- Knowing God by J. I. Packer (Vietnamese)
- Biblical Doctrine by John MacArthur (Albanian)
For a list of additional projects and initiatives, please visit here.
1. Needham, 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, Vol. 3, 29.