Alasdair Wallace – Bible Advocacy Campaign Manager, Scottish Bible Society
I can sometimes forget that when I’m reading the Bible: what I’m looking at is a translation.
And not just a translation into English from the original languages of Hebrew and Greek, but a translation from the way it was originally communicated. The historical stories of God’s people in the Old Testament, the songs in the Psalms and wisdom in the parables, are all written and recorded accounts of what would originally have been passed on to one another through storytelling and singing. The Gospel accounts and the Epistles were letters written to people and churches with the intention of them being read aloud in Christian communities to encourage, challenge, and spur on God’s early church as his Word spread out to the ends of the earth.
Of course, before language was written down, it was normal for cultures to pass down their history, identity, worldview, and religion through story. These stories were passed from one generation to another, teaching each new generation who they were and where they came from, and informing their understanding of what it means to be human and how to have a relationship with God. Our Bible is a written history of what began as an oral tradition thousands of years ago.
And while we thank God for preserving his message for us in Scripture, the words in the Bible are meant to be spoken.
What happens when we read the Bible aloud
When the Bible is spoken aloud, we are reminded that God is at work in our world.
In Isaiah 55, God tells his people:
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.(verses 10-11 NIV)
Today, when we reclaim the oral tradition of the past by speaking the words of the Bible out loud, the truths within Scripture come into the present, promises are spoken, and blessings received. When God’s Word is out in the open, it will not return to him empty—God is still using his powerful, transformative Word to bring the world back to himself. And we can be part of that. We just need to speak.
The oral tradition on a smartphone
So, in 2020 Scottish Bible Society is creating a new way to re-engage with that oral tradition. We want individuals in their daily lives to speak God’s Word aloud, every day. Whatever our age or circumstance, wherever we live, work, or play, we want the Bible to be spoken aloud to bless communities and see God’s powerful Word accomplished. Just imagine what God will do in our lives as we begin to speak his Word aloud every day—reshaping the way we see the world around us, and equipping us with the words to deal with every situation.
On January 1, we are launching Bible 2020—a year-long campaign encouraging us to speak the words of the Bible aloud across every country and nation, covering God’s earth with the Gospel and uniting the global church in upholding a centuries-old tradition.
And we’re reviving this thousands-year-old tradition with an app. Bringing together the history of oral Bible tradition and the global reach of modern technology, Scottish Bible Society has developed the Bible2020 App. Here’s how it works: the app provides you with 366 days of short inspirational Bible verses. Using the app, you film yourself reading these verses aloud. Consider downloading the app and inviting your community—whether you live in Scotland, the U.S., or anywhere else—to join in so that together, thousands of communities of people reading Scripture can cover the globe with God’s Word through the year.
Through the app, users are able to read the passage of the day at any point during their day. Using a selfie cam, they can film themselves reading the verse in one of the 1,500 language versions and translations available. Then, they upload the short video to a global video wall. As they do, they will be joining thousands of participants across the world who are reading aloud the same verse each day in multiple languages.
Just imagine seeing a picture of the nationalities and cultures of the worldwide church united in a common purpose and vision, reading aloud the same passage in the same 24-hour period throughout the year, blessing their communities and individuals, and together covering the world with God’s Word. The Bible 2020 App will give a daily snapshot of the life of the global church.
What’s at stake?
The vision for Bible 2020 began in Scotland, a country once known as “the land of the book,” a phrase recognizing the strong Christian traditions and Bible heritage of our forefathers. More recently, the church in Scotland (and in many other countries) has seen major decline. Belief in the truth of the Bible is being slowly eroded, worn away by the prevailing ‘religion’ of our culture, secular humanism.
If we are to believe the media narrative, Scotland is not interested in the Bible. At Scottish Bible Society we recognize that these are troubling and challenging times for the church, and many have lost confidence that the church knows how to reach our society. Just 4% of U.K. millennials have regularly gone to church as teens, and only 1% have regularly gone to church as adults. Yet 20% read the Bible at least once a week. And similar statistics reflect a general decline in Scripture engagement and church attendance in the U.S., as well. No matter the country, we will only reach this generation with the gospel by moving the Word of God from our pulpits and churches into our streets, our homes, and our workplaces, and speaking it aloud.
It is our prayer that through this simple, intuitive app the barriers to Bible reading will be broken down, and an interest in Bible reading will be reignited not only in the church, but also among a generation of men and women looking for purpose, direction, and, ultimately, a Savior.
To date, 70 fellow Bible Societies, covering around 80% of the global population, will be involved with Bible 2020, and will encourage their churches to download the app and read across the world. The app will offer over 1,500 language versions and translations of the Bible, as well as facilitate social sharing on sites like Facebook and Instagram.
We don’t know how God is going to use Bible 2020 and where it might take us. But we know that there is a hunger for the Bible, a need for the church to re-engage with the Bible, and an opportunity to speak the Bible together across the earth. And we know that it is God who has sent his Word, and that he will do what he wants with it. We pray that through this app we will begin to hear stories of how God is using his Word in powerful ways in people’s lives in countries around the world.
Join us on this journey of speaking the Bible throughout 2020. We’d love to hear how you are using God’s Word to bless your community, and how God’s Word is reaching the people in your life—believer and non-believer alike.
The app is available now in the Apple App store and Google Play store. The reading plan will also be available to follow as a YouVersion reading plan. An offline version of the reading plan will also be available at bible2020.org
(1) Digital Millennials and the Bible, Barna Group for British and Foreign Bible Society, 2018
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