In his recent paper presented at the 2017 Bible Translation conference, Kyle Davis encourages using locally trained indigenous church leaders instead of primarily depending on expatriate specialists throughout the duration of the translation process.
So, within the target language of a new translation project, how can a team go about finding or preparing these leaders? Let’s hold that question for just a moment.
Within Davis’s presentation, we find a challenging paradigm shift proposed to the Bible translation organizations represented at this conference. That question was stated as follows:
“What if our ‘Steps for Translating’ included the training of indigenous leaders to use the Scriptures in the life of the church?” Yes! Amen.
Unfortunately, many professionally translated New Testaments are presently collecting either dust or mildew in various types of storage bins and barrels all around the world. Why? We believe that the proposal cited above from Kyle’s presentation (raised in the form of a question) could be a very significant part of the answer.
Because of such a low rate of “scripture use” organizations have attempted to attach “scripture impact” strategies to the end of their translation projects and/or have even attempted to combat the problem early on by blending in the ideals of “scripture engagement” throughout.
However, without any systematic training or vision on how to teach, evangelize, and disciple indigenous people, few (if any) of these approaches have birthed a truly indigenous maturing church. I at least have not heard of any so far.
On the contrary, groups such as Ethnos360 who have infused scripture impact methodology (i.e. teaching, evangelizing, discipling) directly into the DNA of the scope and sequence of their overall vision have seen outstandingly dissimilar results.
All around the world, these Bible translation/church-planting teams have been trained to work at Bible translation and church planting as one completely integrated process. Remember the question we didn’t answer from above—let’s turn to that now.
When the needed foundational stories are translated from Creation to Christ and the Scriptures are taught chronologically and systematically, this creates a vacuum for the Gospel—and the WORD of GOD. When indigenous people become converted, teams can’t get the scriptures translated fast enough to keep up with the hunger that’s represented within their people group.
Additionally, having the privilege of working with Mother Tongue Translators who have surrendered their lives to the Lordship of Christ places the entire translation project into a completely different playing field. Davis expounds further on this point by saying:
“The doctrine of the church with its teaching offices and the biblical directives for the Scriptures to be read, preached, prayed, sung and seen (sacraments) in the gatherings, needs greater attention during the translation process. How the Word is to be used in the life of the church must be a focal point in the translation process.”
In conclusion, the methodology and vision embraced by any organization will produce results; ideas have consequences. Since the present success rate of translation use within the majority of translation agencies is at an unthinkably low percentage, the only reasonable conclusion is that we need a paradigm shift, an entire game changer.
If the translations we are involved with are not going to add to the number already collecting dust, this paradigm shift must take place.
--by Joel Martin, Executive Committee Member