Many Bible translation projects focus on the needs of very small people groups. Some of these minority languages have only a few thousand speakers. Is it right to invest so much in a major project like Bible translation for so few people?
Jason Stuart, who worked in Papua New Guinea with Ethnos360, was recently asked, "In your experience, how important is it for minority language churches to have their own translation of Scripture available?" His response was published in AccessTruth's most recent episode of Lessons from the Field. You can listen to his response here. It is brief and clear.
A Few Excerpts
Why can't church planting be done in the larger, national language that does have a Bible? Mr. Stuart says, "If discipleship happens in the national language, there are often many people in that group that are not actually understanding the message and receiving it enough to be able to grasp that and continue their growth."
He illustrated with the example of the people he worked with. Previously they had been taught only in the national language. As a result, Mr. Stuart says, "They thought maybe God had been angry with Jesus and killed him, and then felt sorry for him and he rose again three days later—just because of their lack of competence in the national language."
In conclusion, "Having the Scriptures in their own language is very important, but especially when we're talking about the context of church planting and discipleship, we want to be doing that in the language that people are most capable in." Click here to watch the 3-minute episode.
It's important to recognize that few if any language groups are made up of completely monolingual people (people who speak only one language). Many minority-language speakers are also fairly fluent in a wider-used national language.
This is part of the challenge we face in determining need for Bible translation. How many of the people are able to fully comprehend the message through the wider-used language and its Bible? More importantly, how many are not?
Often the answers are not obvious right away. God's wisdom is needed in the research and evaluation.
Pray that God will guide ABT teams to the areas of truest need.
“Our mother tongue is the language in which God speaks to each of us. He does not speak in a sacred language, but in the ordinary language, so that we may hear him and realize that this gospel is about us and that we have been invited to join a company drawn from every people, tribe, tongue, nation and language.” —Kwame Bediako
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” —Nelson Mandela
“Understanding Scripture in a language other than the heart language, in which we think and experience emotion, is like trying to eat soup with a fork. You can get a little taste, but you cannot get nourished.” ― William Cameron Townsend