South Asia (MNN) — Imagine a population the size of Houston, Texas had never seen a film in their own language. And then the first movie in their heart language features the story of Jesus. It would open a door to the Gospel for millions of people.
Joe Class with a partner organization of The JESUS Film Project says that’s basically what happened. They recently finished eight new JESUS Film translations representing 6.5 million people in South Asia.
“If you’re in a people group, and there are 70 thousand people who speak that language, there will never have been a film put in your heart language,” says Class.
“So when The JESUS Film is put into that language, do you know how many people would be likely to see that? About 70 thousand, because nobody’s ever seen a film in their own language and everyone wants to!”
The Premiere and Dedication
Each language people group got their own JESUS Film premiere last month, and Class went to the dedication celebration.
“It was utterly amazing to go to this location and have community members from eight different language groups gathered together. All of us thanked God for what He’s done to dedicate these to God’s glory. Our hope and our prayer is there would be transformation and [that] churches would be started as a result of this,” Class says.
“I don’t believe The JESUS FIlm Project has ever had a dedication for this many languages all at one time. So it was quite exciting to see the acceleration that’s taking place in the translation and the dubbing of The JESUS Film globally.”
Active Community Transformation Strategy
When The JESUS Film Project goes into a community to start film translation, they operate with an Active Community Transformation Strategy (ACTS).
Class explains, “It’s a strategy of The JESUS Film Project to connect with language communities and make sure they’re involved from the beginning of the translation through the creation of the JESUS Film and on through the transformation of the community through church planting.”
It’s really important for The JESUS Film to have active community involvement with the people they’re making the film for. When community members take personal ownership of the film and the process, the impact for the Gospel is greater.
“When you start with transformation of the community, you get the entire community engaged. There’s ownership of the piece from start to finish. There’s involvement, because one of the things we insist on is we’re coming to help them make this possible and get the film in their own mother tongue.”
“On day one when we get folks together, we ask for their feedback, their input…then we maintain touch with them throughout the process, and then we come together at the end of each one and have really a premiere.”
These last eight JESUS Film translations for South Asia were finished in record time too. It used to take The JESUS Film two to five years for translation and completion. Now Class says it takes a matter of weeks.
“With new software and new methodologies, we’re able to maintain the Bible translation standards of excellence in terms of making each product accurate, understandable and clear; and we have done one in under six weeks. Most of them are taking generally a couple of months. Easily 100 to 150 people involved in each of the language communities.”
However, The JESUS Film project doesn’t just leave a community on its own once the film translation is finished. The JESUS Film Project gathers and partners with other church-planting organizations to carry on spiritual formation in the villages, using the film as a key tool.
“The church groups and the mission groups in that area, they become involved in the actual church planting,” says Class. “We like to equip and then let them deal with how they’re going to use it…. Some of the partnering organizations that The JESUS Film works with have tracked this for well over ten years, and as much as 70 percent of their church plants are a result of using the film initially in a particular region. So God’s really using this film in amazing ways.”
Pray for The JESUS Film Project as they continue translating the movie into new languages and reaching remote people groups for Christ. You can also support their ministry!
Class says, “If you look at the last hundred years and you see how much translation has been done, and then you look at the growth of the evangelical church over that same period, you see an incredible ramping up. There’s just this incredible link between translation God’s Word and the Gospel and churches being planted and people coming to Christ. It’s an amazing phenomenon to be alive at this point in history and watch all this!”