CTBP Archive

These articles were cross-posted to Church Translating Bible Planters (ctbp.org).

“Missionaries Need Local Churches, Too.” /

A missions leader asked me where I was meaningfully involved in a church on the field. Only in the last year of service abroad could I answer that question, and it’s been a good year because of it.

Let’s spur each other on to participation and accountability in a local church. Here’s a timely article I pass on to you, “Missionaries Need Local Churches, Too”:

[M]issionary teams must hold to a biblically robust understanding of the local church. They must obey the biblical imperatives for Christians to be meaningfully involved in local churches — they aren’t exempt simply because of their roles as missionaries.

We — all believers, including missionaries — want to be “members of one another” and understand that we can only plant healthy churches when we submit to a church ourselves.

Read more at imb.org…

Close-up of Ancient Greek manuscript to the Colossians
“To the Colossians,” Codex Harleianus 5557 (12th century), public domain
Faith, Hope, Love: Basic to Disciple-making /

“Faith, hope, love” is a basic part of gospel teaching and disciple-making.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel… (Col. 1:3–5)

Consider the example of Colossians 1:3–8. The Colossian letter is quite generic. It was intended for a wide audience (see 4:16). The Apostle Paul hadn’t planted or visited the church in Colossae. He wasn’t addressing a person or an urgent problem, but was encouraging believers with a pattern of teaching similar to that in his letter to the Ephesians. What Paul emphasizes in Colossians can be seen as “majors” for our own general teaching and mission.

Immediately after the letter’s greetings, Paul brings attention to the Colossians’ faith, hope and love (verses 3 through 8 form one sentence in Greek). He also did this for the believers in Thessalonica (see 1 Thess. 1:3). The display of faith, hope and love in the lives of believers is what he and his disciple accompanying him, Timothy, were listening for in a report (“since we heard of…,” v. 4; “from the day we heard this,” v. 9). And it’s the basis of their thanks to God (v. 3).

The Colossian believers heard of “faith, hope, love” before, when the gospel came to them (v. 5, 7). “Faith in Christ Jesus,” “love for all the saints,” and “hope laid up in heaven” aren’t the gospel — Paul reminds them of the gospel next (vv. 15–23) — but they flow directly from it and are in his preaching of it. They’re marks of gospel understanding and growth in Christ.

Paul doesn’t introduce faith, hope, and love in the letter as advanced theological education. In fact, this teaching came earlier through Epaphras, which tells us that “faith, hope, love” is an apostolic pattern of teaching. Either it preceded Paul, Timothy and Epaphras and they were taught it, or a revelation proceeded from Paul to his companions and then to the Colossians. It’s meant to be passed on. Look for it in the apostles’ teaching.

Faith in Christ, hope in heaven and love for God’s people are basic to a disciple, and pursuing these in another person’s life is basic to disciple-making. In Colossians, Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to highlight faith, hope, and love first. He uses them in the letter as an outline for his teaching and a basis for his commands. Evidence of faith, hope and love is how Paul could know and celebrate that the gospel “is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world” (vv. 5–6)!

This Week’s Workshop for Translation Helpers /

We held a workshop this week for Bible translation helpers — five men from three of the language groups here. They told us about their efforts since we last met to start church-based Bible studies with their first drafts and grow the church. Then we carefully taught our topics of the week: “spiritual foundations” (the gospel and Christ-like growth) and “biblical survey,” (the history of the Book, its cultural context, and how it all points to Christ). We’re equipping men who must grow in their understanding of the gospel and ability to handle the Word. They leave to lead their own teams of translators and churches in hard places.

Two stories from the week…

We gave the Bible overview as background for meaningful New Testament translation (and one group is translating the Old Testament now). These brothers were walking through the Bible like in a fog and didn’t know that they were missing so much about Christ. We teachers can’t assume any knowledge. We didn’t think to point out that the Old Testament people of Israel were the same group as the New Testament Jews. When they realized this on our last day together, I imagine all the stories, pictures and allusions came back to mind and understanding dawned on them. They remarked then that they felt like they’d taken a tour to ancient Israel and back.

We also taught that becoming like Christ means that suffering, which was a part of his life, will also be a part of ours. We shared examples. One of these brothers, named “Truth,” told me his story. Truth started to believe in Christ as a high school student. His community was unhappy with his decision to leave their traditions and pressured his family to stop him. His parents forcibly kicked him out of the house. His father threw an axe at him. He fled with his clothes and books to the jungle and cried out to God. In his village he found other abandoned believers and lived with them for three years. He continued to study and pray for his family. His siblings now follow Christ. Truth went on to further studies at Bible college and has started work as a leader in his village’s church and a translator for his language community.

“Eckhard Schnabel: Why Study Acts?” /

Watch this video of New Testament Professor, Eckhard Schnabel, explain Acts. Pound the table in excitement like Glen did when he saw it. It affirms our approach to missions. Doesn’t it?

I found the video on Steve Addison’s church planting movements blog. He found it affirming too, I take it.

I’m not big on “church planting movements” teaching like Steve is. Actually, I try to emphasize the teaching as much (or as little) as the apostles did. Yet Steve Addison is devoted to the apostles’ teaching, too. I’m glad for that.

Church Collaboration in Translation This Week /

Translation helpers from 6 language groups came to a workshop here this week. The training focused on a method to involve churches in another part of the translation process. We’ve already experimented with church participation in a translation of Luke, a “crowd-sourced” rough draft. Drafts like this get heavily reviewed and revised but do wonders to promote community ownership and Scripture engagement.

It seems that when you work with translators from different backgrounds and multiple translation agencies, along with outside funders and demanding schedules, the local church gets overlooked.

This time around, we’re sending out the helpers to check their next drafts in the churches, in Bible study. The Bible study method follows common practices in the field: a prepared facilitator asking a fixed set of questions, and encouraging participation and obedience. The method has shortcomings, but it’s appropriate in this situation. This is an effort to test newly translated Scriptures in a way they’re meant to be used. It introduces change with less variables by using an existing method. Scripture testing goes beyond a linguistic check of comprehension to Scripture use and a pursuit of transformation in the community. Brilliant! Call that a win for both Bible translation and church planting.

Over the next month, the translation helpers will start multi-church collaboration teams to see movement of the Scriptures among the churches.

“The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses” by Chris Bruno /

The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses by Chris Bruno is a book about the Bible to help you see the forest and the trees.

It caught my attention because it’s cut from the same cloth as The Kingdom Story. Below is Bruno’s Bible summary and the individual verses he studies in the book. There’s a well-designed study guide and memory verse cards at the publisher’s site.

Cover of “The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses” by Chris Bruno
Cover of “The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses” by Chris Bruno

The Story

God created a kingdom, and he is the King, but he made human beings to represent him in that kingdom. Adam and Eve rejected this call, which led to sin and death. But God promised to defeat the Serpent through the seed of the woman, who is also the seed of Abraham. Through Abraham’s family, and specifically Judah’s royal seed, David, the covenant blessings would come to the world. Because all people were guilty and deserved death, the sacrifices of the Mosaic law revealed more clearly their need for a substitute — the suffering servant. Through the servant and the work of the Spirit, God would establish a new covenant and give lasting life to his people in the new heavens and new earth.

Jesus is the One through whom all of these promises find fulfillment, first in his sacrificial death as a necessary and just payment for sin and then in his victorious resurrection and reign as King. This great story will find its culmination when the redeemed from every tribe, tongue, and nation gather in the new creation to live with God forever.

The Verses

  1. Genesis 1:31
  2. Genesis 1:26–27
  3. Genesis 3:6–7
  4. Genesis 3:15
  5. Genesis 12:2–3
  6. Genesis 49:10
  7. Exodus 12:23
  8. 2 Samuel 7:12–13
  9. Isaiah 53:6
  10. Ezekiel 37:3–5
  11. Isaiah 65:17
  12. Mark 1:14–15
  13. John 19:30
  14. Romans 1:3–4
  15. Romans 3:21–26
  16. Revelation 21:1–4
Pratt, “Obedience-Based Discipleship” (Highlights) /

Highlights of Zane Pratt, “Obedience-Based Discipleship,” Global Missiology, Vol. 4, No. 12 (July 2015).

[O]bedience based discipleship stresses the importance of teaching people to obey the Bible, rather than simply teaching people Bible content.

There are two features about this emphasis on obedience as the basis of discipleship that need to be noted. First, they privilege the commands of Jesus over the rest of the New Testament. … However, it is not essential to the concept of obedience-based discipleship, and others who share this methodology do not share this prioritization of the actual words of Jesus over the writings of the apostles. Second, [George] Patterson and [Richard] Scroggins [an early example of obedience-based discipleship comes from their book, Church Multiplication Guide] stress obedience alongside and even above theological knowledge. … ¶ The foci are clear. Bible doctrine is “heavy,” and it can be dangerous. “Simple, loving, childlike obedience” is the goal of both discipleship and leadership training.

[I]t is one thing to say that biblical discipleship should issue in obedience, and another thing altogether to make obedience the basis of discipleship. It is also one thing to say that knowledge without obedience is dangerous, and another thing to set obedience above knowledge or at odds with it. This was certainly not the pattern of the apostles. ¶ The letters of the New Testament were part of the apostolic missionary method.

Three things may be observed from the apostolic letters of the New Testament. First, theological knowledge was given as the basis for practical obedience. It is particularly true in the letters of Paul that he often begins with an extended discourse on gospel theology, and then transitions with the word “therefore” into the practical sections of his letters. Clearly, the truth about God and his gospel is the essential foundation for Christian obedience. Paul does not simply issues orders to be obeyed. He explains the theological truth that motivates and enables obedience before he exhorts people to that obedience. This is a crucial difference between legalism and Christian discipleship. The biblical pattern puts knowing (the message of the gospel, and the larger biblical theology that stands behind it and around it) and being (being a new creation in Christ, in union with him and indwelt by his Holy Spirit) as the necessary foundations for doing, not as secondary or extraneous to it. ¶ Second, the apostolic letters of the New Testament present deep theology to ordinary Christians, many of whom were recent converts. … To regard the great theological themes of the Bible as unnecessary for new believers is to disregard what the Holy Spirit, through the apostles, thought essential for the new believers of the early church. ¶ Third, the vast majority of the obedience enjoined by the New Testament is altogether mundane in nature. There is actually very little about evangelism and church planting, and a great deal about ordinary life. … Based on who God is and what he has done for us in Christ, discipleship must lay the same emphases as the New Testament on godly living in every area of life.

So what should we think of obedience-based discipleship? First of all, biblical discipleship should most certainly teach and expect obedience. … However, obedience is not the basis for discipleship, nor does it stand alone as the main aspect of discipleship. The basis of discipleship is the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ… ¶ Biblical discipleship therefore involves knowing, being and doing in an inseparable union.

“God Wrote a Book”: Video and Resources from Desiring God /

God wrote a book! Be moved afresh by this miracle through the video and Bible reading resources at desiringgod.org/run.

From Don Richardson’s “Lords of the Earth” /

Don Richardson wrote in Lords of the Earth a popular-level biography of Stanley Dale. He was a remarkable missionary, who, with his wife, Pat, and their four children, served among the remote tribes of New Guinea in the mid-20th century.

Stanley considered Bible translation and church planting among the unreached worth every last effort. He believed, in Richardson’s words, the first was a “sacred obligation,” and the second, “the most meaningful wonder on earth.”

The experience of contemporary missionaries, as well as his own study of the history of the Christian church, convinced Stanley that translating the Scriptures into every man’s mother tongue was a sacred obligation.

In a sermon delivered in 1950, Stanley proclaimed, “Four hundred years ago, William Tyndale was strangled and burned for giving the English people their own Bible. But as a result of his labors, English plough-boys came to know the gospel better in some instances than bishops in their cloisters! Tyndale could lay down his life a happy man!

“And so today also hundreds of young men and women count it worth any sacrifice of time, money, or life itself to give God’s Word to all of earth’s tribes in their own languages… Restless millions await the Word that makes all things new.” …

With Pat by his side, he would put both his faith in God and his theories of missionary practice to the test against who knows what odds. With every last sinew, he must struggle against those odds until the most meaningful wonder on earth, a New Testament church, shone forth in the most unlikely setting on earth, the stone-age hell of interior Dutch New Guinea!

— Don Richardson, “Chapter 8: The Unforgiving Minute,” Lords of the Earth.

We Can’t Without It /

If we were given the Word so “that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work,” then we can’t teach disciples from all nations to observe all that Jesus has commanded without it (2 Tim 3:16–17, Matt 28:20).

Jonathan, “Your Calling Is to Proclaim the Word,” (May 19, 2015)