God's Word and Literature

We all agree -- everyone needs to have and understand God's Word. Only Scripture shows us who God is. His character and purposes are revealed nowhere else.

Jesus told us "to make disciples of all peoples... teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you...." To be a disciple everyone needs the Bible. The goal of a church for every people must include providing that church with the Scriptures and with gospel literature that can be used in a systematic plan to evangelise a nation.

Our goal then is to alert and mobilise Christian churches and organisations and to encourage them to network so that the resources needed to accomplish this task can be released and used as effectively as possible. There are four main aspects to the task; translation, the production of appropriate Scriptures, distribution and nurture.

Translation

God's Word must be in a language people can understand. The trade language may be adequate enough for buying food and clothes in the market but most people can only think about God and the spirits, or about what is right and wrong and indeed all spiritual and moral issues in their own language.

The Bible is now available in 342 languages and the New Testament in a further 823 and this covers 86% of the world's population. Another 1,000 peoples have a portion of Scripture but need more. A thousand more (perhaps 3,000 more!) languages have been identified as needing Scripture. So the translation task is still huge. Can it be done?

The answer is "yes and soon." The pace of Scripture translation has been accelerating. In the last century 400 languages received some portion of Scripture; in this century four times as many, over 1,600 languages have received some Scripture. In fact in the last 45 years more languages have received some Scripture than in all the previous centuries put together.

God has provided new technology to speed up the translation task, e.g., the computer. When there are related languages, a thorough linguistic analysis makes it possible to programme the computer to take Scriptures in one language and produce a rough draft in the related language. Of course this draft still requires a lot of work with speakers of the language, but it is a huge step forward.

What is needed to complete the task? Christian leaders in every country need to draw up a strategy to find out where the remaining translation needs are and to set priorities. Hundreds of specialists as well as local language personnel must be trained, and they will require equipment and funds. The Forum of Bible Agencies, comprising most of the major international Bible agencies, is seeking to facilitate this.

Production

The Scriptures, as well as evangelistic literature, need to be produced in forms that people will want and in quantities and at prices that make them accessible. In recent years work has been carried out to produce Scriptures in a variety of forms to meet the needs of different readers -- new readers selections for those becoming literate, selections that speak to particular issues that are culturally relevant and so on.

The needs of those who don't or won't read are also being met. Audio cassettes and video presentations of Scriptures are proving very popular in many places.

What is needed? The Bible agencies are co-operating in developing ongoing plans to meet the variety of production needs. Good networking between the Bible agencies and the churches is essential if the right products are to be produced. A country by country plan is needed. Organisations publishing evangelistic booklets, tracts and Scripture portions need increasingly to consider pooling their literature so it can be part of a systematic plan to cover an entire nation.

Distribution

The mobilising of all God's people in a country is necessary for the effective distribution of Scripture and gospel literature. Every family unit, every home, every village, every people group, and every section of every town need to be reached. An immense task but do-able.

GWALT seeks to mobilize, as well as serve, a broad coalition of ministry entities, including churches, Bible societies, literature distribution and media ministries, to embrace and participate in a nation by nation strategy to systematically deliver a clear presentation of the Gospel message (based on the Scriptures) to every family, or household, of a nation. At the same time it seeks to distribute the Scriptures themselves in a measurable way to all believers who might result from the strategic distribution of the printed (or recorded) evangelistic messages, or to those who simply have no Bible.

To date, ministries involved in the GWALT strategy are conducting such distribution outreaches in more than 85 nations (including hundreds of unreached people groups) with new campaigns planned for about 25 additional nations between May 1995 and December 31, 1996. Systematic evangelistic literature distribution strategies are planned to be launched or completed in all nations by the year 2000, depending on prayer breakthroughs in the more restricted Islamic nations.

Distribution of Scripture and gospel literature is also accelerating. From a total of 70 million Bibles and New Testaments distributed in 1970, distribution has doubled to an estimated 150 million this year. The distribution of Scripture portions multiplied 80 times from the 20 million being distributed each year distributed at the beginning of the century to the 1,700 million currently being distributed each year.

What is needed? Christian leaders with a vision for the power of God's Word and gospel literature. And then an on-the-ground strategy for each country that will develop a plan -- district by district, people group by people group, town section by town section... to ensure that all are included. GWALT is seeking to foster this through a networking strategy.

Nurture

New believers and new churches need to be trained to use God's Word, and to apply it in their daily lives and in their ministry to their own people. Ways of doing this, together with the provision of Bible study materials, are crucially important. This calls for a whole variety of materials and approaches to suit the diversity of situations around the world.

GWALT also seeks to use Bibles, New Testaments, Scripture portions, and basic Bible correspondence courses (both printed and recorded), in a broad range of follow-up and nurturing programs designed to disciple new believers, channel them into existing evangelical churches, or plant new fellowships of believers where no such churches presently exist.

Various GWALT participating ministries already have goals of planting as many as 300,000 such fellowships by the year 2000. And current GWALT supporting organizations are expecting an estimated two million new believers annually to respond to printed evangelistic message or Scripture portions.

What is needed? Again, a countrywide plan broken down by the significant people units within that country -- people groups, segments of towns, etc. Christian leaders networking together and with the specialist agencies are the key to successful nurturing.

John Bendor-Samuel, U.K.
Chairman, God's Word & Literature Network
Executive Director, Wycliffe Bible Translators
Dick Eastman, U.S.A.
Coordinator, God's Word & Literature Network
President, Every Home for Christ