The Middle-aged, Divorced, Former Small Business Owner, Urban Living with a Beard, Men’s Study Bible
…because you deserve a Study Bible that is uniquely designed for you.
(Available in three versions!)
Yes, the above announcement is a fictitious study Bible … I think.
Recently I received a message promoting another new English Bible translation that claims “… the balance between accuracy and readability that was 20 years in the making!” Why is choosing the Bible such a task? … Which version is best? Type-face and print size desired? Single or double column format? Leather, canvas or hardback cover? Color? Men’s, Female or Study Bible? …Good marketing along with creativity in format and style are producing more options all the time. And, there is no need to wait- Amazon Prime can have it to you with free shipping in two days!
The barrage of available resource possibilities I received to consider each week as a pastor was staggering! Options for magazines, new books, sample materials, catalogs, free trials, upcoming conferences, webinars, and live chats were part of an ongoing flood of options available. Each touted great reviews and results with groundbreaking innovation to move one’s ministry or walk with the Lord to the “next level”.
Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful that resources are readily available. Bookstores are in virtually every town and tons of possibilities are online. We are blessed to have so much. But, is having so many options a good thing? If accessibility and options equated spirituality we’d be giants of faith. One would think with the plethora of choices accessible, the American church would be the most equipped, spiritually mature group in history!
Amid the glorious joy of having gobs of options, there is a somber side to this issue. Consider the stark contrast regarding the overabundance of resource options we have compared to the extreme lack of resources available in other languages. Imagine having a Bible in your language but that is your only resource option. No study Bibles. No commentaries. No Small Group guides. No devotional books. Just the Bible. This is a present reality in too many spoken languages in the world today.
I have been sharing in churches and small groups over the last several months and many are rejoicing with me regarding the Malaumanda New Testament that I use in the presentation. Long after Joy and I helped to establish the church among the people of Malaumanda in Papua New Guinea, faithful co-laborers worked with great devotion to produce the New Testament for that tribe. Of course, it was a great accomplishment (13 years in the making!) and is certainly something worthy of rejoicing. But few connect the significant disparity of the Malaumanda tribal culture to their own. Like hundreds of other indigenous people groups, the Malaumandan church has only a New Testament published in its language. Outside of some teaching lessons provided by the missionaries, that is most likely all they will ever have.
Join me as I am asking some serious questions regarding the availability of Christian-driven resources…
- Is the lack of resources OK because they are just tribal people or is it OK because it is not me who is needy in this area?
- Does simply being an American entitled me to having more options?
- Regarding resource material, when is enough, enough?
- Is there such a thing as too much?
- In our western society, what drives the desire to provide resources and make them available – tools for discipleship goals or financial gain?
- If there was a likelihood of financial gain would there be greater interest in going to produce more materials in linguistically needy areas?
- How much of the appeal for “more options” just feeds a carnal desire and is detracting manpower, brain energy and finances away from carrying out the Great Commission?
OK, admittedly, my temperature is starting to rise… Let me take a step back.
Maybe, in this area of resource availability, “right” and “wrong” are terms that are too emotionally charged. Perhaps the better terms to use would be “fair” and “unfair”. Or, maybe even more bluntly…“care or not care” ?
What can we do? I am not calling for a boycott of resources from Christian publishing agencies. I am, however, asking you to consider a renewed appreciation for the reality that exists outside of the American bubble. Striving to strike some kind of balance, I have these suggestions…
- Value the Bible. Realize that some cultures only have the Bible. Yet, Christians and churches still grow. Many thrive. Let’s not forget the potential and power of the Word of God…alone!
- Appreciate the resources. It is a gift. Don’t take it for granted. Choose well. Supplement the Bible, don’t supplant or overcrowd it. In 2 Timothy 4:13, recognizing his resources were as necessary as his garments Paul made this prioritized request, “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come- and the books, especially the parchments.”
- Acknowledge our propensity to be drawn toward “new, better, must have & more”. If the words “updated and improved” stir emotions of must-have, you may be falling prey to the Marketing-Monster. The lure of innovation and marketing pizzazz could be a trap. A Wise Sage’s words ring of relevance for today… “And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12)
- Invest in resource production where the disparity exists. See the value in missionary endeavors that establish/provide resources in languages where they are needed. It evidences good missionary principles when local languages and cultures are valued enough to produce materials in the heart language of individuals. New Tribes Mission is one such agency. Resource production/availability should be a component of what it means to fulfill the Great Commission. Most often, missionaries not only write/translate resource materials but bear the production costs as well.
- Volunteer to change. It takes people to make a difference. Of the resources to which we have access, some had to be translated. Some had to be created. Have you considered being that person for languages that do not have the resources available? (see Isaiah 6:8)
Just thinking. Thanks for considering.