Revolution in World Missions celebrates as book tops 4 million in print
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (ANS – September 25, 2018) – Insiders here in this American center of global missions are celebrating the record-breaking sales of The Revolution in World Missions. Those who know the history of K.P. Yohannan’s bestselling book say it has done more than anything else since WWII to change the way American Christians view foreign missions.
ASSIST News released a report September 18 that revealed The Revolution in World Missions has now reached over 4 million copies in print – making it a monster bestseller in terms of missionary book sales. Books about missions are usually one of the most unpopular categories in religious publishing.
Charlottesville is the center of the indigenous mission’s movement in the USA, and the headquarters of two of the three indigenous mission organizations started by Bob Finley: Christian Aid, International Students, and the Overseas Students Mission (OSM). Finley began these organizations in 1953 and they have gradually grown into separate missions over the last 65 years.
Many here have long promoted the K.P. Yohannan book and are delighted with the news that the little book has reached such lofty sales figures. It is now available in eight languages.
Revolution in World Missions has been a publishing miracle from the beginning. In 1985, Bob Walker of Christian Life Magazine sent me to Texas to work on the manuscript for his Creation House book division. I stayed with K.P. and Gisela in their home for several weeks doing interviews, outlining the chapters and working on the original manuscript. I took my notes back to Wheaton, Illinois and was able to produce the final draft for the book in about a month.
I had earlier met K.P. in 1966 when I led an Operation Mobilization book distribution team in India from his home in Kerala to Rajasthan—a fanatically Hindu state in North India. Yohannan was my “faithful man” for much of that trip and we developed most of the mission’s principles and practices outlined in his book 20 years later.
The early editions of the book were titled The Coming Revolution in World Missions because, even as late as 1997, traditional missions led by white Americans were still the accepted norm for global missions in most American churches.
However, that image of missions was rapidly changing thanks to influence of The Revolution in World Missions. The message of the book became the new normative soon after the turn of the century. By 2000 – over 500,000 copies of the book were in print.
In a few short years, thanks to the wide distribution of the book, the very definition of foreign missions changed in the USA. Suddenly, global missions were no longer portrayed as “us going to them” but “all people going to all peoples led by national leaders.”
The popular definition of global missions and development changed. Only once before in the history of American foreign missions had so much changed in so short a time – that was right after WW II as nationalism drove out traditional missions from the European empires that had only circled the globe before the war.
However, few people know that during those first years after the book was published in 1986, there were several times that the “Coming Revolution” nearly died. Only a series of financial miracles combined with the incredible determination of K.P. kept the book alive. Thanks to a handful of friends and supporters, mostly in the Dallas area, the publishing momentum survived one crisis after another.
First, the book faced a storm of criticism from traditional evangelical mission organizations that saw it as an existential threat. Many wanted it removed from Christian bookstores which were then the principal channel of distribution. It was viewed an enemy of the Gospel by many – and the end of foreign missions by some very vocal critics.
Second, Cliff Dudley, then the president of Creation House was continually in a cash-flow crisis. The book was usually printed just 5000 copies at a time for financial reasons. As a result, it was more often out of print or on “back-order” in the stores. A momentum for the reprinting of the book was demanded, and K.P. Yohannan’s Gospel for Asia team could not meet the need.
This crisis was relieved somewhat when Steve Strang of Charisma Magazine bought Creation House and moved it from Illinois to Florida. Even then, the book lacked capital and enthusiasm in the world of Christian retailing.
This ended suddenly when Yohannan got a vision from the Lord to mail the book to every pastor and church in America. He was able to eventually purchase back the publishing rights and started his own publishing company called GFA Books to print and distribute literature on his own.