"I perceived how that it was impossible to establish the lay people in any truth except the Scripture were plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue." – William Tyndale
What do all these books have in common?
Answer: they’re all words God speaks to people about the good news of Jesus. They’re all Bibles!
We’re ordering in a selection of Bibles in languages other than English for each of our campuses; Bibles in Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Hindi, Spanish and Farsi. After they all arrive, these Bibles will be on display at our campuses, and with them an offer to anyone who’s first language isn’t English, that we can find for them a Bible in their language.
Why? Simply because we want people from every nation and language to know the good news of Jesus, and we want people from every nation and language to know they’re welcome to follow Jesus and grow in him as part of our church family.
And because a really fundamental way to let people know that is through God’s Word in their heart language.
Your heart language is your first language, the language you learnt growing up. It’s the language of your heart, the language that not only you think in, but that you feel in, through which you express your very self. It’s the language that speaks from and to a person’s soul.
Currently I’m attempting to learn a second language, German. I’m a bit inconsistent, it’s fun but also slow. I’m enjoying it and find lots that’s interesting but I have a fundamentally different relationship to German than I have to my heart language, English. You see, when I learn a second language I might start to grasp the vocabulary and the grammar but apart from the practical difficulty in understanding the more complex the language gets, I also only understand the language as someone looking from the outside in. I’m engaged in a mental process of translation that puts an intellectual distance between the words and my heart. It’s the same with the Bible. When I began studying Hebrew and Greek at Bible College I devised a plan to keep my skills in those languages up by doing my daily Bible reading in the original languages – for the rest of my life. Silly Bible College student. I lasted a couple of days. But it’s a really good thing that I wasn’t good enough at the original languages to do that. Had I, my Bible reading would’ve turned into a coldly intellectual translation exercise that would’ve been toxic to my soul.
That’s why translating the Bible into new languages has been a priority for Christians from the beginning, and why William Tyndale devoted his life to and ultimately was burned at the stake for translating it into English.
It’s such privilege for us to have God’s Word translated into English. We can hear God speak to us in words that touch our very inner selves. It’s very difficult, however, to remember that privilege. Today when we walk into churches, English Bibles are piled on tables at the door. They’re ordered in bulk for cheap. You can choose your personal favourite translation between a range of options on hand. Need a new one? Just pop down to your local Christian bookstore. For some of us they gather dust on our shelves, unread.
What about someone who comes to our church whose heart language isn’t English? Someone who has not yet accepted the gospel? Someone open to finding out about God? What does it say to them that the words of this God are available at our church but only in English? For many it will send a subconscious message that our God is first and foremost a God for the English speakers and that they first need to become skilled at English before they can hear him speak – and even then, they’ll only hear him as someone on the outside listening in. And even for those who already know God and have access to a Bible in their language, what will it say about us as a church? That though God might welcome them in, to us they will always stand somehow on the edge, on the outside, looking in.
How do we communicate that people who speak other languages first aren’t them, but part of us? That God speaks to their hearts as well? It’s impossible to have piles of Bibles in every language! This small selection of Bibles on display, with an offer to find whatever translation someone needs, is a step towards making clear to all people that God is their God too and we want to help them connect to him through the gospel of Jesus.