Sunday, April 22, 2007

Preaching without the Word

This morning I must confess I only woke at 11am, despite several alarms going off at earlier times. Somehow I made it into the shower, got dressed and all, and was in the Cathedral for about 11.23am. I'm glad I made it.

We had John Doherty from the Bible Society Northern Ireland speaking at the service. I've bumped into John several times before, but always at bigger mission agency events in college, where the emphasis seems to be on the social aspect of getting to know ordinands and missioners alike. This morning, he shared some news from their ongoing projects - stories from China, Albania, the Lebanon, Gaza, and another republic that I can't remember the name of (it's 400 miles east of Moscow, with 2 million people and an old lady heads the translation team).

However, the news that caused me the greatest shock and wonderment was from Uganda. He was telling us about a mission hospital that runs a pastor's conference, with pastors coming from 70 miles round about to get there for it. Amazingly, many pastors don't possess a copy of the Scriptures from which to preach about Jesus.

Imagine how difficult that must be! My own preaching seeks to stick fairly closely to the text, wrestling with it to see what it is saying. How much would I struggle if I didn't have a text to start with? Where would you start to tell others about Jesus without having a Bible to read and check your message against? We in the English-speaking world are so blessed to have multiple versions of the Bible (KJV, NKJV, NIV, TNIV, RSV, NRSV, Jersualem, GNB, ESV and so many more - check out some time!), not to mention commentaries, concordances, online study tools, and other Christian books.

What can we do to remedy the situation? The Bible Societies in Ireland are celebrating their bicentenary this year - two hundred years of Bible mission here and abroad. The original Bible Society was begun by Charles Simeon, and other men like him who knew the power of the Scriptures, and the necessity of reading it in an understandable language. [I've just finished reading a biography of Charles Simeon, a man of God in Cambridge who saw great revival and a change in the university culture and climate due to his faithful (and often persecuted) preaching of the Word.]

How can we ensure that our brothers and sisters across the world can read the Bible in their own language? Visit the Bible Society website for more news and ways to get involved for a start.

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