"Much effort and funding is invested every year by many organizations to provide vernacular Scriptures to minority peoples. Are these Scriptures being used? What factors affect their use? We have anecdotes and rumors, but very little real research.
"Over the past few years, a small research team has been developing a questionnaire instrument that can be used widely to gather data on how frequently audiences are exposed to the Scriptures designed for them. The instrument also explores whether the necessary pre-conditions for use of vernacular Scriptures are present: Are people even aware the Scripture products exist? Can they get a copy or listen to it? For print products, are they able to read in the vernacular? Scripture isn’t really available to people if these conditions are not met. The instrument has been tested in Eurasia, Cameroon, and Togo. This paper provides findings from the Togo research."
"In Australia, frequent Bible reading is the practice of a small group (between 3% and 5%) of young people. This is predominantly a sub-group of those who are involved in Evangelical and Pentecostal churches and youth groups, and those who come from families which encourage the practice."
This 53-page report by the Christian Research Association in Australia presents an in depth survey of Bible engagement among 13-24 year olds. It includes statistics on regular Bible reading, attitudes of young people to the content of the Bible, barriers to Bible engagement, major influences on young people, as well as proposing the following recommendations:
- Focus on building youth groups and Bible study groups
- Develop materials for occasional readers and the curious
- Work with families in encouraging Bible engagement
- Explore relevant forms of communication and community for encouraging Bible engagement
After participants had been told of the processes of Bible translation during a prayer partners meeting of Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation (GILLBT), one of them asked, "After the people have been given the Scriptures, what happens?"
This study has been an attempt to supply answers to such questions. It attempts to ascertain the impact that the Bible translation strategy (BTS) of GILLBT has had on the Dega people of Ghana, especially their socio-cultural and spiritual lives. The study uses Darrell Whiteman's conceptual framework of Integral Human Development to analyse how the Bible translation strategy has contributed to their human development. The BTS comprises linguistic and anthropological research, Bible translation, literacy and development and Scripture-In-Use. [more...]
The Canadian Bible Engagement Study, published on 1 May 2014, found that "about one in seven Canadians, or 14%, read the Bible at least once a week. The majority of Canadians, including those who identify themselves as Christians, read the Bible either seldom or never".
Since 1996, weekly Bible reading has declined by nearly half. People's confidence in the Bible as the Word of God has also decreased signficantly along with declining church attendance. Almost two-thirds of Canadians (64%) and six in ten of those who identified themselves as Christians agree that the scriptures of all major religions teach essentially the same things.
The survey showed that Canadians who are engaging most with the Scriptures have three behaviours in common: community (they are involved in a worshipping community), conversation (they discuss and explore the Bible with their friends) and confidence (they are confident it is the way to know God and hear from him).
View the video, download the executive summary and full report from the Canadian Bible Engagement Study website.
The study concludes with the message that "if churches are to strengthen the Bible engagement of their congregants, they themselves need to be convinced of the reliability, relevance, trustworthiness and divine origin of the Bible".
Fuller Graduate Schools, School of Intercultural Studies Doctor of Intercultural Studies dissertation (2012)
This dissertation explores the missiological opportunities, challenges and implications of growing multilingualism among people who are fluent in two or more languages. I look at the cognitive value of language and how languages shape people’s world views. World views influence peoples’ perceptions and way of processing and understand information. People’s beliefs are reflected in their character and relationships in the community. Christians want to promote positive community relations in order for people to participate in the mission of God within their community.
I survey relevant literature on the role of language and its value, how language fits the plan of God, and its place in His mission to different peoples. I then survey current trends of language use and growing multilingualism, and the language practices within Kenya. I therefore focus on research factors behind language choice and use.
Methodologically, I use focus groups, participant observation, and personal interviews in four different socio-linguistic contexts in four different Christian denominations. I thematically analyse and code the data to establish my findings. The findings point to the factors that influence language choice.
Factors that determine choice of language go beyond the level of fluency in reading, speaking or understanding. These factors involve attitudes that go very deep in both positive and negative ways. Additionally, people’s language choices are influenced by other social factors. The factors include desire to communicate, social cultural pressure, economic advancement, political correctness, reading materials availability, leadership perception on language, institutional policy, religious values and proficiency in any given language. These factors were consistently displayed in all four research locations enabling me to demonstrate reliability of the data and validity of the findings.
Understanding how these factors influence people will assist Christians who desire to become good witnesses. To be witnesses, people need to be empowered. For purpose of language choice, all languages should be viewed as being appropriate for ministry. Language is a platform for effective participant contextualisation among the people of God. Through their actions and pronouncements people are able to utilize the multilingual environment of Kenya to better engage in mission and spread God’s Word.
-- for more information about this dissertation, please contact the author at john_ommanisil [dot] org [more...]
Here's an evaluation of the 2011 Biblefresh year in the UK, a nationwide campaign encouraging people to engage with the Bible:
"Biblefresh was a major initiative involving 120 partner organisations, a significant level of resources was invested in it, and its aims were ambitious. Therefore, it was deemed essential that there was a rigorously evaluated. The evaluation was conducted by Theos Think Tank and highly commends the initiative. Biblefresh successfully enabled a wide range of churches, agencies, organisations and colleges to focus on the Bible. Individuals felt that Biblefresh increased their enthusiasm for, and confidence in, the Bible. The report also highlights lessons that can be learnt for the future and reminds us that when it comes to engaging people with the Bible, there is still a lot more work to be done." (EA, 2012)
MA dissertation: All Nations, UK (2013)
The coming of the New Testament in 2006 heralded a new era of Scripture engagement for the Minyanka people of Mali. This paper evaluates the factors that have facilitated and hindered the process of interacting with God’s Word. It includes an examination of the role of Bible understanding, literacy and methods of oral communication as well as the relationship between the Bible agency and the local churches.
The research takes an exploratory approach in which a review of existing literature and initial interviews helped to formulate a research questionnaire which was carried out in Minyanka churches. The results of the survey became the subject of discussion in follow-up interviews with Malian Bible translators, pastors and expatriate colleagues in order to interpret the data. This was combined with documentary research into Scripture engagement in the history of the Minyanka church and in reports of recent activities.
The testimonies of change and transformation demonstrate that the translated Scriptures are making a difference. Scripture engagement is taking place as people read their New Testaments, listen to the audio Scriptures and tune into Minyanka radio programmes.
But this paper also shows that there is no room for complacency. There is an urgent call for basic Bible teaching and ongoing literacy classes. Pastors have an especially important role to play and need to be given encouragement, time, resources and training to more effectively facilitate Scripture engagement. Their choice of communication methods and their availability to answer questions from the Bible has a considerable influence on the way people interact with the Scriptures.
Spiritual transformation is a desired outcome of Scripture engagement, but it is not necessarily immediate and certainly not automatic. As Bible agencies have learnt in the West, it is possible to have access to Scripture and some of the best resources and programmes, but fail to be changed by God’s Word. In this sense, Minyanka Christians are no different from Christians anywhere else in the world, facing the challenge of making Scripture engagement a priority amid the many distractions in life.
The Millennial generation of young people are known as "digital natives". According to recent research carried out by the Barna Group in the USA:
"the most common way Millennials are blending their faith and technology is through digital reading of Scripture. It’s an escalating trend, considering there are just as many YouVersion (the free Bible phone app) downloads as there are Instagram downloads. And BibleGateway.com has become one of the top Christian websites today."
The research found that:
"Seven out of 10 of practicing Christian Millennials (70%) read Scripture on a screen. One-third of all Millennials says they read sacred Scripture on a phone or online, demonstrating how broadly the digital trends are shaping this generation."
In addition, 38% of practicing Christian Millennials said they search the Internet to verify something a faith leader has said. This might be during a sermon, as many bring their smartphones or tablets to church with them. [more...]
This study was undertaken by a small team of Africans and Canadians to measure the impacts of translated Scriptures, literacy and Scripture engagement programs on marginalized minority language communities, to discern whether certain hypotheses are true and to better understand which program practices yielded the post positive impacts.
Here are the five hypotheses which were tested:
- The most effective projects in transforming people groups are led and implemented by nationals.
- The most effective projects in transforming people groups had strong literacy programs to ensure mother-tongue literacy of a substantial part of the population.
- Effective literacy programs bring positive community transformation in the areas of social, economic and spiritual realms.
- Good access to and use of the mother-tongue Scriptures will foster qualitative and quantitative church growth.
- Nationals led the most transformational (effective) and fastest (efficient) programs in transforming communities.
Nine language communities in Burkina Faso and nine in Cameroon were selected, each of which had either a concluded or an ongoing Bible translation and literacy project.
The report, published in 2014, concludes that translation of the Scriptures is not enough, but by working hand-in-hand with functional, transitional and basic literacy, lasting impacts are achieved. [more...]
"Bible Translation organizations for too long operated under the false assumption that if the Bible was translated, people would be changed by its message. This theory, while rightly acknowledging the power of the Holy Spirit, neglected a full understanding of other factors leading to life transformation. Personally, I am not only interested in people having access to God’s Word in the language of their heart but I am more interested in them applying it in their lives for the long term and having a flourishing relationship with God. I believe that in order for that to be fully realized, the local churches or language community must not view the language development program as belonging to the expatriate or sources outside the community."
This article reports on a study looking at the relationship between local ownership and sustainable use of Scripture to determine if more local ownership of a language development program leads to more sustainable use of Scripture. Other issues were also studied in order to more fully understand their relationship with ongoing Scripture use. In the end, it was discovered that indigenous language learning by expatriate language development program workers, capacity building for indigenous language development workers and the length of time since the completion of a language development program were important indicators of sustainable Scripture use. [more...]