Coming out of CBA’s annual international convention, I’m sure we all feel like we’re stepping out of a whirlwind. The nonstop activity, meetings, and commitments can be taxing, but they’re also invigorating as we reconnect with old friends, meet new partners, share our common struggles, discover new ideas and resources, and reflect on how God revealed Himself in big and small ways during our time together.
Despite the challenges we face, our “unite” theme reminds us we’re all in this together; that our industry is an ecosystem and each of us plays a critical part in securing its health. As we move forward in living this out, however, we have work to do.
An underlying current of competition runs throughout our plans. Different areas of the industry continue to view one another warily, uncertain of their motives, commitment, and long-term stability. Questions like, “Why are publishers dedicating more resources to online sales than the retail channel?” and “What if I invest in Christian retail stores and they close?” are very real and lying just beneath the surface of many conversations.
We want to “unite,” but what does that look like practically? What are the greatest objections that keep complete unity just out of reach? What does it cost us to truly unite with each other? And what will it cost if we don’t?
These are questions that keep many of us up at night and motivate us to keep working toward solutions that allow us to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). We seek solutions that advance our shared mission of taking God’s Word throughout the world and serve those who come to us seeking hope and help in the resources we produce and distribute.
Today, with the increasing speed of change in technology, consumer buying habits, and predatory competition, unity within our industry is not an option—it’s an imperative. When we acknowledge and respect our interdependence, overcome our misperceptions, and rebuild trust—first putting our full faith and trust in the One who leads us—we will move mountains (Matthew 17:20).
But if we remain fractured, God won’t bless our efforts and our industry will continue to struggle, never attaining the vision He gave each one of us when He called us into this ministry.
So what does unity in practice look like?
It starts with a thread that connects all of us to a common point of engagement around which we can rally and build our plans. That thread ties us to our ministry’s benefactors, the ones we were each called to serve: the customers.
What if we each knew our customers so well, we could meet them exactly where they are before they say a word and predict what they will need before they even know it? Would that kind of information help us work together in a more powerful way than we have ever experienced before?
More to come on this later, but today we can begin to lay groundwork for unity in practice: Envision the Gospel rising throughout our world like never before, lives being transformed, and our witness speaking of what God’s people can do when they work together. This will move us forward in faith and trust.