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WORDS OF GOD: Distribution, reading, understanding the Bible still key.

By Ron Keener

Happy Birthday, NIV. The New International Version of the Bible celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and the National Association of Evangelicals says it is by far the most preferred translation of the Scriptures.

Christian Post reports that more than 65 percent of the leaders — the 100 members of the NAE board of directors — named the NIV as their preferred Bible translation. More than 300 million copies of the translation are known to be in print worldwide.

When it comes to the Bible, there’s good news and not so good news. The good news is that the Bible still is named by

Americans as their favorite book of all time, according to a Harris Poll released in April and reported by Christian Post.

Furthermore, the Bible was first when comparing different demographic groups: gender, race and ethnicity, generation, political party, region and education.

The not so good news is that while the average American household puts Bible ownership at an average of four copies, Barna Research reported two years ago that the Bible is read by just 45 percent of Americans in a typical week.

While I probably own five Bibles, I went Bible hunting the other month for still another — intrigued by the title,
Archaeological Study Bible (Zondervan), all 2,336 pages of it. Now while I’ve had the Life Application Study Bible (Tyndale) for a few years, I really like getting the cultural and social significance of the Scriptures.

Growing in acceptance is the audio Bible, one being The Word of Promise New Testament in the New King James
Version that has been put out by Thomas Nelson — what they call “a compelling, dramatic audio theater format with state of the art audio technology.” (See related story on page 10.)

Significant for me in an audio Bible were the sound effects — and silence. When Jesus was being whipped, I cringed with the feeling I was also being struck. When the nails were put into his hands, the sound of steel on steel was horrific and jolting. Audio — as it did in the days when I listened to the dramas on my Crosby bed stand radio — has a way of riveting one’s attention and amplifying the drama.

Then there was the silence too, the dramatic pause, the fleeting blowing of the wind, when “nothing” has meaning too in telling the Jesus story.

Thomas Nelson’s vice president Wayne Hastings sees audio Bibles as a growing customer interest. Most publishers have their own audio Bible versions.

“In my own church our pastor decided to challenge the church to listen to one-half hour a day of the Word of Promise for 40 days. That’s the entire New Testament in 40 days, and the pastor spoke each Sunday on what we’d heard,” he says.

“It was an incredible time as more than 800 of us listened to the New Testament every day. Another pastor in town heard what we were doing and more than 1,000 people listened. I don’t think we would have had such participation if we’d just handed out daily Bibles.”

Of all places, the world’s largest Bible factory has opened in Nanjing, China, capable of producing more than one Bible every second, reports Christian Retailing. The government-approved publishing house prints up to 800,000 Bibles a month with 80 percent distributed to government-sanctioned churches across China.

There are many Bible projects and ministries engaged in sharing the Word. American Bible Society, Pocket Testament League, and Wycliffe Bible Translators quickly come to mind. ABS marked Pope Benedict XVI’s first visit to the U.S. with a special printing of the Gospel of Luke, featuring the likeness of His Holiness on the cover. And Wycliffe tells us that
there are:

  • 74 — average number of new Bible translations projects begun each year
  • 1 — new translation launched every five days
  • 2,251 — languages still without a translation of the Bible
  • 6,912 — languages spoken in the world
  • 311 — languages spoken in the U.S.

Faith Comes By Hearing, a group that focuses on audio Bibles, claims people are listening to the Bible as they get ready for work, during daily commutes, exercising or during routine activities. “You’ve Got The Time Albuquerque” is a localized campaign where more than 40,000 audio Bibles have been distributed.

The Bible tells me so, goes the tune. How can you and I turn our shoulders to sharing the story with more people?

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