The message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect. —Acts 19:20, NLT
God’s Word changes lives. We need to get the Word out as rapidly as possible, through as many channels as are available. But which channels we choose can make a big difference. Today’s post is part 2 of What Happens When a Crowd Translates the Bible? published on December 15, 2011.
Artificial Distribution is Slow and Risky
In recent times, the primary focus of Scripture distribution has been on Scripture book sales, radio broadcasts and audio recordings — I call these channels artificial distribution. And while they have merit through today’s progress and technology, they’re artificial in the sense that they don’t happen naturally. They’re dependent upon people’s efforts of hard work, organization and promotion.
And as we’ve seen so often, when the individuals don’t work … not much happens. The spreading of the Gospel slows down tremendously. When the Word doesn’t flow out “naturally,” impact is minimal bringing life transformation to a stall.
Natural Distribution Accelerates Spreading
Recently, we gained valuable insight about natural distribution channels through a crowdsourcing pilot project in South Asia. If we consider every individual in the community as a part of the distribution channel, imagine how quickly and unpredictably the translation could spread. But how can we expect to enlist every person? And why would non-believers even want to help?
Consider this: Over the six-month course of the CrowdSeed pilot project, 1,325 participants registered for access to the CrowdSeed website. These early adopters had an immediate interest in helping translate the Gospel of Luke into their own language. However, behind each individual was an extended network — friends, neighbors and relatives — who also participated in ways we didn’t understand.
In other words, each registered user represented not one person, but a social network! People from every walk of life opted in to participate, as the word spread. Some had purpose; others were simply curious. Men came, women came, youth came — each bringing to the table their own “social network.”
Women worked side-by-side with men; different denominations participated together; adults helped the youth with questions. Unlikely bonds were formed as natural distribution of God’s Word saturated the community.
Three Ways Crowdsourcing Can Accelerate Scripture Distribution
Does the success of natural distribution suggest that artificial distribution methods are unnecessary? Of course not. However, crowdsourcing Bible translation gave us insight and understanding into the difference between the two methods, and how to best utilize both to our advantage. Here is what we learned:
- Decentralization allowed far more people, coming from unique social networks, to participate more freely.
- Technology made it possible, even in this isolated and less-than-wired location.
- Collaborative circles naturally encouraged more people from all sectors of their society to spread the news about the process, while also sharing the Scripture text they were working on.
Pastors reported church growth as a result of the project. Many participants, including those from another major world religion of the area, joined churches because their language was being used in the church.
Word spread through all these natural channels faster than we had imagined — and began making life impact. The optimal potential to transform lives through Scripture can be achieved as God’s Word spreads across a people group, reaching the powerful, the weak and the marginalized through every means, every “channel” available — joining both methods!
When Jesus departed, He told His disciples to spread the Word. They obeyed. They began spreading His teachings orally and through the letters (Epistles) they composed. They preached in synagogues. The Apostle Paul spread the Word over land and sea. They used every method available in their day.
How are you spreading the Word in these, our days? Social media and technology are two modern-day tools we use to help spread the Word “naturally” through many sectors of our own society. Are you seeing impact from that spreading? If you are, please tell us about it. We would love to hear how you’re spreading the Word!
Gilles Gravelle, Ph.D., is The Seed Company’s director of research & innovation. His research, writing and speaking focus on missiology, theology, Internet technology, strategic planning and strategic giving. This interdisciplinary learning is for the purpose of helping partner organizations plan mission projects that are well-formed, outcome- and impact-oriented, and well-aligned with 21st century realities.