The Bible Comes into the Hands of the People
In approximately 1440 a technological revolution began that radically changed the world. Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Until this time, books were produced very slowly by scribes who wrote every page by hand. Only rich people had a book. The Bible, God's word which was written for all people, also was only in the hands of a very few. Soon after the Gutenberg press came on the scene, the Bible was translated into German by Martin Luther, the man who is recognized as the father of the Protestant Reformation. Other languages such as English, French, and Dutch were soon translated and printed. Thousands of Bibles were printed on Gutenberg presses.
Sadly, many religious leaders in Europe at that time did not want the Bible to be read by the common people in their own languages. Latin was the preferred language of the religious elite for the Bible. The Latin Bible was read in churches and not understood by the people. Believers who translated and printed the Bible into the common languages risked serious persecution - years in prison or even death. In 1536 William Tyndale was killed and his body burned, because he translated and printed the Bible in English. As he died, he prayed that God would open the king's eyes. God heard his prayer. Within two years the king ordered that the Bible in English be placed in every church throughout England for everyone to learn from. Over time the Bible was widely printed for common people to own.
The Bible Changes Nations
Because the Bible was being printed in large numbers and in the languages of the people, thousands heard the gospel for the first time. Sinners heard of a Savior who died so that they could be forgiven of sin. Many people grew in their knowledge of the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. As they applied these truths to their lives, to their families, to their businesses, and to all aspects of society, cultures began to change for the better. The truths of scripture began to break spiritual chains in the minds and hearts of people in darkness.
Bible Study Movements begin when the Bible is placed into the hands of the common people who understand that God speaks through His word to all peoples. Faith is born in their hearts as they receive the central message of the Bible-God's forgiveness through Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit opens their eyes to understand God's word. It was in this way that the Protestant Reformation in Europe expanded, and it is in this same way that cultures and nations can be changed today.
Since Gutenberg first invented the printing press, the Bible has continued to spread to many lands and languages. For example, the Bible was carried to America with many of its early settlers. Their desire to learn and follow the ways of Jesus Christ profoundly shaped the forming of the new American colonies. In recent times Chinese believers have seen the power of the Bible and its gospel message greatly affect their country. In 1950 China had 1 or 2 million followers of Jesus. Today, through the power of God's word, there are approximately 130 million believers. Wherever the Bible is studied and its teachings obeyed, societies begin to change. Millions of people are discovering the words of Jesus: "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
The Internet Revolution
Today the Bible is the most translated book in the world and also the most printed. Hundreds of millions of copies are being printed every year throughout the world. Also, because translation teams are working in many places, new languages are receiving their own Bible each year. And now with the internet revolution, it is even easier for everyone to have a Bible since people can download God's Word onto their phones and computers. Millions of people around the world today are reading and studying the Bible, either alone or as part of a small group.
What is a "Bible Study Movement"?
A Bible study movement happens in a country when a growing number of ordinary people -
- own a Bible (either a printed copy or a digital copy)
- read the Bible regularly alone for personal spiritual growth
- study the Bible often in small group discussion
- apply the Bible's teachings to their lives
This is different from a pastor or Christian leader going for specialized training so that he can teach and preach the Bible. A Bible study movement happens when ordinary people are empowered to study the Bible alone and in groups. Some, instead of reading, prefer to "study" by listening to the audio Bible in their language. Still others study by learning and telling many Bible stories and asking questions that help them remember the stories and make them relevant. The emphasis in each of these methods is not on gaining lots of historical facts about the Bible but rather on learning and applying God's beautiful ways. The important thing is to have a heart that holds firm to faith in God, sincerely loving Him and others.
Bible Study Movements in Persecuted Countries
As was common in England during Tyndale's time, some believers today have to study secretly because of severe persecution. This is still common in China and is also a reality for followers of Jesus in parts of the Muslim world. You may be in one of those countries. It's important that you know that you are not alone. Over the 20 centuries since the time of Christ, faithful believers who pray, study and obey God's word have seen God bring great changes to their countries, but it takes time. Don't believe that your country cannot change. God's word is very powerful!
Would you like to help a Bible Study Movement grow in your country?
Here are some practical steps to take:
"And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe."
Be sure that you yourself are growing in your love for God's Word. The more you study and apply God's word alone and with others, the more it will change your life. Your enthusiasm will affect people around you. They also will want to read and know God's word because of the light you shine for Jesus.
Pray with others that the Bible in your language will be widely distributed in your country. With prayer and action, you can spread God's word among your people. Keep in mind that a Bible study movement doesn't happen overnight. It will take dedicated people who will pray often and work over many years to place a Bible (physical or digital) into the hands of millions. Join with others who also have this vision. No one can do this alone.
Help spread Bible study guides and methods. Bible study guides and methods can help small groups and individuals study God's word with more understanding. The guides found on this site can be downloaded for free. You may print copies and distribute them, or you can help others download a digital copy.
Train others to start Bible study groups. As more people come to Christ in new areas, there will be a need for people to train them to study God's word on their own. They may have never experienced a small group Bible study where everyone has the freedom to discuss what they are learning. They may need someone to model it for them, as a leader who does not preach the lesson but helps all to participate in the discussion. If you have had experience in group Bible study, your help can be valuable to those who want to start a group but don't know how. Also, Bible Study Principles and Guidelines for Leaders found at the beginning of 50 Life Studies can be helpful for all leaders to read.
1 Thessalonians 2:13