You and I can choose from over 500 translations of the Bible to read from—if we know English. But many peoples of the earth have only the witness of Creation to teach them about God—and no way to know the rest of the story.
In this presentation by Brother Aaron Crider, you can learn how All-Nations Bible Translation partners with churches to send teams who facilitate Bible translation and church planting while working to establish indigenous churches.
Learn more at allnationsbt.org.
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Father, our longing, that we believe is the longing of your heart, is that churches represented here would be successful churches who are doing what you have called the church to do, and raising up individuals who are doing what you have called us and redeemed us to do, so that we can take this overseas. We can take this to the nations who have no witness. This is the prayer, Father. Thank you for hearing us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Providing an Anabaptist foundation for Bible translation and church planting. So All-Nations Bible Translation is a young organization founded in 2010. And the reason for ABT, All-Nations Bible Translation – I will just talk about why we exist, and to do that we can simply look at the name. So “All-Nations” to start with. Why all nations?
We’re familiar with Jesus’ words at the end of the Book of Matthew, the Gospel, or the end of various gospels where he says, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations.” Or another very suitable translation would be, “As you’re going, make disciples of all nations.” And that “nations” word is not necessarily a political country like the US, or Mexico, or Columbia, or whatever. It is “ethnos,” ethnic groups. It is people groups, often distinguished and separated by their unique languages.
So Jesus’ commission is to take the message to all nations. But then I want to ask you, “Where do we receive our commission? Is it from the end of Matthew 28? or is it from the whole revelation of Scripture?” Do we read a purpose for going to all nations from the whole scriptures? I believe we do. From the beginning, why did God make man? God made man with a moral conscience, a communicative ability, ability to use language to communicate, to love, reciprocate God’s love back to him. God made us for relationship. And God has always sought to redeem to himself, out of this now-fallen world, a people of his own to have a relationship with this. For this he made us. For this he redeemed us. And we know how man broke that fellowship.
And yet God began to work, and one of the early things that God did in his plan to bring man back to himself was he chose a man. He chose a man. He said, “From you and from your descendants, I will make a people to myself.” You know how he said to Abraham. He said, “Go out of your country, from your family, from your father’s house. I’ll make of you a great nation. And I will bless you, and those who bless you, I will bless, those who curse you, I will curse.” And can you imagine having that kind of a pronouncement made about you?
But God wasn’t finished yet. Because God was pronouncing blessing, but when God pronounces a blessing he does so with a purpose. When God gives blessing. He does it for a reason, and God said “And in you and in your family all the families of the earth will be blessed.” And God repeated that to Abraham later, he said, “In you will all the nations of the earth be blessed.”
So when Jesus came and he was a grown man. He came to his hometown of Nazareth, and he was reminding some of those very people about their history. And he reminded them of someone, an Assyrian general by the name of Naaman, and he reminded them of a widow of Zarephath and how a prophet was sent to them. How many lepers were in Israel in the days of Naaman the Syrian? Jesus said there were many! How many of them were healed by the prophet of God? None.
And when Jesus started saying things like that, God’s chosen people became furious, and they were ready to take Jesus out and throw him over the edge of the cliff because he was being a traitor to them. And what happened to this people who was supposed to be a source of blessing to – a channel of blessing – to all nations? What happened to them is that they thought the blessing was for them, and they had become content that they themselves have received the blessing. And that all the rest of the world to be excluded. Is there any of that heart in us today?
God’s heart is for every nation. And so, John 3:16. The literal meaning of a translation in Yoloxochitl Mixtec says, “God’s heart hurts seeing the people of this world.” Why does God’s heart hurt?
And that’s where we considered how God’s plan is to redeem to himself people from every nation. Telling Abraham “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Jesus said, “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.” And our God says, “from from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the nations.”
And so we can pray with the psalmist, “God be merciful to us, and bless us, and cause your face to shine upon us.” And that would be a very selfish prayer if it stopped there. But Psalm 67, the psalmist prayed that prayer and he goes on and he says, “So that your way may be known upon earth, and your salvation among all nations.”
Let’s pray that way. Now, All-Nations Bible Translation. Why Bible translation? After all, you and I can choose from nearly 500 different translations to read from – if we know English. But maybe the scales isn’t quite equal, because there are still language groups, there are still people for whom the Bible, the Scripture, the written Word of God is locked in an unknown tongue, it’s chained. They have no access to it in their most familiar language.
Why Bible translation? Romans 10 gives us some clues. In Romans 10, Paul quotes David the psalmist and reminds us that the heavens declare God’s glory. And in fact, there is no speech nor language that doesn’t hear the voice of creation. So you don’t need to know English and have 500 different translations and versions available in order to know about a creator, that there’s a Creator who made us and to whom we must give account. But the question I want to ask, regardless of what signs we see in the sky or whatever, how many generations would it take for those people to study nature, and to study the witness of Creation, in order to come to the understanding that that Creator God loves them in such a way that he came down and became one of us, and he lived our life, and he died a death for us, and he rose again, and he overcame, and he ascended back to the Father, and he sent his Holy Spirit to unite us all into one body in him, one family, and to take us to live with him forever, to redeem his people to himself? Creation cannot tell the whole story.
Paul says that in Romans 10. He says, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” There is no other way, but that the message be told.
And so, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Doesn’t matter if you’re in America, or what ethnic group you are. But the question Paul raises – now we come to the Romans 10 chain of logic here – “But how will they call on him if they haven’t believed on him? How will they believe on him if they have not heard of him? How will they hear of him if no one goes and tells them? How can they go and tell if they’re not sent?” We know from the Scripture in Acts 13 that the Holy Spirit and his church work together to send messengers.
So introducing All-Nations Bible Translation a little bit, you may see along the top of these slides some excerpts from our mission statement. “ABT exist to assist the church by providing a platform to immobilize, train, and equip missionary team.” So ABT was founded in 2010 as a facilitating organization. It’s primary target is those people groups who have no Scripture in their heart language, and no Christian presence.
We believe that no organization can take the place of willing churches fulfilling God’s mission to all nations. And so we desire to work alongside of churches who are willing to send, making it possible for teams to be prepared and equipped for work among unreached and Scriptureless people groups.
Our model for Bible translation and church planting: it’s not just one individual or family working alone, but rather a core, long-term team on the field, that includes an Old Testament translator familiar with the Hebrew of the Old Testament, a New Testament translator who is familiar with the Greek of the New Testament, the community development coordinator who work in church planting along with the others in more of a humanitarian or logistics roles, such as agriculture, medicine, etc…
Team members first spend at least two to four years in preparation, and then after moving to the field another two to four years at least in building relationships, learning the language, understanding the culture, preparing for their long-term work. Training to be a Bible translator includes, obviously Greek or Hebrew, linguistic studies, cross-cultural experience, Bible courses, medical.
And I want to highlight an opportunity that’s coming up just this winter and in December, a Greek course. Young people and anyone interested in learning the Greek of the New Testament, take advantage of this opportunity. You can learn more in two ways – I’ll give you two ways to learn more. One is to go to biblicalgreekprogram.org. The other way: you can even do one better and talk to the instructor himself, Brother Joseph Neill is here in the front, and look him up this weekend and talk to him about this Greek course.
One goal of these teams on the field is to evangelize unreached people groups. Who are the unreached? The “unreached people groups” can be defined in many different ways, but for ABT’s purposes, an unreached people group is a language group with little to no Scripture, and no viable church.
Let’s look at statistics a little bit: Of the over 7,000 languages spoken in the world today, there still remain nearly eighteen hundred with no Scripture in their heart language. God intends for them to hear and read the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
Another goal of these teams is to translate the scriptures, of course. Translation is best done by those who know the language and culture best. So the missionary translator doesn’t try to work by himself. Rather he works as a facilitator, even a trainer, finding the native speakers who are able and willing to work with them in the translation process.
And we might question the need for Bible translation in some cases. For example, the Mixtec of southern Mexico. Many of them can speak and understand Spanish for the most part. Is it important for them to have their own means Mixtec translation? Our answer is, “Yes, it probably is.”
I want to quote Nelson Mandela. He said, “If you talk to man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to a man in his language, that goes to his heart.” Talk to them in a language that is not their first language, they may understand what you’re saying, but if we want God to become real and personal to these people, we want to give his Word to them in a language that is real and personal to them in their heart language. Ultimately, the goal of these teams is to plant indigenous churches. Careful teaching over the years, and throughout the process of Bible translation, the local church is born. Discipleship happens along the way.
The church grows in learning to follow Jesus through his written Word that they now have available in their own heart language. Church planting team is there for the long term, not just a four or five year commitment. But every move is geared toward the reality of an indigenous church. By indigenous, we mean local, not foreign leadership. Local, not foreign resources. And locally appropriate, rather than foreign methods. As a church’s leaders mature and gain experience, it’s time for the missionaries to move on. Work themselves out of a job, not to cut all ties, but leave the church to God’s care and the local leaders that God provides.
Final clause of ABT’s mission statement emphasizes that these indigenous churches would follow the teachings of Jesus in the principles of his Kingdom. We understand that that’s what a true church really is, right? And so as ABT partners with churches, and teams, and church planting, we choose to work with those who acknowledge the present-day Kingship of our Lord Jesus, apart from the kingdoms of this world, who proclaim a Gospel that calls to full allegiance in obedience, and who recognize that a true faith and love will result in lifestyle separate unto God, a culture set apart even within its own culture.
Where is our focus right now in the world? There’s a few groups that various teams are looking at. The Mixtec of southern Mexico, the Tarahumara of northern Mexico. And there are about eighty tribes in Colombia – a special prayer focus is the Colombia’s Amazon region. Also the Mayangna of Nicaragua. And in Africa, the Weno* and the Madara* of West Africa. The Sungai* of Indonesia.
And you probably didn’t get that list there, went through real quick. But to remember to pray for them. I’d encourage you to pick up a prayer card bookmark. We have inserted into brochures here on a little table in the front, some of the middle, and some in the back. As you go out here, just pick up a brochure, and prayer card is inside.
Also on the back table, you can sign up to receive ABT’s monthly email updates, and the biannual newsletter that we send out to your mailing address. You can also go online and sign up for these.
On the back table is an audio CD that tells the story of the English Bible. Five centuries ago, we had no Scripture in English to read, and men sacrificed and shed their blood for us to have this privilege. Let that story inspire us in our generation to take the privilege to others.
On the back table and under the back table, there’s several boxes full of the prayer support booklets “How to effectively support foreign workers through prayer.” Take a handful of these for your church. Take one for yourself.
Also to learn more about Bible translation and church planting, there’s an Anabaptist organization. Come to “Explore ABT.” You can learn more on our website or speak to one of us here.
I’ll close with this statement that the Lord of hosts made to the children of Israel. He said, “As I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.” In their case, it was in spite of their refusal to obey his command to go and take the land, in spite of their unbelief of his promise to give them the land. And I ask today “Will it be because we have been willing to partner with God? Or will it be in spite of us?”
“As I live all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.”
* code names used