WASHINGTON — Missionary leaders from over 34 countries convened at the Museum of the Bible on Monday morning to launch A.D. 2020 Global Year of the Bible, a first-of-its-kind evangelical initiative endorsed by Roman Catholic Pope Francis.
The movement, which is a collaboration of like-minded organizations, aims to affirm and promote the value of the Bible for all people and calls for an end to Bible poverty at a time when over 1,600 languages lack New and Old Testament translation.
The movement also seeks to restore the significance of the Bible in traditionally-Christian Western cultures where children are increasingly growing up without exposure to the Gospel or a biblical worldview.
Organizers hope that the Global Year of the Bible will ultimately spur momentum to make the 2020s the “Decade of the Bible.”
“Many of us have envisioned A.D. 2020 Global Year of the Bible as a catalyst for perhaps a second Reformation that is centered around the word of God united by the grace, the power and the wisdom of God,” said Lloyd Estrada, global advocate for Bible engagement with the World Evangelical Alliance, a network of evangelical alliances in 130 countries.
“By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we can make this happen.”
As part of the initiative, several stadium-sized events will be organized by various organizations in which thousands will come to pray and worship. The initiative will also facilitate partnerships between like-minded organizations worldwide to accelerate Bible literacy efforts.
Along with WEA, organizations like Wycliffe Bible Translators, Youth With a Mission, American Bible Society, Call2All and others had representatives present at the launch event in the nation’s capital this week. Over 500 leaders and organizations from 200 countries are endorsers of A.D. 2020 Global Year of the Bible.
“The 600 million evangelicals in local churches all over the world are the potential partners of the plans, [the resources], the programs or the products that you are thinking of for A.D. 2020 Global Year of the Bible,” Estrada told leaders during the event. “With a local church, the effectiveness of this year-long campaign could be limitless.”
While there have been Year of the Bible efforts held in the past — such as the national Year of the Bible declared by U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1983 — there has never been an initiative like this held on a global scale, according to Call2All president Mark Anderson.
“A.D. 2020 Global Year of the Bible is way more comprehensive,” Anderson, who has conducted over 2,000 evangelistic campaigns on five continents, said. “We are so much further down the road in expanding the word of God in so many different forms and oral presentations. This is the largest effort of its kind in relation to Scripture.”
Anderson explained that the initiative came to fruition as a result of hundreds of global leaders talking for years about how to help people engage the Scripture once Scriptures are translated into a language.
Many who will benefit from certain translations, he said, speak languages that are only verbally communicated.
“As we talk around Bible translations, the remaining needs are unreached for a reason,” Wycliffe Bible Translators President John Chestnut said.
“There is not a lot of low-hanging fruit out there any longer. It is going to take creative strategies and it is going to continue to take prayer and it's going to take men and women who are willing to be courageous to reach the last and the lost.”
Six goals of the A.D. 2020 Year of the Bible movement are: pray, translate, publish, distribute, educate and motivate people to engage with God’s word.
“This discussion has been going on for at least two decades of many hundreds of us talking about this and we just started formalizing it about four years ago,” Anderson said.
“Within all the different entities, different organizations and Bible societies in different countries, they have different roles within their geographic area. Many of them are quite measurable. We are measuring together to get the translation work done in every language and then we will have the Bible available to everyone in the world geographically.”
Wycliffe predicts that translating partner organizations will have 99 percent of the translation in the New and Old Testament by 2033, according to Anderson.
Bishop Efraim Tendero, Secretary-General of the World Evangelical Alliance, said during the event that sights can’t be lost on today’s generation of youngsters growing up in countries that have traditionally Christian heritages, such as the United States.
“Today, in cultures that have been historically Christian, an increasing number of young people are growing up without exposure to the Bible,” Tendero said. “They do not learn about the Bible in schools. In fact, they do not hear any references in the popular culture about the Bible. If they go to church, they may have read the Bible. But in many cases, they have not read the Bible.”
“Young people are seeking fulfillment in their careers or entertainment or drugs without knowing that the Bible promises greater fulfillment through service to God,” he added.
“Jesus Christ even said that ‘I came so that you may have life and enjoy life to its fullness.’ Tragically, they are seeking meaning in things of this world without ever giving the message of God’s spiritual salvation — the only message that enables us to discover lasting meaning for this life and beyond.”
Tendero stated that the international Christian community should be doing “anything that can restore the awareness of the Bible and its significance in order to help our culture recover what it has lost before it is too late.”
Nick Hall, the founder of PULSE and visionary behind the Together 2016 gathering of thousands of Christians on the National Mall, said that he is excited about the Global Year of the Bible initiative as he sees a “biblically illiterate generation rising up.”
“There are men and women who for them, every year is the year of the Bible. Every year, every day they wake up: ‘This is my year of the Bible,’” Hall said. “So, I think it is exciting that we have all these global denominations and missions movements getting behind the work that these men and women have given their lives to translate the word.”
According to Hall, plans are in the works to hold another gathering on the National Mall in 2020 to call for a “Bible Revival.”
In a recorded video endorsement from the Vatican, Pope Francis praised the Global Year of the Bible initiative and told those leading it to “be encouraged.”
“To the Christians, I always advise them to carry a pocket Gospel and at any moment they can read a small part of the Word of God,” the Pontiff said, according to a translation. “But we must be aware of the whole Bible, not just the Gospels, but the whole Bible. The Global Year of the Bible makes us aware of it. Do it, be encouraged and the Lord is going to bless richly.”