by Dr. Lloyd Estrada
Johannes Gutenberg (c. 1398–1468) is credited with devising the techniques that led to the development of the modern printing press. The impact of the printing press was undeniable: cost of book production was reduced significantly, information was made available more easily to people, and knowledge was disseminated and stored in a more permanent and standard format. The Gutenberg Bible, completed and sold at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1455, was one of the first printed literature that sparked the information revolution of the 14th and 15th centuries.
This year, churches all over Europe are celebrating the Reformation Jubillee—the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation. On 31 October 1517, the German monk Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther confronted the established Church of his day with several concerns, the most notable of which are summed up by the slogans sola fide (justification by faith alone ) and sola Scriptura (Scripture alone is authoritative ). The world was never the same again.
Without a doubt, the proliferation of printing presses was instrumental to the success of the Reformation. Not only was the Scripture made more accessible, Bible scholarship (and in fact, scholarship in all other fields of study) was encouraged. As a result, people had more access to the Bible. As people received the Scripture, reflected on its meaning and responded in obedience, Christlike transformation took place.Information Revolution
The Internet and digital technology provide the foundation of another information revolution, much like what the printing press did half a millennium ago. Laptops, tablets, phones and watches are devices we now cannot do without. They help us stay informed and connected. Academic degrees can now be obtained through online courses. Shopping, watching movies, attending meetings, and a slew of other activities can now be done using smartphones…in one’s own living room! It’s a whole new, digital world.
Unsurprisingly, the Bible and Bible-related content are now available digitally and are shared on all kinds of social media platforms. Advances in technology provide the Church with the opportunity to share God’s Word increasingly and in more convenient ways. Many are already taking advantage of this opportunity. For example, the YouVersion Bible app, supported in 1,100 languages, has already been installed on more than 260 million smartphones and tablets. And that’s just one app. Do a Google search using the keywords “Bible app” and you will get more than 32 million results!The Power of 4
On 13 January 2017, the World Evangelical Alliance, in partnership with the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) and Philippines for Jesus Movement (PJM), hosted a Bible Engagement forum titled “Informed and Transformed.” Sixty-four leaders of church denominations and mission organizations participated. At the forum, Dr. Arnie Cole and Dr. Pam Ovwigho of the Center for Bible Engagement shared an important finding in their nine-year research in 20 countries: the Power of 4. That is, over time, the life of a person who engages with the Bible four or more times a week, is radically different from that of a person who does not. Bible Engagement is a process with three important components:
We all want to help facilitate progressive, Christlike transformation among individuals and communities in the Philippines. There are countless ways to do this, one of which is stimulating Bible engagement through digital technology. The forum participants were introduced to goTandem—a Bible Engagement app, developed by Back to the Bible International, that delivers Bible content daily to your smartphone or tablet. It’s an app designed to help a person to increasingly and consistently receive, reflect on and respond to the Word of God. This app can be downloaded for free from the App Store (Apple) and Play Store (Android).
At the end of the forum, Bishop Noel Pantoja (PCEC) and Bishop Leo Alconga (PJM) led the participants in a consensus to kick off a national Bible Engagement campaign that they had named “Return to the Word” (RTW). goTandem and other mobile Bible apps will be an important feature of this campaign.
In the coming years, we want to see more and more Filipinos informed and transformed by the Word of God. In fact, we are praying that the RTW campaign could be the Philippines’ contribution to the celebration of the Reformation Jubilee and a catalyst for a second Reformation in our generation—a Bible-driven Reformation that is propelled by digital technology. This second Reformation can happen when each one of us decides to take the first and very important step—
Return to the word.
A Word to Pastoral Trainers
The call to “Return to the Word” is not only for the Philippines, but also for Christians all over the world. Here are some suggestions for the pastors that we train in both formal and informal settings:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Lloyd Estrada is the Bible Engagement Advocate of the World Evangelical Alliance. He has also served as pastor, church planter and missions mobilizer over the past 30 years. He is an Elder of Greenhills Christian Fellowship. Lloyd and his wife Dahl have been married for 29 years now. They have two adult sons. Dr. Estrada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.