Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Scripture-in-Use’

As I noted in a recent post, we just hosted our annual Consultant Seminar, and this year our special speaker focused on Scripture Engagement (SE), also called Scripture Use (SU). BI has actually been engaged in SU activities since our inception, because at the heart of our mission is a desire to make sure our translations are effectively used by the language groups for whom we are working. We have gained an increasing awareness of the complexities of SU as we have attended conferences and taken courses on the subject. I have notes on the issue that go back to 2007, my first year at BI. But it wasn’t until 2015 that we put together a plan to establish a new SU department at BI. We were keenly aware of the need for full-time BI members to devote their attention to SU issues. However, even with that heightened awareness of the need, I still didn’t grasp the urgency of the need until after I did the reading for the SU sessions at our seminar and then after the discussions at the seminar. Now I am praying even more earnestly that God would provide someone to help with SU activities at BI!

How serious is the need? Well, we don’t actually know since we don’t have any SU personnel who can do the analysis for us. We are thankful that we always partner with solid, Bible-using churches, so we are reasonably certain that they are promoting and using our translations. However, I’m not sure if our situation is much better than SIL’s. Our special speaker shared with us a study completed in April 2017 concerning SIL’s 200+ NT projects in Papua New Guinea. They were only able to get data on 162 of their projects, and here’s what they found:

  • Good SU: 30% (48 languages)
  • Fair SU: 31% (51 languages)
  • Low SU: 39% (63 languages)

That means that only 1/3 of their projects are achieving the success they desire. Not encouraging! Is that thee case with our languages as well? Well, we know that our translations target conservative churches, and often that type of church is in the minority, so it could be that our statistics are not much better because of those factors. However, what is the use of Scripture within those churches? We don’t have accurate statistics, since we don’t have any SU personnel. Again, we have local partners (other missionaries and national churches) who continue the work after we leave, so we are reasonably certain that most of our translations are being used to some extent. But we don’t know the situations with any precision.

Why is this such a complicated issue? I’ve always been aware of the spiritual battle we are engaged in. That’s actually why SU in the USA is actually not as good as it should be. Most people in our conservative churches just don’t read the Bible very much! The American Bible Society did a survey of the “State of the Bible” in 2017, powered by Barna Group). They studied SU in the USA among the entire population, not just conservative churches, and they found that SU is quite low in our own country. Only 20% of adults read the Bible at least 4 times a week. Only 16% read the Bible every day, and 14% read it several times a week. Women (55%) are more likely than men (45%) to read the Bible, and older American (58%) are more likely than the younger generations. Southerners (55%) read it more than Midwesterners (51%), Westerners (51%), or Northeasterners (41%). (note that the KJV is the preferred version at 31%, NIV is second at 13%, and ESV is third at 9%). We in the USA aren’t using our Bibles very often, so should we expect it to be any different for those overseas?

But aren’t Bible-less people anxiously waiting the translation of the Bible into their language and ready to devour it as soon as we complete it? Thankfully, there are some in every language group who are like that–sometimes many and sometimes it seems like almost the whole language group. But there are many other factors that are working against us:

  1. Orthography not accepted
  2. Other dialects of the language don’t like the dialect we chose.
  3. Lack of support from church leaders, who were trained in a larger language.
  4. Low reading fluency levels
  5. People are more orally oriented and don’t see the value of written literature
  6. Lukewarm attitude towards their own language
  7. Lack of awareness of the finished translation
  8. Lack of good distribution of the finished translation
  9. Choice for key terms rejected
  10. Dissatisfaction with the formatting of the published Scriptures
  11. Not desirous to use the NT since it lacks the OT (they don’t want to carry two books to church)
  12. People have no Bible background knowledge to understand the Scriptures
  13. Church leaders are unable to show the relevance of the Scriptures to people’s daily lives
  14. Translators destroy their reputation, casting a shadow on the translation they are associated with
  15. Other churches don’t have good relations with the churches/missionaries we partnered with

These are just some of the complicating factors that make SU a real challenge. And this underscores why we need SU personnel to give focused attention to these issues so that our translations are effectively used. Please pray for God to send laborers to help us with this essential work.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

This morning my Bible reading took me to Psalm 64. As I watched the sun rise over the houses across the lake, I read verse 8:

They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy. (NASB)

What a blessing it was to meditate on God’s wonders as I watched one in action! The explosion of colorful light and warmth from the sun is a pictorial shout for joy. Truly, we worship a powerful God who’s glory speaks loudly to us each day of His infinite wisdom and power.

As I gave more attention to my department this week, I began doing some reading on the issue of Scripture-in-Use. This is the technical term that Bible societies use to describe the activities that come after Bible translation to integrate it into church life. In a sense, this is what Bibles International is all about–making sure people use our Scriptures. But the complexities involved in it require focused attention, which we are just now beginning to give to it. We have been relying on the local churches to do this work, but now we are beginning to see how we can give some significant help.

One manual for Scripture-in-Use begins by presenting some obstacles to the work:

Pastor A: “Yes, I know there is a New Testament in my language, but I am afraid to read from it on Sundays in case I read badly.”

Pastor B: “The New Testament in my language sounds like ordinary people talking. It isn’t holy language any more. I don’t like it.”

Pastor C: “If I preach from the translation in my mother tongue, what will I say? There will be nothing to explain any more!”

Pastor D: “I worked very hard to get a good education. If I read from my own language Bible, how will people know I speak good English?”

Pastor E: “Of course I know that our faith in based on the Word of God, but very few people in my church can read the Bible with understanding in any language!”

We definitely need prayer as we strategize on how to help local churches integrate our translations into the people’s lives!

On the deputation front, I still haven’t heard of any new support. I’m thankful for the one pastor that returned a call and for another that seemed to show real interest in my ministry. I wasn’t able to set up any new meetings this week, so pray for a more fruitful week in that regard next week.

Read Full Post »