Sharing the Good News in a New Age
This issue of Mission Round Table examines and evaluates some common ideas regarding innovation found in mission circles today. Christian workers feel a continual tension between the desires to attempt something new for God and to remain true to tradition. Some are driven by the new, the innovative, the cool. Others remain tied to the traditional, the tried, the true. It becomes the task of missionaries from every age to discern which innovations God would have them develop in order to bring his never changing word to a continually changing world.
The photos on the cover show how the spread of the gospel, linked with the development of technology, produced some enormous innovations that have made the Bible accessible to people all around the world. Whereas the Hebrew Bible had been available to Jews on scrolls, Christians adopted the new codex form of book—with individual pages all bound together along one edge—for the Bible and other literature. This innovation was more compact than the scroll, and simplified the arrangement of biblical books and looking up specific passages. Though all early Bibles were handwritten, the change from writing solely in uncials—capital letters—to minuscules—lower-case letters—speeded up reproduction and made them cheaper to produce.
As people from other countries turned to Christ, translations were made into other languages, so that, before Johannes Gutenberg’s revolutionary invention of the printing press, God’s word was available in at least twenty-five or thirty different languages. Gutenberg’s press not only paved the way for the Renaissance, Reformation, and Age of Enlightenment, it provided the technology for printing whole Bibles or portions (such as the Hakka Gospel of Mark) in more than two thousand different languages. More recent technologies have made it possible to add Bible apps to smart phones and other electronic devices and the development of video Bibles that bring God’s words of love and truth to people who communicate mainly through various sign languages.
As this issue of Mission Round Table demonstrates, missional innovations go far beyond the production and dissemination of Scripture. It becomes the task of missionaries from every age to discern which innovations God would have them develop in order to bring his never changing word to a continually changing world.