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Missions 101

Literacy and World Mission

Feb. 23, 2015By: Drake Williams IIIAuthor Bio

Samuel Zwemer, missionary to Bahrein, Egypt, and Asia Minor had this to say about literacy and world mission:

The printed page is a missionary that can go anywhere and do so at minimum cost. It enters closed lands and reaches all strata of society. It does not grow weary. It needs no furlough. It lives longer than any missionary. It never gets ill. It penetrates through the mind to the heart and conscience. It has and is producing results everywhere. It has often lain dormant yet retained its life and bloomed years later.

books192ca6b83f5As part of the overall mission effort in training Christian leaders, here is a plea to encourage translation of Christian resources as part of the overall mission effort.


The printed page is a missionary that can go anywhere and do so at minimum cost. - Tweet this


Many who read this blog may know that Christianity is growing in many places in the global south and east. Much of Christian literature, however, is in the languages of English, German, French, and Spanish.  Very few books are available in some very important languages that are critical for world evangelization. It would be good to encourage ways to get Christian resources into languages around the world where there are fewer Christian resources.

Consider, for example, the language of Hindi. It is one of the top five languages spoken worldwide. There are 310 million Hindi speakers in the world which is over 4.5% of the world’s population. It is also a strategic and influential language since it is used in many governmental affairs. It is fair to say that Hindi is the most influential language in India, which is also the second most populous nation in the world.

Hindi also is a language which many hidden people groups speak. Some 350 hidden people groups speak this language. Thus, there are thousands who have yet to hear Jesus Christ can grant salvation from sin, power for living, and hope for eternity.

Christian materials in English will not have a positive effect. Some missionaries who work in India have found that books in English do not communicate because of the past history of British colonialism. For those who speak Hindi, the Hindi language preserves their culture. English was the language of the British colonists and with their abuses. They do not want to lose their Indian identity. Thus, they need Christian materials in Hindi.

While literature can never replace the missionary, we can significantly aid mission work by sending Christian materials in the language of the people whom we are trying to reach. Let’s not forget this important means of reaching the world and discipling new believers!


Drake Williams is Professor of NT Language and LIterature at Tyndale Theological Seminary. He earned a Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Aberdeen.

Tags:  books, literacy, translation
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