More than ten years ago I wrote an article for a former website titled “The Bible vs. the Ikea Catalog – Which is Winning Hearts?” It looked at how the annual Ikea catalog was overtaking the Bible as the world’s most distributed publication.
I actually did a bit of research to gather material for the article, including making contact with the Ikea head office and seeking out statistics from various Bible societies.
Though estimates differed, it seemed possible that more than 100 million Bibles were being distributed worldwide each year. Concerning distribution of the Ikea catalog, I wrote that it topped 100 million for the first time in 2001.
However, hardly anyone seemed to pay much attention, and the article quickly went into my archives, relatively unnoticed.
But then something happened – very gradually it got linked to by lots of other sites, and traffic to the article started to build. Within a couple of years it was by far the most popular commentary on my former site, attracting hundreds of visitors each week.
It took me a while to work out where all this traffic was coming from. To my amazement, it eventually turned out that one of the main sources was this Wikipedia entry, “Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung,” which linked to my article and said about Mao’s Little Red Book:
The estimated number of copies in print well exceeds one billion, certainly a record in mainland China (although, worldwide, its publication is a distant second to the Bible, or third if all publications and printings of the annual Ikea catalog are counted as a book).
And thanks to that Wikipedia link I found my article featuring prominently when people did Google searches for information on the Ikea catalog.
So is the article still relevant?
Well, I noted then that distribution of the Ikea catalog topped 100 million for the first time. Now it apparently exceeds 200 million.
Back then I wrote about Ikea:
It already has around 150 stores in 22 countries. In 1997 it opened in Shanghai, two years later in Beijing and a year after that in Moscow. It sees these stores as stepping stones for further penetration of those countries. It is gearing up to enter Japan. The catalog printing run is set to soar.
Today the company operates more than 300 stores in 37 countries.
I think the conclusion I wrote then is as relevant as before:
China. Russia. Japan. Western Christians are spending heavily to reach people in such countries with the Gospel. Will we win hearts as readily as Ikea?