While it is tempting to get depressed about the decline of the North American church in recent years, we have to remember that God is still in control. His kingdom will thrive. So while we wait for revival here, we can be encouraged by vibrant church communities in South America and parts of Africa. Here are 5 reasons why we live in the greatest age for Bible distribution that the world has ever seen:
Photo Credit: Stephen Cuyos on Flickr
Craig Groeschel's church, lifechurch, decided 5 years ago to put out a free Bible app. Has there been any interest? Well, recently the YouVersion app passed the 100 million downloads mark and that number grows larger every day.
The app comes equipped not only with a wide range of English translations but also Bibles in an expanding list of other languages, Bible reading plans, and study tools (such as expert commentaries). Plus, there are ways to bookmark, highlight, and share verses with your friends.
I have no doubt these kinds of apps are getting the Word of God in front of individuals who would otherwise never step into a church or open a traditional Bible. After all, it only takes a whim of curiosity and a couple clicks of phone keys to access this great resource. We should praise God for the ways new technologies bring Him glory.
In the United States we struggle with our infrastructure because we have to deconstruct, replace, and upgrade some old and broken systems. Whether it's the Internet or travel methods, we're stuck with what was once innovative. Third world countries don't have that same problem; they start with a clean slate.
No wonder we are seeing poor, hungry villagers with more advanced phones than we have! No wonder there are struggling countries who now do most of their commerce in phone-to-phone digital transactions. What this means is that the needy of the world are suddenly thrust into a new position of opportunity.
Consider this: there are individuals in this world who could more easily access a digital Bible than a physical copy. Isn't that crazy? If a digital Bible is offered at no charge, it makes sense that more people would read it.
When I was in my Senior year of college (less than a decade ago), we dreamed of the day that software could accurately record someone's spoken voice. Most of my peers in linguistics (the study of languages) thought there would be great job security in working on these software programs the rest of their lives.
Well, technology has increased at a rapid pace. Now we have algorithms that write books, software that decodes languages, and finely-tuned programs for recording and reading language.
My recent distraction has been a site called LiveMocha where users are rewarded points for grading assignments in their native language. With those points a user can then purchase lessons in another language, which native speakers of that language will grade. So I'm teaching English to help me learn German, and vice-versa. Pretty cool, huh?
All of these advances in linguistics help us to bridge cultures and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Postmodernism has spiraled our nation into a deep skepticism of metanarratives. Okay, whatever, that's fine. So young people are less likely to become members of institutions [or any source that claims to be a bastion of timeless truth] and more likely to become participants in causes. It's about meaning, not truth.
Fortunately, along with that shift has come a renewed passion for making a difference in the world (praise God we're not all like Gen-X!). Instead of lamenting paradigm shifts, we should pray that young people rediscover God. And if we're to be honest, that's how it's been since the dawn of time; every generation needs to discover Christ for themselves.
God sees the whole picture and He promises that His church will not falter. Which means God will continue to reach people, transform lives, to demonstrate mercy and justice.
If the institution of church gets too off-track, He may send a monastic order to revitalize passion for the truth. If we decide to stay well within our comfort zone, God may choose to reach our neighbors and friends with different methods.
There's no stopping it; God loves people too much, He is going to keep extending His offer of salvation to everyone who seeks Him. So that's why this age is the greatest age for Bible distribution. And I'm guessing the next age will be even better. Can't wait.