Bible Translation and Languages
I’m generally pretty scathing about the constant flow of new translations of the Bible in English (to put it mildly). However, this article comes makes a good case for another English version: Why it matters if your Bible was translated by a racially diverse group.
I believe it matters who translates the Bible, and that more diverse translation committees could inspire fresh confidence among Christians of color. Such a translation would allow black Christians and others to “know with certainty the things that you have been taught” (Luke 1:4).
Not quite on the same theme, this sermon which compares Abram and Nimrod does a fantastic job of unpacking how important different languages and cultures are to the mission of God.
This report paints a pretty grim picture of Evangelical decline in the UK. Despite attempts to put a positive spin on the figures by showing that Evangelical numbers are declining less rapidly than other church goers and that one group of Evangelical believers is growing in comparison to others (a larger slice of a smaller pie), these figures are not encouraging and we need to face up to them realistically. (The article was freely available when I first looked at it, but it seems to have disappeared behind a paywall – sorry about that).
Meanwhile, reporting from the US, the ever excellent Atlantic says that Evangelical Has Lost Its Meaning: A term that once described a vital tradition within the Christian faith now means something else entirely.
This transformation of evangelical from a theological position to a “racial and political” one is not just bad for serious Christians; it’s also a prime driver of the increasing hostility of liberals to religion in almost any form. Those who have insisted on yoking (a very vague notion of) God and (a very specific account of) country may soon find themselves dispossessed of both.
I’m not convinced that the same thing is true in the UK, however, the way in which our news and culture are dominated by events in North America, it would not surprise me if the term Evangelical becomes somewhat toxic over here.
Mission and Missionaries
Brian Stanley is a pre-eminent historian of mission and if you don’t have the time and energy to read his books, this article from the British library is well worth a read.
Christianity is not a western religion. It originated on the Western fringe of Asia – what we tend to call the ‘Middle East’. However, for many centuries the expansion of Christianity was directed from Europe and became entangled with the growth of the great European empires. Today over two-thirds of the world’s Christians live outside Europe, which has reverted to what it was in the days of the early Church – unbelieving territory on the margins of the faith. The texts that you can look at here tell part of the story of how European Christians spread their message. They reveal some of their assumptions that we might now find strange or unacceptable. They also point to some of the reasons why Christianity would eventually take deep roots in other cultures – not least through the translation of the Bible into many different languages.
Picking up the theme of the growth in the world church, Christianity Today considers majority world missions:
In 2015, 9 of the top 20 sending countries—including Brazil, the Philippines, China, India, Nigeria, and South Africa—were in the majority world (also referred to as the developing world), with a total of 101,000 international missionaries.
While this report looks at a recent conference on diaspora mission to Europe:
How do diaspora communities in the UK reach out as missionaries if the people they are reaching out to do not receive or accept them?’
Missionary life can be complicated and this article captures some of the frustrations: 10 Things That You Will Hear from Your Missionary.
I constantly feel like I have to prove myself to you.
To me, Paul gave the best answer to this assertion, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself” (1 Cor. 4:3). If your ministry is lived out in front of man, you will always feel inadequate and sense a need to prove yourself. Ultimately, however, we will not give an account to man, but to God at the Bema Seat (2 Cor. 5:10). At this judgement, Christ will do a proper evaluation of our service and even our motives for ministry.
Meanwhile, the Gospel Coalition suggests that we should cancel our short term mission trips.
Here’s another situation I’ve often seen. A church struggling to support a skilled and trained long-term missionary for $200 a month won’t question raising $40,000 to send many untrained workers for a week. Churches are less likely to support a long-term missionary than to send a group of teens to paint a house or put on a VBS in a country where they don’t speak the language.
American churches often send untrained individuals from among the financially privileged on short-term trips as a means of discipleship. In doing so, we swamp long-term workers with people who have flexible schedules and eager hearts, but not a lot of skill.
Many missionaries wish they could tell you the same thing, but they’d lose support from churches if they publicly expressed this view.
I’ve recently been struck by the way in which the Bible uses the term ethne (translated as Gentiles or nations according to context) and the way that mission literature uses the term. As this excellent article from the Gospel Coalition points out, much modern mission strategy is built on a somewhat dubious interpretation of a first century Greek word in terms of 20th century sociological categories.
But the point is that we need to align the way we talk about the world and its peoples with how Scripture speaks of them. We should define our missionary expectations by the Bible, not going beyond what it has said. And we must ground our endeavors and formulate strategies in ways primarily driven by God’s Word. This involves sending missionaries to places where the gospel has never been heard. But it can also include encouraging them to stay long after churches are established.
If you don’t follow any of the other links in this post, read this one!