One of the more significant challenges that comes to the mobile ministry (#mobmin) world is the search for any non-English Christian content. And depending on the conversation – that hunt for Christian content comes with that preface of good, quality Christian content. Its been said to us directly that of the Christian content that is available – more than 80% is English only – which leaves thousands of languages to be served by a meager rest of what’s left. That leaves ministries and organizations with a dual purpose of not just being there for a spiritual gain, but also an educational one – trying to bridge a gap that literally could have been taken care of if we thought of our neighbor during this information explosion.
What’s even being asked for when we use a phrase like “non-English Christian content?” Are we talking bibles? Are we talking music? Are we talking pastorial helps? Are we talking health, marketplace, and legal information? Well, we’re actually talking about all of these – hence the challenge. Its not just making content available (translation/transliteration of existing resources), but its also the creating of services and processes which enable language groups to make their own (regardless of the English-speaker’s view on what’s quality and what isn’t).
This might be the easier one to tackle. Groups such as SIL, Wycliffe, Faith Comes By Hearing, TWR and others have been at this for a long time. While working with the Kiosk Evangelism Project, I was exposed to the fact that there are over 4000 languages and dialects worldwide. The persons working in these and similar ministries are literally tasked with doing that work of text, video, and audio translation – and building the systems which support this (information technology, discipleship/education practices, etc.). Amazing stuff, and this is just that which is biblical.
Music is regarded as a universal thread for all people groups, hence the challenge here. You can’t make music that speaks to a culture without having some inside knowledge of that culture. Again with the Kiosk Evangelsim Project, I was exposed to many people who have been working in the spaces of worship music, trans-culture production, and academia who’s mission it is to find and build that bridge. Some of the challenge here comes down to a disconnect between the music and the technology (you’d be surprised how many people don’t know about the simple recorder app in their mobiles). Some of that is because of the need (want?) for some more high quality that what can be done at the time. Its a challenging space to say the least – but when you do hear the outcome, that praise/worship/adoration of God through that culture’s musical capacities – wow… the idea of new heaven/new earth takes on a powerful perspective.
Its one thing to have content which leads the individual believer to mature, its another thing to have a suite of content built to enable/empower the shepards over those groups. I’ve been really impressed at how this aspect of non-English content has been addressed by Door 43 and Cybermissions. As with music, there’s that aspect of making things available, but then you’ve also got the component of teaching people how to use it – in their language! That said, its not enough – more partnerships need to happen between those on the ground w/non-English communities who leave leaders in place when their missions time is done, and those persons who are able to catalyze lesson delivery systems for continued growth of those leaders.
Health, Marketplace, Legal
If you look at the common thread to every miracle Jesus did, they all had a very simple and profound thread: every one of them (including the resurrection) served to add time to the life of the recipient, literally adding to their ability to be reconciled to the Father. When we look at avenues to expand the impact of the Gospel, this is the thread in which we need to live. Non-English content that’s able to address matters of immediate health, economic opportunity, or even just legal processes do like Jesus’ miracles in respect to adding time to the lives of those who (rightly so) should be aimed with a clear message of the Gospel. The problem here is that to make these kinds of efforts to extend time means that a lot of time has to be used (many times without short-term, positive ROI).
These avenues are being looked at, but not usually from a primarily Christian perspective (not a bad thing IMO). Where the disconnect happens is when no attempt is made to take a wealth of opportunity (for example, don’t just build a well, but how do you train locals to become their community’s engineers) and make it contextually relevant to all. Its in this suite of content that “Christian” content is most missed, and could be for sometime – the wall is on our side, not the side of non-English persons.
We’ve said a few times before that an app isn’t a strategy, and that in this space that you’d be well to think about opportunities outside of “how to read the bible.” Here are some areas that need the most attention. Specifically if you are doing non-English content. If you are working in this space and have some openly available content – do let us know. We’d like to get up a listing of those content streams as well. Perhaps with a focus on every nation and tongue, we add to the works of those groups already trying to close that gap in hunting for non-English content that serves the global Body.