All over China, there are people walking the streets who carry a longing in their souls to find meaning and purpose.
Part of the church’s mandate is to offer them access to God’s narrative for mankind: the “Bible.” After Jesus’s resurrection, this narrative spread rapidly, disciples were made, and churches established, largely through word of mouth. This rapid spreading of the gospel occurred largely because there existed a common language and extensive roadways.
However, with the collapse of the Roman Empire, for about the next 1,400 years distribution of this narrative on a large scale became impossible. The process to produce a Bible demanded skilled scribes and significant financial resources, not to mention time.
The first technological breakthrough that made larger-scale distribution possible was the invention of the printing press, but ideologies rooted in the institutional church hindered access to the Bible among the masses. Fearing that the laity would mishandle the Holy Scriptures, a council in Toulouse, France, banned all but the clergy from owning and reading the Bible.
Church reformers like Luther and his contemporary William Tyndale understood that for people to grasp the depth of the gospel, they needed to read the Bible for themselves. Luther and Tyndale used the technology of the day to produce and distribute the Bible in the language of the people on a massive scale. The momentum of their Bible-focused attitude continues today.
With the advent of the “digital” age, two things lost since the Roman era have re-emerged but now on a global scale: “a common language (digital) and extensive highways (the internet and mobile phones).” With the return of those two things, so has returned the opportunity for the “Word of God” to rapidly spread to places that have previously been out of reach by the traditional means of printed Bibles.
Up until 2009, we were tasked with reaching people mostly by supplying the printed Bible to those who wanted the Scriptures. This changed when “Mobile Phones” became the way of the future. Not completely understanding how this was possible, a prayer was voiced, “If mobile phones are the way of the future, show us how to use phones to get your Word into the hands of those who want it.” That prayer began a shift in strategy as missionaries began to explore and often experiment on new ways to distribute the Scriptures digitally.
Prior to 2016, tens of thousands of Bibles were distributed throughout China. However, this method was expensive and came at great physical risk. In 2016 we began “testing” digital Scripture distribution and saw thousand of Scriptures distributed and received in a matter of days.
Since then, more avenues of the distribution of digital Scriptures have been implemented and improved upon. The result has been that not just tens of thousands of Scriptures have been distributed, but hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Scriptures have made their way safely into the hands of Chinese Christ followers.
What are some of the “benefits” of having a “Digital Bible”…
- A digital Bible is always with you.
- A digital Bible is easy to travel with.
- A digital Bible offers multiple translations.
- A digital Bible offers multiple languages.
- A digital Bible offers tons of other disciple resources.
- A digital Bible lets you search.
- A digital Bible lets you take infinite notes.
- A digital Bible helps you find books quickly.
- A digital Bible makes it easy to share.
- A digital Bible makes social networking easy.
- A digital Bible makes reading plans easy.
- A digital Bible enables focus.
- A digital Bible lets you listen to the Bible, not just read it.
- A digital Bible can be read in bed, in the dark.
- A digital Bible is free.
An added benefit is that, unlike printed Bibles, “digital” Bibles can be easily, safely and cheaply copied. What this has meant for China prior to 2009, only one out of every seventy-two people had access to a Bible, a distribution work that took decades to accomplish. However, that figure is now at about one out of every twenty-five people having access to the Scriptures, and probably more, a work that has taken only about seven years to accomplish.
Not only has the use of digital technology aided in the ease of the spread of the word of God, but these same avenues have been tried and improved upon to help with people receiving the Bible. It is not that printed Bibles are not needed or used. They are. But it is our desire to see China saturated with access to the Word of God so that anyone that wants a copy can have it in “printed, audio, or digital form.”