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Mindy Belz, “The church that birthed America: Learning from Pilgrims’ global evangelization,” World Magazine (Nov 25, 2017)

Looks like a great list of book recommendations from pastors for pastors. However, the task of the pastor is not the same as that of the church planter. Pastors need to recognize the apostolic gift of the planter or missionary because church planters need pastors. A good pastor equips church planters and missionaries even when they are not called to pastor churches. So what are some more book recommendations from gifted pastors for the church planting and missionary task?

Matt Smethurst, “TGC Asks: 3 Books Every Church Planter Should Read,” The Gospel Coalition (Mar 8, 2016)

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.

Christian Movements in China: Growth and Pain /

Two posts on the growth of Christianity in China arrived at the same time. One recommended a new book that documents the meteoric rise of the number of Chinese Christians. The second tempers the reports of growth in China with stories that showed a lack of gospel impact among Christians. Both were hopeful, thank God. The two angles reflect the different ways people measure God’s work.

Friends who have worked in China have echoed these kinds of reports. Some hold up the work in China as a model for movements and excuse the mess. Others raise doubts about the health of the movements and point to the theological and leadership vacuum.

From the description of A Star in the East: The Rise of Christianity in China by Rodney Stark and Xiuhua Wang, recommended by Steve Addison:

Christianity is alive, well, and even on the rise… A Star in the East draws on two major national surveys to sketch a close-up of religion in China. A reliable estimate is that by 2007 there were approximately 60 million Christians in China. If the current rate of growth were to hold until 2030, there would be more Christians in China — about 295 million — than in any other nation on earth. This has significant implications, not just for China but for the greater world order.

And from June Cheng, “Growing pains, great gains,” World, May 30, 2015:

“You will see spiritually hungry people in China, but you always have to ask the question: Do you see really rooted Christians?” Su asked. “The gospel doesn’t just come as an impact … but it must transform your mind, it must change your thinking, change your perspective. … And you realize that it is very weak over here.”

God continues to bring explosive growth to Chinese churches, but He doesn’t wave a magic wand so that growth is without problems.

“Bible Translation” and “Church Planting” /

Search the web for “Bible translation” and “church planting” together. If you are looking for articles of thoughtful interaction, you’ll be disappointed. But you will find this article from 2012: “Bible translation vs. Church planting.”

The author concludes well:

The goal of missions is not Bible translation, but the goal of missions cannot be obtained without Bible translation.

Read the article at

Etching of an elephant shrew with a small proboscis
Peter Mazell, 1793, courtesy of Wellcome Images.
Mascot Mash-up /

Church Planting Bible Translators needs a mascot! One of us once suggested a mash-up of two animals for a logo. But isn’t this the question we’ve been asking: why stitch together two beasts when one beautiful creature will do? Here are seven curious, warm-blooded contenders:

  • There’s the zebra-giraffe, native to the rainforests of Central Africa: the Okapi.
  • Of course, the duck-beaver, the egg-laying, venomous-spurred, electro-sensing icon of Australia: the Platypus.
  • The bear-cat, hailing from South and Southeast Asia and already mascot of several U.S. universities: the Binturong.
  • The elephant-pig, which, according to oriental folklore, eats people’s nightmares: the Tapir.
  • The goat-antelope, national animal of Bhutan and what one biologist likened to a “bee-stung moose”: the Takin.
  • And the snake-anteater, which rolls up its scaly self and withstands lion attacks: the Pangolin.

But perhaps the one that suits CTBP best is the Sengi. This shrew-like mammal has the trunk of an elephant and the bound of a rabbit.

Photo: Joey Makalintal
Photo: Joey Makalintal

The sengi may be the closest thing to what one church planter suggested in jest: an elephabbit (my family preferred the name “rabbiphant” when surveyed over dinner), with rapid reproduction, low maintenance and massive strength.

The reproductive behavior of elephants and rabbits are compared in an analogy used by CPM practitioners: Put two elephants in a room together and in three years you may have one baby elephant; put two rabbits together in a room for the same amount of time… (Small Is Big!: Unleashing the Big Impact of Intentionally Small Churches). The idea is that large, complex things are difficult to reproduce. But this analogy may misconstrue the point of biblical church planting, as BHM wrote at CTBP. Besides, to make such a creature out of elephants and rabbits would be an indignity to both (not to mention the breeder).

Ironically, sengis are classified with elephants, not with shrews and rabbits. But that’s stretching the metaphor far enough.

Bible Translation Movements: Getting the Job Done Faster? /

Below is an article on “Bible Translation Movements” found at The big idea is that motivation and resources for Bible translation should come from out of a movement of people to Christ. The article can be freely copied. I reproduced the text here because the original page was in PDF format.

Can Bible Translation Movements Get the Job Done Faster?

Copyright © 2008 by Jay Pratt
May be freely copied, translated, posted and distributed.

This article by a long-time mentee of mine deals with a fascinating and little-discussed factor in Church Planting Movement (CPMs), the role of local adaptations of the Bible. As a CP mentor-trainer, you may have to advise those whom you [mentor] on this topic. — George Patterson

The term Bible Translation Movement (BTM) was first described to me by a colleague in a nearby country, where the largest turning of Muslims to Christ in history is happening. What can we learn from what the Lord is doing there? BTMs and CPMs both see rapid multiplication of God’s Word in various languages. Thus, rapid refers not only to numbers of new translations and churches but to rapid obedience to the King. A BTM happens when new churches start to multiply in an unreached people group and new believers and leaders start to translate God’s Word into their own language. Such new believers will also, normally, prove motivated to help translate God’s Word into neighboring languages, which are culturally similar to their own. BTMs are not currently a missiological fad or dream, but they are happening, often in the second generation of new churches.

While Bible translators should normally have proper theological training, the mentoring relationship that I have with my apprentices remains their only theological education, yet they are leading more of their Buddhist friends and family members to Christ than the salaried, professional church planters working in the same area. These Buddhist-background believers’ BTM started spontaneously as churches were multiplying among receptive people who saw the need for a relevant translation in their own tongue.

Twenty-five years ago, Dr. Viggo Olsen of the Association of Baptist for World Evangelization and his colleagues undertook to retranslate the entire Bible into a Muslim majority dialect. This proved a groundbreaking work of contextualization that helped stimulate an unprecedented CPM in that country. The standard Bible translation had been made in the minority Hindu dialect a century earlier. Today, at least a quarter of a million Muslim-background believers have been baptized across several CPMs where Dr. Olsen’s translation is used. This movement has spilled over the border to every adjacent country. Praise be to the Most High God! Jesus is fulfilling His Mission, sometimes allowing us foreigners to be a part of it.

Most animistic, tribal and illiterate people groups now have Christian churches. The days of a missionary couple venturing into an isolated area to start churches, and spending twenty-five years to translate God’s Word into the local language might be at an end. Most of the remaining, unreached people groups live within reach of national or trade language learning centers.

Something similar to that BTM is happening in Buddhist background CPM that I work with. The new church leaders in this unreached people group did not regard the traditional-language Bible translation as relevant to the Buddhist masses that avoid the minority, predominately tribal churches that are scattered in every corner of our country. Not long after I arrived in the area, a handful of believers from a Buddhist minority people group came to find me. We began to translate gospel tracts and multimedia materials into their language. However, there was no Bible translation with which to disciple new believers among them. So, we told Bible stories and had leaders learn those stories in their local language, but they said this was not enough.

Some “orality” experts writing today have little or no experience with Church Planting Movements. Most of their experience and materials have been written in the contexts of animistic, tribal peoples. They have their own views on Bible “storying” and avoid producing practical, hands-on tools that relate to making disciples of leaders. Some orality specialists teach about the “scarlet tread,” the sacrificial atonement theme in the Bible. My Buddhist friends would say, “You serve a blood thirsty God who demands so much blood!”

The new believers I work with wanted the Word of God written in a language that speaks to the very soul of their Buddhist communities. The main apostle of this movement laughed out load as he and I read the words of Martin Luther, “I do not want a Bible in German. My people need a German Bible.” When I asked him why he laughed, he pointed to a contemporary language version lying on his table. “That is not a Bible in our national majority language, for it is not of our culture. It was not translated by our people but by a foreigner.” I thank God for the traditional scripture translations that He has used to bring many into the Kingdom, and that have helped westernized, tribal churches to communicate and theologize between themselves. The existing translations will never lose their predominance in the established church. However, if churches are to reach both majority and minority Buddhist peoples, they must use other versions and adaptations, as well.

I thought that we had planned for a successful CPM by translating the eminent Train and Multiply leadership training course and Activity Guide written by George Patterson. However, the Buddhist background leaders turn up their noses at the existing Bible translation that these excellent materials were based on. Many of the exercises in those materials that we translated read, for example, “Find in Acts 10, whom Peter brought with him to start the first Roman church.” Well, they could not “find” anything, because they did not have Bibles, and my apprentices would not distribute the Bible in the majority language.

Currently, these new church leaders from a minority people group have formed their own translation committee and are translating from the United Bible Society’s Contemporary English Version into the majority language. They have completed the synoptic gospels and Acts as of first importance for them. New believers and seekers prefer Matthew’s Gospel, after asking for evaluations from their Buddhist family and highly-educated monk friends. In contrast, most international Bible consultant organizations have agreements with the national Bible Society that they will not work on newer translation of the existing Bible.

The minority translators follow Jesus’ example in adapting key terms. For example, Jesus redefined the traditional Jewish terms kingdom (basileia) and God (Theos). Jesus also added meaning to traditional terms. For example, He called Theos “Abba” (Father). Calling the Old Testament God “Father” imported a scandalous new meaning into the Jewish community, which it still has in Muslim cultures. He redefined old key terms by pouring new meaning into words like “Kingdom” through his parables and similes (“The Kingdom of Heaven is like…”).

Many Bible translation consultant groups will not work closely with church planters, for they have written agreements with national traditional churches that they will only work on languages where those churches focus, and will not tamper with traditional key terms and phrases. Over the past five years of watching a minority-people CPM, I meditate daily George Patterson’s words, “Just trust the Holy Spirit in the hearts of obedient believers… Trust the Holy Spirit!” “Help seekers and new believers to obey all of Jesus commands in love.”


Homes Have Languages /

Many minority languages are endangered. When are they a strategic priority?

Photo by Steve Evans
Photo by Steve Evans

We’ve been learning the trade language, or lingua franca, of the eastern Himalayas. Learning the trade language is important not only for getting around and shopping in the market but also for catalyzing work across the area. We interact with speakers of minority languages through a language of wider communication (LWC) just as they do whenever they are away from their community. We can work widely in a trade language but not always deeply. We’re trying to communicate spiritual things to a person’s heart through language meant for business.

“Heart language” is an expression to describe the language that matters most to a person. It’s a useful refrain of Bible translation. But for our purposes it might better be called “home language.” Sociolinguists observe that this one factor more than any other is what makes a language vital: that it’s spoken at home, by parents to children. It is, in fact, a mother tongue.

Consider also that our church planting work centers around the home. From “person of peace” (see Luke 10) to house churches, we look for homes that welcome God’s message and messengers. Many missionaries use the Greek word for ‘household,’ oikos, to emphasize the significance of these homes in the biblical accounts and in their strategies.

We train the members of this kind of home to spread the good news across its network of relationships. We look for opportunities to get the message into the language of the home, even if we ourselves don’t speak it. Every community already has communication paths and patterns to bring outside news in.

It may not be strategic for outsiders to learn minority languages (though it shouldn’t be beneath us). It’s not even a possible task for one person or team — there are at least thirty spoken in our vicinity. But it is a priority to make room in our strategies for the good news to get from trade languages into “home languages.” For both Bible translation and church planting, the home is at the heart of our concern.