Discipleship Outside the Box

  • June 20, 2018
Scripture engagement lesson making a boat craft

“Scripture engagement is really just discipleship done in another language,” said Robin Rempel, who spent 30 years with Wycliffe in countries like Papua New Guinea, Uganda and Kenya. “The goal is to provide training and materials that will encourage people to get into the Word of God in their heart language — to digest it and then to apply it to their everyday lives.”

Scripture engagement workers may guide church leaders in how to create and lead a Bible study. Many cultures are more social than Western cultures, and enjoy reading and studying the Bible together.

Luke Bible study group
Bible study books

“We cover topics such as how to look at the big picture,” said Robin, “but then also break down a passage for study. We discuss ways to apply the Scriptures to real, everyday situations — like marriage and parenting, grief, trauma, AIDS, money and one’s attitude toward having it or not having it, etc. The Scriptures are so practical. It’s beautiful to see God’s Word open hearts to what it really means to be a Christ-follower — to know Jesus, to have hope and eternal life!”

The arts are also a big part of Scripture engagement work because music and drama are significant cultural expressions. People might be encouraged to create Scripture songs, which can aid memorization. Sunday school teachers learn to include drama as they create their own curriculum to engage their students. Audio Scripture portions might be provided so people can listen to the Bible while gardening or going about their day, which, with repetition over time, helps them to memorize and integrate Scripture into their thinking and worldview.

The Bible and Technology

When Robin returned to the U.S., she began working in the international media department at JAARS, and learned about the available production tools and materials to produce Bible stories — like dubbing films and recording Scripture.

She loved the 130+ Bible story video templates; they include illustrations and scripts that can be produced in a video format to play on cell phones. But the process that was being used to translate and dub the scripts into a new language was quite complex and intimidating, requiring the use of several different software programs and devices.

audience watching a performance
children performing and singing for an audience

Robin wondered if there was a way to marry the Bible story videos with smartphones that would allow the smartphone to guide and manage an oral translation process and make the production of videos simple. What if it could all be done on one device? This could make it possible for language communities to have access to Bible stories even before they had a stable writing system/alphabet, or before some Scripture portions were officially translated.

But how do you develop an app? Robin had no idea, and that’s where Cedarville University engineering students came in!

Robin is collaborating with students from the university to develop the Story Producer app, an oral Bible story video translation and production tool. Over the last two years, Robin has guided their vision to build the app. The Story Producer app will aid speakers in oral drafting of Bible stories, which would then be checked for naturalness and accuracy by a consultant and within the community. After the script is approved, it would be dubbed or re-recorded in dramatic fashion and then produced into a new video — all on a smartphone. The new video then can be easily shared in various ways at virtually no cost. The app has now finished stateside tests and is ready for testing overseas!

person capturing video with smartphone

Scripture engagement workers are trying to use everything available — linguistics, literacy, translation, anthropology, EthnoArts, etc. — to help individuals and communities know and live out the Scriptures.

“Bible translation itself isn’t the end goal of Wycliffe’s work,” said Robin. “It is, as our core values state, to see lives transformed. Scripture engagement is the capstone strategy for getting people to access Scripture — in various forms — and interact with it in a meaningful way that changes their lives.

“I love doing Scripture engagement because it’s precisely what Jesus told us to do in the Great Commission: make disciples. It’s rewarding and fun to do in your own culture, but it’s even [more fun] to do in different cultures. You’re thinking outside the box.”

If you are a creative thinker who loves discipling others, we're eager to talk with you about how you fit with Wycliffe’s Scripture engagement work! Email us at go_serve@wycliffe.org.