Feature Articles

Feature Articles

by Rex Cobb, Director

King Solomon said,“of making many books there is no end.” There are millions of books, both true and ficticious, covering every possible subject. Imagine how many things we read in a day besides books, newspapers, or magazines. We read instructions (sooner or later), road signs, billboards, medicine bottles, letters, signs for businesses, house numbers, labels on food or drink containers, T-shirts, tattoos, bumper stickers, the Yellow Pages, text messages, and so on. However, this is only possible if ours is a written language, and if we are literate. Many in our world do not have this skill that most of us take for granted. Where would we be in this world without the skill of literacy? Can you imagine a GI overseas asking his buddy to read him the love letter he just received from his gal back home? Illiteracy can be dangerous. When someone cannot read the sign that says “Wrong Way” and enters the freeway going the opposite direction of traffic flow, or when an illiterate mother gives her child the wrong medicine because she cannot read the label, lives are endangered. We owe a great debt to those who patiently taught us to read!

Literacy is like the ability to ride a bicycle. Once you have it, it stays with you for life. Monolingual people who speak an unwritten language, however, are always illiterate, and there are still well over three thousand unwritten languages in our world. These unwritten languages are without a single verse of the Bible. As Christians, we realize the importance of the written Word of God and Christian literature in the heart language of all people. To reach this goal on the foreign field, the missionary must learn the language, analyze the sounds, develop an alphabet, and then write or translate books. The Advanced Missionary Training program of Baptist Bible Translators Institute (BBTI) trains missionaries to do all of this.

The first step is to create an alphabet. Languages vary greatly, and an alphabet that serves one language may not work well for another. The linguistic skill to develop a well-suited alphabet for a particular language is called phonemics. A phonemic alphabet has one letter for each significant sound in that particular language, makes the ability to read and write much easier. This is one reason why Spanish is relatively easy to read. Our English alphabet, however, is not phonemic—our symbols often do not match our sounds and achieving literacy is a long process. Furthermore, our reading ability is often poor and our spelling skills atrocious.

Having only five vowel symbols to represent eleven vowel sounds makes English vowels especially difficult. Listen to eleven different vowel sounds as you pronounce these words: beat, bit, bait, bet, bat, Bob, but, boot, book, boat, and ball. If English had a phonemic alphabet, it would contain a separate symbol for each of these vowel sounds. It is several centuries too late to write English phonemically, but it is not too late for the thousands of unwritten languages. We need well-trained missionaries who will go, learn the language, develop a writing system, translate Scripture, and teach the people to read it.

Between the making of books and the reading of them is the missing link of literacy. A book, however true and helpful, is of no value to a man who cannot read it. Those mysterious marks on the pages may be as intimidating to him as Einstein’s theory of relativity is to us normal folk. Handing a Bible to a man in his heart language is of little or no use if he cannot read it, but he can be taught. Both children and adults can learn to read. However, they must first be motivated. I once offered a man a free booklet containing a Bible story that we had translated into his formerly unwritten language. I expected him to be excited about finally having a portion of God’s Word in his language, but he asked, “What do I need that for?” He had lived his entire life without a book. Neither his father, nor his grandfather, nor any of his ancestors had ever owned one. Why would he need a book? Obviously, he needed to be motivated. People simply do not read if they do not want to. A skilled literacy teacher works to create a desire to read by providing plenty of relevant and interesting reading material such as their folk tales or history. He wants to get the people “hooked” on reading.

Using the science of phonemics, a BBTI graduate can give an unwritten language an alphabet that precisely symbolizes the sounds the native hears. Then choosing a literacy method that matches the people’s way of thinking and doing, he can teach them to read. BBTI graduates have used the knowledge gained in phonemics and literacy classes in several parts of the world. Cherith developed an alphabet for the Kamea language of Papua New Guinea. She and Sarah have taught the Kamea people to read their language and the trade language, Pidgin. Michele did the same in Vanuatu with the formerly unwritten language of Akei. Dan not only taught literacy in Uganda, but also trained several native literacy teachers. Bruce worked with the government of his Latin American country to teach literacy in the public schools. Sarah trained literacy teachers in a closed Asian country.

Putting a previously unwritten language into print gives it a special identity and dignity. When a man reads the Bible in his own language, it becomes personal instead of foreign as he sees that neither he nor his language are inferior to God and realizes that the message of God’s love is for him. A people’s culture, history, and heritage are all tied up in their language, and unwritten languages are on the endangered list. If they become extinct, at least one generation is left in a linguistic “no man’s land” where the people lose their heart language but do not fully understand the trade language. Writing these languages and teaching people to read them helps to preserve cultures, but more importantly, it gives them God’s words —words that they can learn to read for themselves!

A young Christian, whom we will call Bill, was beginning to learn about the work of missions. He was intrigued by the missionaries that visited his church, and it concerned him that many in the world have little or no chance of hearing the Gospel and that most of the preachers were staying in the United States. A missionary on his way to Honduras had shown slides and preached in Bill’s church. As he left that day, Bill said the nice things that people say to missionaries. The missionary replied, “Thank you. Maybe you will come to Honduras and help us.” Not knowing how to respond to this challenge, Bill repeated something he had once heard, “God has not called me to be a missionary.”

The young missionary, wise beyond his years, did not let Bill get away with this glib answer. He opened his Bible to Matthew 9:38 and said, “Read this. This is a command; will you do it?” The verse says that we are to pray for laborers. Bill told the missionary that he would, and he did. Bill has now been a laborer in the harvest for half a century.

Many, like Bill, believe the five-syllable sentence, God has not called me, because they have heard repeatedly that a missionary must receive a special, supernatural call. No one has told them that they can volunteer. If a person has not had an overwhelming emotional experience, he may assume God has not called him. He concludes that he is free to choose his own career, unlike the called one who must do exactly what God has called him to do. Everyone needs to hear Romans 12:1-2 and be reminded that he is to present his body a living sacrifice. Only then will he know God’s perfect will. Why would God show His will to a Christian who is not dedicated to do it? After surrendering, he must seriously ask God what he should do and where he should go. He should consider foreign missions for at least two reasons: First, it is a command to go and preach Christ to every creature. Second, common sense tells us that people with the least opportunity deserve top priority. The Apostle Paul strove to go where Christ had not been named. Oswald J. Smith asked, “Why should anyone hear the Gospel twice until everyone has heard it once?” Christians who say, “Lord, anywhere but the mission field,” are rebels and disqualified from knowing God’s will!

Most would not think or say it, but with so many Christians exempting themselves from missionary service by saying God has not called me, we may be inadvertently accusing the Lord of failing to call enough missionaries. God loves every man and sent His Son to die for all. He commands all men everywhere to repent. God wants no one to go to Hell. He has no alternative plan other than faith in Christ. He has commanded us to go everywhere telling the Good News. Has He not called enough people to do it? God wants churches established at home and abroad, but thousands of places have none. He wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. He wants no one ignorant of His Word, yet more than half of the seven thousand one hundred languages in our world still have not one verse of Scripture. Jesus has commanded us to evangelize all people groups; there are over sixteen thousand! And we have done little or nothing in half of them. Is it possible that our all-powerful, all-wise God would do all this for man’s salvation but not call enough men to proclaim it? Someone is at fault, but it is not God!

There’s another group that claims God has not called me. It is their pretext and shield to deflect any challenge or question that might get near them. These words protect them from becoming a pastor, a youth director, an itinerant evangelist, and especially from the dreadful fate of a missionary. The one who has declared himself uncalled can go abroad if he wants to—if the job pays well—or he can stay home. He can work in the oil fields of Saudi Arabia or in an auto plant in Detroit, it is his call (pun intended). But he is not required to preach the Gospel in these places because, after all, he is not called. He can learn a few foreign phrases as a tourist but needs not labor eight hours a day learning a language. He can visit any place in the world, but he is not required to live anywhere he deems dirty or unpleasant. He can spend his entire life with his people and never experience the discomfort of living with those of a different culture. God has not called me guarantees him comfort socially, economically, and physically. He can make it sound so convincing that others believe he has struggled with the issue of fulltime service and concluded that it is not God’s will for him. The truth is that he has not given it a minute’s consideration. Also, the unspoken implication is: Drop it! Leave me alone. The matter is settled. I have no further word.

Saying these five magic words may free a man, at least in his own mind, from any obligation to be a spectacle in the world, to go where he might feel uncomfortable, or to do anything that he does not want to do. He may use these words to opt out of any full-time service for God. Oh, he can mow the church yard or pass out a gospel tract, but he is free from speaking from a pulpit and running the risk of embarrassment. He believes God has not called me automatically exempts him from any personal involvement in the Great Commission of Christ other than dropping a dollar in the offering plate or praying, “God bless our missionaries around the world. Amen.” He can ignore the command of God to give the Good News to the heathen; that only applies to the called. This rebellious brother needs to be reminded of a few biblical truths: First, “Ye are not your own; … ye are bought with a price.” Second, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” Or as someone put it, “Losers finders, keepers weepers.” And finally, his empty words, God has not called me, are not going to help him when he looks at the nailed-pierced hands of His Saviour. He may be in the majority now claiming this, but at the Judgment Seat of Christ, he will appear alone and speechless.

“The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Psalm 119:130). The apostle Paul tells us that God’s Word is not bound. “Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound” (2 Timothy 2:9). The writer of Hebrews expands on this: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword” (Heb. 4:12a). We know this to be true because we see it in the Bible, we read about it in history, and we have experienced it in our own lives.

The story is told of an unsaved anthropologist who warned a jungle chief, “There are some people called missionaries, and they have a book called the Bible. Don’t allow them to come to your village! They will destroy your culture.” The chief smiled and said, “You are too late. They have already been here. And it is very good for you that they came, otherwise I would have already killed and eaten you!”

Light is on its way to the 121,000 Tenek Indians of the state of San Louis Potosí, Mexico. In 2006, Tenek speaker Fernando Angeles and his wife, Christy, began translating the New Testament under the direction of Bibles International, a division of Baptist Mid Missions. This formal equivalent received text translation was completed in 2017. These descendants of the great Mayan empire can now hear God speaking their language. At the conclusion of the Tenek New Testament dedication service where the Gospel was preached in English, Spanish, and Tenek, an elderly man told Christy, “I couldn’t understand a word of the Spanish, but I could understand every word of Tenek, and I have faith.” In the past, the Gospel has made little impact on the Tenek nation, but pray that will soon change. Pray for the distribution of the Scriptures and for Tenek-speaking laborers to preach them!

In 1973, Baptist missionaries Ron and Cheryl Myers went to Thailand. There was still a war raging in that area, and the Myers labored and mastered both the Thai and Isan languages with North Vietnamese and Laotian troops only six miles away on the opposite side of the Mekong River threating to invade. With strong convictions concerning the Scriptures and how they should be translated, they took on the responsibility of putting God’s Word into the Isan language of Thailand and Laos, spoken by over twenty million souls. The project was completed in June 2016 and published under the auspices of Bearing Precious Seed Global. There is much demand for these New Testaments, and they are bearing much fruit in both the free and communist countries. The Isan New Testament has also been recorded and is being broadcast by radio. Pray that the light of the Isan Scriptures will shine brightly and give much understanding to the Isan nation!

In 2005, BBTI graduates Dan and Jennifer Olachea were sent to Uganda, Africa, by the Central Baptist Church of Ocala, Florida, with the help of BIMI. They began working in Mbarara, Uganda, with the goal of giving the 3.4 million Runyankori people a formal, well-translated copy of God’s Word in their heart language. Dan helped to train six Runyankori native translators, and they labored eleven years with him to accomplish this great task. Work has begun on the Old Testament that will give even more light to the Runyankori people.

When the Word of God is presented to people in the official language or a trade language of their country, they may understand very little of it. Even if they comprehend much, it is always a foreign book. But when it is in their heart language, it has much more authority. They can hear God speaking their language! Friend, did God speak to your heart this morning as you read His Word? Why was that? Because you have a Bible in your heart language. There are still three thousand seven hundred language groups that have no portion of the Bible. That fact should bother us. No doubt it bothers our Saviour!

Yes, the Bible is a miracle Book; it can accomplish wonders. But we must realize that it does nothing where men do not take it. It has no feet or wings to magically carry itself to far off places. Neither does it mysteriously appear in languages where it never existed. God does not inspire a man to write scripture in his Bibleless tongue. God inspired it once; now it must be translated. That is just how it works. God’s people realized this in the first century and began translating the Bible. Down through the centuries since, men have faced the death penalty for giving the Bible to people in their heart language. This job may be easier today, but we can be sure that Satan will fiercely oppose it. May God give us men and women with the courage of John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples, Francisco de Enzinas, Casiodoro de Reina, and hundreds of others before and after them. The task today requires no less dedication than theirs.

Thank God for the many places where the light of His Word has entered, given understanding, and for some, even changed the course of history. “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up” (Matthew 4:16). But there are still billions of lost souls waiting in very dark places for the Light. We need Bible translators, Bible printers, Bible distributors, and Bible preachers. Pick up your Bible. Hold it and look at it. Now, ask yourself, “What am I doing right now to put this Book in the hands of one who sits in darkness with no Bible?”

Many of God’s people lament the moral decline in America and are petitioning the God of Heaven to send revival to our land; no one would deny that we desperately need it! Some admit that revival is theoretically possible, but are skeptical that it will ever come. They say we have gone too far away from God. But surely, America has not gone farther downhill than Nineveh. Our perverted society is only a step behind Sodom, but Sodom would have repented if Jesus would have performed His mighty works there as He did at Capernaum (Matthew 11:23).

What results are we praying for? What will revival look like or accomplish if it comes to our country? We hope revival will yield spiritual benefits. We hope it will bring an increased church attendance, separation of church members from the world, more prayer, more love for the Bible, more souls saved in our churches and in our community, better offerings, more churches planted in America to replace those that have gone liberal or died, and more young people training for and entering the ministry. (At a large Christian college, the last graduating class of nine hundred eighty students contained only eight or nine mission majors. I have been on that campus twice and found these fine young people preparing to stay in the United States and be good, upstanding Christian nurses, businessmen, engineers, policemen, lawyers, doctors, teachers, graphic designers, computer scientists, and so forth. Few, however, are planning to be ministers in general, and fewer still intend to be missionaries and take the Gospel to where it has never been.)

We anticipate that revival will benefit our society. We hope that revival would greatly damage the liquor and drug business, close down abortion clinics, and generally bring some old-fashion decency to our country again. We probably would not say it out loud, but we may hope that revival would produce more American patriotism and converts to our political view. Yes, by all means, we should be praying for revival in America! At the same time, however, is not our prayer somewhat selfish and short-sighted?

Why hasn’t it occurred to us to pray for revival in Malaysia, Morocco, or Moldova? As far as I know, they have not experienced revival in Bulgaria, Bangladesh, or Benin in a long, long time. How many churches have been planted recently in the Netherlands, Niger, or North Korea? And what about Germany, Gabon, or the Republic of Georgia? Don’t they need revival as well? Church attendance and soul winning are needed in Lebanon, Lesotho, and Lithuania. Although devoted, separated people are praying in Afghanistan, Algeria, and Azerbaijan, they, for the most part, are not praying to our God. And talk about converts, their religion is getting them! It is adding to its number in our country, too! (We failed to evangelize them where they live; now they have come to proselytize us here!)

As worthy as our request for revival in America is, and at the risk of sounding un-American, may I remind us that Jesus did not command us to pray for revival in America. Rather He commanded us to lift up our eyes upon the fields. He said, “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). And, where is the harvest the greatest? Where are the harvesters so few and so desperately needed? On foreign mission fields!

Are we really praying for missionaries to be raised up and sent out by our churches? We pray for enough money to meet the budget and support the missionaries we have. We may even ask God for new ones (to come to us from other churches) to replace the ones that have died or left the field in recent months. It seems that for many churches the best they can say is, “We are holding our own.” For the most part, we are not praying for missionaries to come from our church or our family. I hope someone somewhere is praying that God will send out missionaries from his church, but I have rarely heard it. Maybe we doubt that it can happen, or worse yet, perhaps we really don’t want it to happen! (We think we can’t afford it, or we don’t want to be separated from those we love.) We pray for what is important to us, and we usually get what we pray for. “…ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2d). Then is our lack of new missionaries a reflection of our lack of prayer for them?
Should we stop praying for revival in America? Absolutely not! It would be wrong to not pray for America! “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you:” (1 Samuel 12:23). However, if our prayer does not include a sincere, fervent begging for God to send laborers to the other one hundred and ninety-four countries, to the other seven thousand ninety-six languages, and to the seven thousand plus unreached people groups, then our prayer is short-sighted at best and selfish at worst. (I almost added “sinful.”)

Maybe God would be pleased to answer our prayer for revival if it included His entire harvest field. My Bible does not say, “For God so loved America…” It says that God gave His Son to die for every sinner in the world. If we were infused with God’s love and desire for all the world, doesn’t it stand to reason that He would be more willing to answer our prayer for revival in our own country?

“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15). Yes, we cry out for revival and all the blessed results that it will bring to our homes, our churches, and our country; but the number one result of real, God-sent revival must be complete obedience to the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ!

The story is told of the farmer who didn’t plant corn for fear of blight, he didn’t plant beans for fear of drought, and he failed to plant wheat for fear that a fire might burn his crop just before harvest. He told a friend, “No, this year I’m playing it safe!” A BBTI graduate in the world’s most populous country just wrote, “Pray for more laborers; we sure do need them.” Missionaries never say, “Don’t send any more missionaries; we have more than we need.” And the heathen, in their own way, are pleading, “Come over and help us!” Meanwhile, many, realizing the seriousness of missionary service, are playing it safe and staying home.

Millions, yea billions, if we could only hear them, are crying out, “Stop playing it safe and come over and help us!” The heathen seek happiness in intoxicating substances, illicit sex, material possessions, education, sports, and vain religion. They are left empty and disappointed. But we know the One who gives abundant life and eternal satisfaction! They live in bondage to evil spirits, always trying to manipulate or appease them to receive their blessings and avoid their curses. But we know the Spirit who can make them free. They bow to idols that have hands that cannot help, ears that cannot hear, and eyes that cannot see. But we know the all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent Creator whose ear is always attentive to our prayers. In vain the heathen look for help from shamans and priests who offer them forgiveness of sins if they will do enough good works, say enough prayers, do enough penances, and of course, give enough money. But we have God’s promise of free forgiveness without any of the above dead works. If they knew we have what they need, they would beg, “Stop playing it safe and come over and help us!”

Why are there thousands of cities and villages with no gospel-preaching church? Why do thousands of languages still have no Scriptures? And why are literally thousands dying every day having never heard the name of Jesus Christ, let alone a clear message of salvation? It is not for lack of a command to tell them. Jesus made it perfectly clear that He expects us, His church, to give the Good News to every soul on Earth. They will not all accept it, but they all have the God-given right to hear it. God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth; He wants none to perish. The God of truth wants no one to live and die ignorant of the Gospel. Jesus who tasted death for all men wants all men to know it! Are we being too careful, playing it too safe, about who goes to tell them?

Ask one hundred young Christian men why they are planning to stay here and not planning to go to the mission field? Almost all of them will say that God has not called them to be a missionary. And so, we usually drop the subject and don’t challenge them further. But if we dare ask them how they know God has not called them, they can only say that they just don’t feel called. (So then, the eternal fate of the heathen depends on how we feel?) Ask them what this call would feel like, and they probably cannot tell you that either. Ask them for two New Testament verses that show them if they are called or not, and my bet is they will not find even one. Ask them if they have ever surrendered their lives to serve God on the mission field. Ask them if they have volunteered and asked God to let them go tell the heathen about Christ. The prevailing thought is that God will give an overwhelming emotional experience, a special supernatural revelation, to those He wants to serve on the mission field; otherwise, they should stay home. Unfortunately, this play-it-safe mentality often takes precedence over God’s command to go. And aren’t we inadvertently blaming God for not calling enough laborers to reach our world?

Some say that God hasn’t called them as a pretext; they wouldn’t go if He did. Others, however, have heard misleading rhetoric that has convinced them to play it safe and stay home: “Don’t go unless you are one hundred percent sure that God is calling.” (But they are given no scriptural instruction on how to be sure.) “Don’t confuse a burden with a call.” (No scriptural explanation is given to explain the difference, and the heathen won’t care if the message comes from someone who is called or burdened.) “If you can do anything else, God hasn’t called you.” (And our young people can find a hundred things they’d rather do than preach to the heathen.) “Wait until God calls you.” (While we wait in comfort, the heathen wait in despair!) “We have too many mama-called daddy-sent people.” (Oh no, I wouldn’t want to be accused of that! Better stay home and play it safe.)

My friend, withholding the Gospel from the lost is a much bigger sin than going to the mission field without a special call! We hear over and over about the call to go. When is the last time you heard preached the command to go? The call is subjective and ambiguous; the command is absolutely clear. I tell young men this: “In light of Christ’s command, you better go or have a good reason to stay!”

How many potential missionaries have stayed home because they have always heard and believed these warnings to play it safe concerning the mission field? Wouldn’t it be much better to risk sending three or four people to the mission field that really should have stayed home than have three or four thousand stay home that could have and should have gone? And lest you fear that unqualified missionaries will go, wasting our precious mission funds, remember that God has provided a safeguard. He has given the church the responsibility to determine who should go or stay.

As one brother said, “If you are not called, why not go and stand in until a called missionary gets there?” The heathen man who gets saved and goes to Heaven probably won’t care who it was that brought him the Gospel. For the sake of the heathen and the glory of God, let’s run some risks. Let’s ignore the religious rhetoric. Let’s hear the heathen’s desperate plea, “Stop playing it safe; come over and help us!”

“There is no price too high to pay for proper preparation.” This is the conclusion of veteran missionary Jon De Rusha, Asian Field Administrator with Baptist Missions to Forgotten Peoples. He goes on to say, “We first arrived in the Niger in 1971. We, along with two other families, were there to reach the Taureg people of the Sahara. To our knowledge, the Gospel had never been preached to these people. At first, we did not know they even had a script of their language, Tamachek. Later, we learned there was a script but very few of the Tauregs could read it. We went with a minimum of French language study, no linguistics, no proficiency in Hebrew or Greek, no understanding of translation principles, etc. At that juncture in the history of Independent Baptist missions, I am not sure how much awareness existed among us as to what preparations were necessary to accomplish the objective. Once we were there, we realized quite pertinently just how unprepared we were.”

No doubt the testimony of Brother De Rusha is that of hundreds of other missionaries before and after him. Two years after he went to Africa, the Baptist Bible Translators Institute began offering specialized preparation for Baptist missionaries. It continues forty-six years later with an even better Advanced Missionary Training (AMT) program. Often, we hear missionaries on the field, retired missionaries, or those who have left the field prematurely say, “I wish I would have known about BBTI before going to the field!” Some admit, “I knew about BBTI but didn’t want to spend nine months preparing.” When explaining our AMT to a new missionary candidate, he will invariably say, “Yes, that sounds good. I know it would help me, but I can’t take the time.” The missionary knows it takes time to prepare financially, but he needs to realize it also takes time to prepare linguistically. There is a price of time to pay for preparation. But no price is too high if it enables you to survive and succeed in your mission.

It is estimated to cost $350,000 to $500,000 to train a single Navy SEAL or Army Ranger. Nevertheless, our government believes the mission is worth the price. We want our soldiers and sailors to survive and succeed in the mission. No price is too high to properly prepare them. Each year, over 20,000 US students begin medical school. If they earn the MD title, they could spend over $2.5 million dollars, approximately $50,000 each year! And they will probably graduate with a student load debt of $170,000. We all want the best possible doctors; we believe that no price is too high for their preparation.

So, what about the preparation of those who are expected to do a work a thousand times more important than that of a doctor or a SEAL? How are we preparing the missionary who does the most important work on this earth? A missionary receives a few Bible classes, some courses in missionary history and theory, and maybe a year in language school; and we think he is prepared. Brother Jon De Rusha had all this, and he considered himself unprepared.

Consider the need. There are over 7,100 languages spoken today, and Jesus expects His Gospel to be preached in all of them. There are probably 6,000 of these languages that have no language schools. Many of them are unwritten, meaning they have no grammar books, teachers, and certainly no Scriptures. The BBTI graduate has training to learn any of these languages and cultures. He knows how to develop an alphabet and write the language. He knows principles of Bible translation. He has training to help others become literate. His mission is the establishment of a truly indigenous, Bible-believing church. With proper preparation, he has a good chance of survival and success.

No price is too high to pay because of the value of the sinner. We may doubt his worth, but God doesn’t. Jesus shed His blood for every single sinner. We believe in Heaven; we must also believe in Hell. We believe that without the new birth, a person will not see the kingdom of God but will be cast into the lake of fire. The heathen are lost, and the Gospel of Christ is their only hope. They are not going to be reached by the unprepared missionary who is unable to communicate in their language and culture!

No price is too high to pay because of the value of the servant. He is literally one in a thousand. A thousand other young people have not surrendered their lives to serve on the mission field; but he has. A thousand others will avoid missionary service at all cost; he has chosen it! The Army Ranger has chosen to risk his life and serve for a few years on a foreign field; the missionary choses to do this for a lifetime. The least we can do is send him well prepared. To send an ill-prepared family to the field is unnecessary and unfair. It is unnecessary because training is available. It is unfair to the missionary, to the churches that send him, and especially to those who are so desperately in need of his message!

No price is too high to pay because the Saviour is worthy. The goal of missionary work is the glory of God. He is not glorified when people live in ignorance of Him. He is glorified by lives changed by the Gospel. He is glorified when people turn from idols and serve Him, the true and living God. People won’t understand the Gospel, be converted, and glorify God if the missionary’s message is unclear. The missionary is an ambassador of God. He owes it to God and to his people to go to them with the best possible preparation. Unwillingness to pay the price necessary for proper preparation might reflect lack of dedication to the mission.

It is especially necessary for the pastor to educate himself and know exactly what training is needed and where it is available. He must not allow a precious missionary family to leave without it. Proper preparation should not be a suggestion but a requirement. The mission is too important. Lost souls are too valuable. The missionary is priceless. And God is worthy of our best!

The Good News of Christ is by far the most important message that one human can give to another. Thank God for anyone who makes a great sacrifice and goes to a foreign country to preach the Gospel! Upon arrival, the missionary makes a critical choice: whether he will struggle to learn the language now and preach later, or whether he will begin preaching now through an interpreter and learn the language later—maybe. Surely a message is more clearly understood and better received if delivered directly in the heart language than one that is delivered through an interpreter. That should settle the issue. However, some may argue that quickness is better than clarity and expedience is preferable to effectiveness.  I will declare emphatically that time and effort invested first in language and culture acquisition is a minor sacrifice when compared to the value of a clear message. Also, the effectiveness of the words delivered from the mouth of the missionary to the ear of the recipient without the middleman trumps any reason the missionary may give for relying on an interpreter.

Does your pastor speak to you through an interpreter, or does he speak English? How long would you attend a church where the pastor could not teach, preach, and converse in your tongue? Is there anything that makes an American more deserving of this blessing than someone on the mission field? And suppose you and your wife were having marital problems and needed counseling. Would it be okay if an interpreter relayed your problems to the pastor, and then his advice came back to you through this middleman?

How many friends do you have that cannot speak your language? Shouldn’t the missionary be a friend to his people? Shouldn’t he build strong, personal relationships with them, gain their confidence as a friend, and then win them to Christ? The missionary who cannot speak the language will not be pestered by people coming to his house asking questions or just hanging out, but this avoidance is not good. Communication should occur in the parlor as well as in the pulpit. The missionary who uses an interpreter to say, “I love you,” may be implying an unwanted message. The people may think, “Then why don’t you learn our language?” We often hear it said about immigrants in our country, legal or otherwise, “If they are going to be here, they need to learn English!” Salsa for the goose is salsa for the gander!

If an interpreted message is acceptable, perhaps the missionary could simply email his sermons to the interpreter on the field each week. A missionary may not be required at all; a pastor could do this. Thousands of dollars could be saved by not sending an American to live on the foreign field. For a little extra, the interpreter might agree to go door to door in the place of the missionary and witness to the lost.

A missionary to Mexico felt that he was too old to learn Spanish, so he hired an interpreter. After some time, he discovered that the man in the middle was of the Church of Christ religion. He was turning the message of salvation by grace into one of works and water! The brother decided to learn Spanish! This is not an isolated case; many good messages are lost in the translation.

If the message goes out in our words, it is also going out in our American way of thinking. American thinking may not translate well. Even if much of the message is understood, the people are not as likely to relate to it because it is still a foreign message.

In the early 90s, when the Iron Curtain came down, an American missionary to Mexico decided to move to Poland. He spoke perfect Spanish, but that was of no help in Europe. Upon arrival, some fellow missionaries told him, “Peter, we have a guy here who knows English. He can interpret for you, and you can get right to work.” Peter said, “No way, José. I won’t preach until I can preach in Polish!” Within six or seven months of diligent language study, he began preaching in Polish without an interpreter.

Suppose it took longer, maybe a year or two, before a missionary could preach in a new language. Is that too big a sacrifice to make for Jesus and for the people he loves? It is predictable that if he begins with an interpreter, he will never wean himself away. Many have said, “I will just use an interpreter for a little while so I can start winning the lost, and then later I will learn the language.”  That is like a young person saying, “I won’t smoke cigarettes forever, just for a little while.” Once you start using cigarettes or interpreters, it is hard to stop.

Real communication involves not only a message going out, but also feedback to the speaker. When your children played church, you probably heard some bad doctrine. The little preacher may have said, “You need to be good so you can go to heaven when you die!” (I hope you know that is bad doctrine.) You got this feedback because you understood your children’s language! Children will have some error in their thinking, and hearing the error shows where more teaching is needed. So, during family devotions, you teach again the truth of salvation by grace. The missionary that does not learn the local language does not get feedback. People may be talking about his teaching, but the discussions are always in their language. Therefore, the missionary is unaware of any misunderstanding and cannot correct it.

Related to this lack of feedback is the very common problem of syncretism. This is a mixing of pagan beliefs with Christianity, resulting in a religion with a Christian façade but little change in core beliefs. A person may do Christian things like attend church services, carry a Bible, recite prayers, etc. without having a real conversion.

What is the advantage of a missionary leaning on an interpreter instead of learning a language? He does begin to preach more quickly, and he may avoid the embarrassment of bilingual bloopers. But there is always a middleman between the missionary and his people. Wouldn’t everyone be better off without him? Let’s cut out the middleman!

The status quo, or the state of affairs, concerning world evangelization may be acceptable to many, but is it acceptable to God? After all, it is His work; He allows us to share in it. We may be content for things to continue the way they are, but is God’s will being done on earth as it is in Heaven? Alexander Duff (1806-1878), missionary to India, said, “We are playing at missions.” He said that about his generation; what would he say about ours? He might say, “The status quo must go!” If the status quo is not working, then God help us to do things differently.

No honest observer could say that we are fully obeying the command of Christ to preach to the nations. There are thousands of ethnic groups that are still unreached; many of them are totally unengaged. Paul strove to preach where Christ had not been named (Romans 15:20). That was two millennia ago. Surely, there could not be people today who have not heard the name of Jesus! But there are. Jesus said that we are to preach His gospel to every creature, and still there are billions that have never heard it. The way things are is not the way things should be. God help us when the Coca Cola company has put their product in almost every community in the world, and we have not preached the Gospel in these places! Our status quo preaching needs to go!

The number one priority of a Christian should be the Great Commission of Christ which is, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations…” But is it? We have rhetoric such as, “Christ’s last command is our first concern.” But is it? Is the average church member reminded from the pulpit what his priority is supposed to be? Churches are busy with programs, and pastors have many topics to deal with. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, but the missionary wheel doesn’t usually get much grease. It needs to be a big wheel and it needs to squeak loudly! Our low-status quo missionary priority needs to go!

Low missionary priority is reflected in our lack of prayer. When was the last time you heard a prayer request for God to send out missionaries from your church? It’s not wrong to pray for the sick, but that gets most of the attention. Occasionally someone will request prayer for lost souls. That’s good, but what about praying for lost sheep without a shepherd in India, Siberia, Albania, or a few hundred other countries? Jesus did not suggest that we lift up our eyes on the fields; He commanded it (John 4:35). He did not suggest we pray for laborers, He commanded it (Matthew 9:38). A church prays for a pastor, and soon God sends one. It prays for a new van, and before long one is in the parking lot. The church might even go to the throne of grace for funds to build a multi-million-dollar family life center, and God provides! So, why isn’t God sending out missionaries from our congregation? We aren’t asking Him to! Our status quo praying needs to go!

God commands us to go. But the status quo says to wait for God’s call. God says to present your body a living sacrifice, and then you will know His perfect will (Romans 12:1-2). The status quo says little about surrender or presenting our bodies. It says, “Do what is in your heart to do, what you want to do.” (Our generation seems to be comfortable with this.) It also says, “Be very careful not to go to the mission field unless you are 100% sure you are called of God.” Ask any young person, even one at a Christian college, “Why don’t you go to the mission field?” The answer, almost without exception, is, “I’m not called.” The young person cannot give you a scripture verse, and he cannot tell you how he would know if he were called. He simply doesn’t feel called. He will probably add, “I’d be willing to go if God wanted me to.” Would we be out of place to ask, “Have you presented your body a living sacrifice? You say you are willing to go; have you told God? Have you asked God to let you go?” The status quo says to wait for a call and then surrender to it. God tells us to first surrender. Our status quo of presenting our bodies must go!

Jesus never told us that paying to take the Gospel to the regions beyond would be easy. Sending missionaries to the field and keeping them there is expensive. How much expense is too much? What did it cost to rescue those boys in that cave in Thailand last year? The cost was not a consideration. Nobody said, “They aren’t worth what it is costing us.” The status quo mission giving is very low. Status quo Christians have money for what they consider important. Many churches do not even teach or encourage personal missionary giving. The church may give a small percentage of its income to missions, but the people themselves give nothing directly to send missionaries. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). It may take a missionary three or more years to raise needed support. Some give up from discouragement and never reach their field. Many go to the field under supported. Our status quo paying needs to go!

Finally, the status quo missionary preparation needs to go. We are sending missionaries with little or no special training in language and culture learning. A missionary does not have to speak with a distracting foreign accent. He should never bypass language learning and resort to using an interpreter. Lack of specialized training limits the missionary to the few languages that have language schools and leaves thousands of languages untouched by Baptist missionaries. Our missionaries, with very few exceptions, do not translate Bibles because they have no training in linguistics and Bible translation principles. Archilochus wrote, “Men do not rise to the level of their expectations; they fall to the level of their preparation.” Advanced training is available; the problem is that the missionary and his pastor either do not know of its existence and importance, or they do not want to invest the time and effort to get it. Our shameful status quo missionary preparation needs to go, too!

The Bible has led the best-seller list since its release. Someone has always wanted it and has, at times, been willing to pay a very dear price for it. It is said that a hand-written copy of the Wycliffe Bible cost the equivalent of a year’s labor! Can you imagine anyone spending $60,000 for a Bible today? Throughout the world, people without a Bible vastly outnumber those who have it. You may have three or four Bibles! There may be more Bibles in your house than in some entire cities!

There are multitudes who have not even a verse of the Bible simply because no one has ever translated it into their language. The number of speakers may be ten thousand or ten million, but nobody quotes John 3:16 in it! Languages have diversified since the tower of Babel until today they number 7,100. No one has paid the price—admittedly a high price every time—to put God’s Word into approximately 4,000, or 56%, of these tongues. Someone must translate it for them. Why have the hundreds of thousands of gospel-preaching churches in the world not produced 4,000 Bible translators to accomplish this task? Perhaps these churches have never been informed of the need or challenged to meet it. Oh, but this ignorance and lack of concern could not possibly exist in the fundamental, Bible-believing, missionary-minded churches of America, could it? Let’s find out. With your pastor’s permission, take a survey of church members and ask how many languages are spoken today and how many of these languages have at least some part of the Bible. Ask how often they pray for laborers for the unreached, Bibleless people groups of the world. To further test your church’s concern level for Bibleless people groups, check to see how many of your missionaries are in some way involved in Bible translation or what percentage of the mission budget goes to Bible translation. To further prove the pathetic priority level given to Bible translation in our circles, contact every fundamental Baptist college you know and ask them if they have courses in linguistics and Bible translation. Either we change the way we do missions, or 56% of the world’s language groups will live and die without the Bible and the salvation it offers.

Another category of Bibleless people are those with languages that have small portions of scripture and a work in progress. Workers involved in the translation know that such a thing as a Bible exists, but the group, as a whole, knows nothing of it. The people do not, for the most part, have God’s Word, but they have hope of getting it. Unfortunately, (in our opinion) most of this work in progress is being done by people translating from the Critical Text using a method known as dynamic equivalence. The result is usually a paraphrase more like the Living Bible than a formal translation such as our Authorized Version. Let’s pray that more works will be established by Bible-believing missionary/translators using the correct text and method and an adequate number of trained native helpers.

Some languages have a well-translated Bible, perhaps translated two hundred years ago. However, it is not in use and is probably out of print. The language may have changed so drastically that the grammar, vocabulary, and orthography would not be recognized or accepted by its speakers today. The people may not even know of its existence. These are also Bibleless people. However, they are not completely hopeless. Someone could learn this language in its modern form, and using this antiquated Bible as a basis, produce a good, usable revision. Not everyone can endure the hardships of pioneer Bible translation work, but surely someone could handle a project such as this. Can the Lord find ten righteous people out of ten thousand Independent Baptist churches to go after ten such languages?

There is another very large group of people living and dying without the Bible, but they do not have to. Their languages have the Scriptures, but they don’t. Many of them don’t know what a Bible is or understand why they need one. There is likely no where to buy a Bible, even if they could afford it. Theoretically, there is hope for these people; practically, they are not much better off than the native who speaks an unwritten language with no Scripture. If, however, someone would pass by their houses, distributing Scriptures, they would no longer be Bibleless. Around 1970, God began raising up local church Bible publishing ministries. Missionary representatives raise funds from churches to purchase paper and equipment to print Scripture portions. Missionary printers put God’s Word on the paper—whole Bibles, New Testaments, or John-Romans booklets. If the ministry has sophisticated equipment, it binds, trims, and boxes these portions. Otherwise, this work is done by volunteers. The cost of supplies is great, as is the cost of shipping the Scriptures to the foreign field. On the field, there must be a like-minded man who is willing to receive and distribute them. The portions are free, and most people, even many Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Communists, Catholics, etc., would gladly receive a Scripture portion. These portions must be smuggled into some places, but the honorable ministry of Bible smuggling has been practiced for centuries. (It would be wonderful if there were someone in every place to teach these scriptures; hundreds of thousands of workers are needed.) Local church Bible publishing is a wonderful ministry in which many churches can cooperate. Unfortunately, this work is being done in a very small number of languages. With enough men and money, this could change.

Yes, most of the 7.5 billion souls on this planet are living and dying without the written Word of God, and it is not God’s will (1 Timothy 2:4)! The question is whether you and I are personally doing something about it. Could you live among a remote tribe in Indonesia, learn the language, reduce it to writing, and then get a Bible translation work in progress? Could you learn a new language and then guide a group of workers in revising an archaic Bible? Could you put your time and resources into a local church Bible ministry and raise funds for paper or join a group that is distributing Scripture portions on the streets of a foreign country? Wouldn’t you like to go to Heaven knowing that you put the world’s most precious treasure in the hands of a Bibleless soul?

What are you going to be when you grow up? Do you remember being asked that question as a child? (If you are forty and still being asked that, you might have a problem!) A child dreams of becoming a hero: cowboy, fireman, doctor, nurse, sports superstar, astronaut, etc. His dream changes often; as he moves into adolescence, the dream becomes more serious. The young person may even begin to prepare to make the dream a reality. This is certainly not a bad thing. We encourage young people to study and work hard to follow their dream, to become something and someone useful to society.

If the young person is a Christian, he may conclude that his desire (dream) comes from God and is God’s will for him. He may even proclaim, “This is what God has called me to do.” After all, he is going to use his honorable profession to provide for his family, to help others, and to support the work of God. He may even give to send out missionaries.

Some of us can’t help but question if God would call so many to be doctors, lawyers, truck drivers, builders, oilfield roughnecks, computer programmers, car salesmen, pastors, police officers, and a hundred other things, but call very, very few to preach Christ beyond our borders. As the world population expands, our missionary force shrinks. That God would not call enough missionaries seems strange. The dreams of his children are being realized, but the desire of the heathen for a better life now and for Heaven when they die is not being realized. The problem must be with God’s people, not with God. It may be that most of God’s people are not listening for a call or expecting one. Would they even recognize it if it came? Perhaps some have been given a distorted view of the call. They see it as some supernatural, spine-tingling, irresistible, overwhelming, emotional experience that irrevocably propels a special, super-spiritual Christian to the regions beyond. Since it doesn’t happen to them, they conclude that God has not called them to be missionaries. They may honestly believe they have good reason to stay home.

A common attitude seems to be, “Lord, if you want me to go, make me.” Why not rather, “Lord, if you don’t want me to go, please stop me.”? It could be that God simply is not going to show His will to a Christian who is unwilling to sacrifice his personal desires and do His will. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. God shows us His will after the sacrifice and transformation. Our thinking is backward; we want to know His will first so we can decide if we will surrender to it or not.

The time has come for young people (and some not so young) to lay their dream on an altar and go to the mission field for the glory of God and the salvation of the lost! What dream or desire is too wonderful to sacrifice for Jesus? What goal could possibly compare to preaching Christ to those who have never heard His name and the joy of seeing them one day in Heaven? What profession could compare to translating the first Bible in a Bibleless language?

You may say, “I would not feel comfortable in a foreign country.” Well, sacrifice your feelings and your comforts along with your dream! You say, “I don’t know if I could be happy away from family and friends.” There is room on the altar for your happiness, too! Sacrifice your happiness and God might give it back to you. Missionaries are not unhappy, miserable souls that hate the place God has sent them. They become comfortable and enjoy new people, languages, and cultures. Speaking of happiness, Jesus died for all and desires their eternal happiness. Don’t you think all should hear about it?

Perhaps you say, “What if God doesn’t want me on the mission field?” Maybe He doesn’t. But you will never know until your dream is nailed to the cross. God can close the door to keep you from going or show you clearly that He has something else for you at home. Say with Isaiah, “Here am I; send me.” Or with Saul of Tarsus, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” God is still accepting volunteers! “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross,[and sacrifice his dream] and follow me.” The heathen sit in darkness and perish in Hell while we pursue our dreams. Meanwhile, we have a perfectly clear command: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.”

The missionaries you meet all gave up their dreams. Very few of them dreamed all their life of being a missionary. They don’t go to another place because they have nothing else to do with their life here at home. Anyone who can learn a new language and communicate well in another culture could surely make it big in business or politics. Anyone who can endure the hardships of deputation and the foreign field could succeed in just about any profession. (And earn a lot more money!) The missionary sacrificed his dream; would you sacrifice yours, too?

In time of war, soldiers put their dreams on hold or give them up forever. Brethren, we are in a battle to liberate souls that Satan has taken captive at his will. The call (or command) to arms has gone out. The pagan who trusts Christ couldn’t care less if the messenger was a draftee (called) or a volunteer; he just praises God that someone finally brought him the Gospel! (But, oh that the messenger would have arrived before his mother and father died!)

A man once told Jesus that he would be a disciple, but only after he cared for his aging father and collected the inheritance upon his father death. (Some of that is found between the lines.) Jesus told him, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” We might say it like this: Let the world do what it can do, and you do what the world cannot do–preach the Gospel. In other words, let the world chase its dreams; you sacrifice yours!

Missiologists such as the late Dr. Tom Brewster make a distinction between students and learners. The words are synonymous to most, but we at BBTI stress the difference. A student enrolls in a school and is dependent on a teacher. A learner takes responsibility for his own learning and finds ways to get the information he needs. A learner mindset is quite an asset in mission work.

From kindergarten through college, we are students. We sit in a classroom and a teacher directs us. He tells us what is expected of us. He approves or disapproves our progress and gives us a passing or failing grade. This system works well in most areas of life. But it has disadvantages and limitations, especially in the work of missions. It is not bad to be a student. Students usually work hard and should be commended. A learner usually begins as a student but can be taught to be a learner. A learner can go further linguistically, culturally, and geographically.

A missionary with a burden for a certain indian group with an unwritten language once told me, “They are uneducated and cannot teach me their language.” He is a student with the mindset of a student. He did not evangelize this group, but rather moved to a different field. A learner would never say what this brother said, especially a learner equipped with good linguistic and culture learning tools.

A student is limited to languages where there are language schools or teachers. He needs books and someone to explain the language. There are nearly 7,100 languages spoken today. Dr. Brewster estimated that 5,000 of these do not have language schools. (I would guess the number to be even higher.) Jesus commands us to teach all these groups, not simply those with language schools. Thus far, with student mindsets, we have not reached them. Unless we somehow convert our students into learners, there is little hope that we ever will. We know what a student is; we have plenty of them. Learners are rare and not well known.

The learner begins with a certain mindset. He may use a school or teacher, but he sees the language as his responsibility, not the teacher’s. He has the mindset of an adventurer, an explorer, or a pioneer. He is not afraid to leave the safety of the well-traveled missionary path, even when criticized for it. He risks being criticized for trying new methods when he sees that the traditional ones are not producing the results he desires. He may even borrow methods from others outside of our camp. (That is what George Anderson did when he spent two years learning from a non-denominational, new-evangelical group so that he could begin BBTI, a school for Baptist missionaries.) The learner is not a rebel, but he may be branded as one. The learner is more concerned about the message and the recipients of it than about those who are sending him. He chooses his methods accordingly. He should seek to communicate his mindset and explain his methods to those who send him, but he risks being misunderstood.

Both student and learner want to obey the Great Commission and teach all nations (people groups), but they face a great obstacle: the group may not understand the trade language or may have a very limited understanding of it. The student who studied the trade language in a school says, “I will speak to them in the trade language. Maybe they will understand.” (They probably won’t.) He may say, “I will use an interpreter.” (A risky practice!) And, sadly, he may give up and say, “I’m going to the city where people will understand and respond!”

The missionary with a learner’s mindset will look at the same group and say, “I can learn this language. My mouth and tongue are made just like theirs. I can make these sounds, too.” He knows that the trade language is ineffective. It would cause syncretism, the blending of Christian and pagan beliefs. He reasons, “If I don’t understand the language, I won’t know what people are saying about my message; I won’t get feedback.”

When the student sees a word with the letter (symbol) ‘t,’ he pronounces the sound with an English ‘t.’ That’s all he knows to do. It might work. The people might understand (and they might not). But even if they do understand, he will probably say the word with an accent. The learner, on the other hand, ignores the symbol. He listens to the sound, and he sees, like a deaf person reading lips, the sound. He does not say, “That is a ‘t.’ Rather he asks, “What kind of a ‘t’ is it?” Using his tool (skill) of phonetics, he asks: “Is it an alveolar, a dentalized, a palatalized, or a retroflexed ‘t’? Is it aspirated or unaspirated, is it fortis or lenis, and finally, is it released or unreleased? Using this tool of phonetics, he knows exactly what the native speaker does to produce a sound, and he can reproduce it. He learns new speech habits and speaks without a distracting accent.

A learner also approaches culture differently than a student. A student doesn’t consider what people already believe; he simply proclaims what the Bible says. He naively thinks his truth will drive out false beliefs, but it won’t if it is not explained and illustrated in terms the people understand. When a student hears a false belief, he is quick to tell people they are wrong; they may outwardly change. The learner, however, with his tool of cultural anthropology, digs deep into all areas of culture, especially the worldview. He learns what the people believe and why. When a false belief surfaces, he says, “That’s interesting, tell me more.” He asks questions and when he gets answers, he asks more questions. Now he knows how the people think. His teaching uses cultural comparisons and contrasts, is understood by the people, and is more likely to produce an inward change.

A learner understands that in order to produce a strong church, there must be a Bible in the heart language of the people. He may take years to translate it. The learner way is slow, but it works! Wouldn’t it be better to send learners, rather than students, to the mission field?

Were we to survey a group of serious adults and ask them what is the greatest book ever written, I would expect the answer to be “the Bible.” However, there is really no such thing as “the Bible” except the one settled in Heaven (Psalm 119:89). So, we must clarify which Bible. Which Bible has touched and changed more lives over the centuries than the Authorized King James Version, given to the English-speaking world in the year of our Lord 1611? Which Bible has brought more revivals and literally shaped more nations? Which Bible has gone further, carried by holy hands, and turned on the light in so many dark places? Thousands have taken it to the foreign field; or has it taken them there? This Bible traveled 238,900 miles and was read on the moon! Can anyone, friend or foe, deny that the King James Bible is the greatest book ever written?

Even those who dislike and criticize it must admit that no other book has even come close to changing the world. It is the crowning work and the finished product in the line of blood-bought Bibles that came out of the Protestant Reformation. In a relatively short time, it gained acceptance as “the Bible” by English-speaking Christians, maintaining that status for the next three and a half centuries. It standardized the English language and made truly great nations of those who revered it. Unfortunately, as its influence wanes, so does the goodness and greatness of those nations.

Just think, I don’t have to view the world’s greatest book through thick glass in a museum or search through manuscripts in some dark, depressing monastery. I have a copy in my house, written in my heart language. Of the 7,097 languages spoken today, relatively few have all the scriptures—but mine does! I can understand the words of my Bible or easily learn them. I’m on speaking terms with the Author and ask him for help with the deeper meaning of words! Some argue that the Authorized Version is too archaic. I challenge you to open this Bible at any place and begin reading. See how many pages, chapters, and maybe even entire books you read before you find the first truly archaic word. Of course, you will find some words we don’t commonly use. What book of any value does not have some unfamiliar words that expand our learning? Even archaic words are no problem; there are books that give their meaning. It is amazing; I read a book written more than four centuries ago and it still works just like new! It instructs, convicts, comforts, rebukes, exhorts, and guides. I feel absolutely no need for anything newer! Some suggest that we need a newer version without thou, thee, ye, thy, and thine. In five minutes or less I could teach you that thou is the second person singular subject pronoun, thee is the second person singular object pronoun, and ye is the second person plural subject pronoun. (You is the second person plural object pronoun.) Thy and thine are singular possessive pronouns. (Your is the plural.) Without these forms, we have a less precise translation of the Greek and Hebrew scriptures and are left with an incomplete understanding of some passages.

Someone might say, “What about the inspired original autographs, aren’t they the greatest book? Granted, we would not have our Bible without them, but they were never in one book. They were probably read by very few. And certainly, the autographs did not last as long as the King James Bible has.

Longevity in itself does not make the Authorized Version great, but what other Bible has been loved by so many for so long? How long did the English Revised Version maintain its popularity, or was it ever popular? Do you know anyone that still uses it? It was followed by the American Standard Version, and God’s people, with few exceptions, rejected it, too. How about the RSV, the NRSV, the NASV, the NIV, the NKJV, the ESV or any other? Which Bible will change the world, bless God’s people, produce godly fruit, endure four hundred years, and replace the Authorized Version as the greatest book ever written?

The greatest book ever written is great because it was produced by the greatest group of translators who incorporated the greatest source texts and used the greatest translation techniques in the history of writing!
I ought to daily praise the God of Heaven for giving me a copy of the world’s greatest book! I should thank him over and over that I can have it in my house without fear of being killed! Those who read the Tyndale Bible did so under the penalty of death! I ought to honor the memories of Erasmus, Luther, Tyndale (who was burned at the stake), Coverdale, Rogers (who was burned at the stake by Bloody Mary), Reina, Valera, and many others who sacrificed so much to produce great Bibles in our languages. Thank God for those today who dedicate their lives to the work of Bible translation! Thank God for people today who sacrifice to buy paper, ink, and equipment to produce these precious treasures and even assemble them with their own hands! Thank God for churches that give Bible translation and publishing top priority.

“…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: …” (Luke 12:48). May God help me if I, having the greatest book in the history of mankind, fail to open it. God help me if I have no pity or compassion for the billions who have little or no scripture. God help me if I buy a nice, new Bible every year or two and give nothing to send Bible translators to the mission field. Shame on the church that spends millions on buildings and nothing on producing the word of God for the heathen! Shame on the ministerial student who claims to desire the perfect will of God but is unwilling to consider the mission field, much less a Bibleless people group. Would to God that the world’s greatest book would produce greater obedience to the Great Commission!