Churches with Scripture Transforming Every Language Community by 2050

posted by Greg Pruett on July 16, 2015

Preaching about the Vision of Pioneer Bible Translators at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio TX:

Churches with Scripture Transforming Every Language Community by 2050

In the future, Pioneer Bible Translators will follow the Spirit’s lead to fill the gaps in the Bible Translation movement so that we and our partners will see churches with Scripture transforming every language group on earth by 2050. There are three major gaps in the Bible Translation movement standing between us and this major milestone of the Great Commission:

  1. Scriptureless language groups with little or no church which require a specialized strategy,
  2. Areas of extreme linguistic diversity where the number of languages requires more translation resources than our partners have available, and
  3. Languages worldwide with “finished” translation projects that were never used by the people.

We estimate that if our small team were to grow rapidly and become capable of starting and finishing around 10 percent of the remaining translation projects in the world, our larger partners would have enough momentum to handle the other 90 percent of the needs. We would need to be bold enough to set the audacious goal of starting and finishing 250 projects by 2050 bringing our total number of projects to 300. Our partners are striving with all their might to finish the task. God willing, we will become the variable that increases in the equation so that, together with our partners, we will see Churches with Scripture transforming every language group on earth by 2050.

Least-Reached, Scriptureless: 200 projects
(First Gap: Language Contexts Lacking Church, Scripture, and Transformation)

First, to accomplish the task we need to fill the gap among the Churchless, Scriptureless language communities. Bible Translation agencies naturally prioritize language groups with churches so that their Scriptures will be used. Church planting agencies tend to prioritize the majority language contexts in the urban centers of the world. This leaves around 900 minority languages–200 million Scriptureless, Churchless people–in a strategic gap. We believe Jesus is moved with great compassion for these suffering the most extreme spiritual poverty in the world–who also typically are among the most physically impoverished peoples of the world. What greater need could attract the compassion of God than marginalized people far from knowing him without a church to show his love and without Scripture to reveal the path to hope? We still are under the example of Paul’s ambition to preach the gospel where Christ is not known (Romans 15:20). It compels us also in this direction. There are many church planting agencies that do some Bible Translation work on the side, but PBT is one of the only Bible Translation agencies that also has church planting as one of its original purposes. This makes PBT uniquely suited to translate the Bible for language groups that have neither church nor Scripture.

Therefore, in the future we will build multi-disciplinary teams with elements like translation, literacy, church planting, Scripture Impact, and community development, empowered by an international support network designed to advance the Kingdom and its values into these language communities far from knowing Christ. Each team will provide the elements missing in the context to ensure that each language community ends up with networks of churches using Scripture to grow and multiply. We are now setting the goal to begin and finish 200 projects among these least reached Scriptureless peoples. As God empowers us to work deliberately to fill this gap, the Church of Jesus Christ will cross every language barrier remaining on earth with Church, Scripture, and life transformation by 2050.

Pockets of Extreme Linguistic Diversity: 50 Projects
(Second Gap: Language Contexts Lacking Scripture)

Second, to accomplish the task we also need to fill the gap among the areas of the world with the greatest linguistic diversity. In most places around the world our partners are set to start all the projects needed over the next 20 years. They will be in position to translate most all of the New Testaments needed by 2050. However, pockets of extreme linguistic diversity are scattered over the earth that defy the current resources of the Bible Translation movement. We need to rise to the challenge and focus 50 of our proposed 250 new projects on supplementing the efforts of our partners in places like PNG and Vanuatu and others where the church is already present, but the Scriptures are needed to disciple the people as Jesus commanded.

The greatest power to accomplish these tasks lies in finding creative ways to leverage the effectiveness of our expatriate personnel so that each translation specialist empowers the local Christians to accomplish multiple projects. Our translation specialists will empower multiple projects without abandoning our core value of incarnational ministry and without sacrificing the quality of the translation.

In 2012, we are working on 54 projects. This plan proposes to mobilize another 50 projects for areas like Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. As God empowers us to work deliberately to fill the gap in areas of extreme linguistic diversity, the next generation of Bible Translation missionaries will leave behind them a world where every person can have access to at least the New Testament in their own language by 2050.

Ensuring Global Scripture Impact: 100 regional Scripture Impact only workers
(Third Gap: Languages Lacking Vernacular Scripture-Based Transformation)

Third, to accomplish the task we also need to fill the global gap of a lack of Scripture impact in scattered language communities that have received a translation in their language, but for some reason churches have never begun to use the Scripture. No one in the Bible Translation movement knows how many translations in the world have not begun to be used. We will find out. We know from our experience that the problem is considerable. On a recent trip to South Asia I found church planting efforts everywhere using second or third language Scriptures to advance the gospel when first language translations were available. How much would the growth of the Church accelerate if more of these movements used Scripture in the local language? Often we find people who have simply never heard the suggestion or don’t know that the Scriptures already exist or where to find them. Sometimes they need an audio format or some kind of oral storying to stimulate interest in Scripture. In other cases, the translation was completed, but there are no churches to use the Scripture. We will recruit and train 100 Scripture Impact personnel that will research the scope of this problem and trouble-shoot regionally by innovating ways to promote the use of the vernacular Scriptures among the churches and church planting agencies active in each region of the world. In cases where there are no churches in the language community, it will be necessary to put together church planting teams without the normal translation element and/or to mobilize some of our church planting partners to meet the need. By 2050 these workers will ensure that there are networks of churches using Scripture to grow and multiply in every language community with enough language vitality to need their own Scripture.

Greg Pruett

Greg has served as President of Pioneer Bible Translators since 2007. He, his wife Rebecca, and their three children served in West Africa for more than twelve years, completing the Bible in the Yalunka language. He has a degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M, and a Masters and a Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He also has linguistic training from the University of North Dakota and the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics.

twitter: @GregJPruett

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