International (MNN) — If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know it’s not enough to only read God’s Word. You have to apply it to your life, too.
“The one thing Bible translators hate is having produced a museum piece – something that sits on the shelf and doesn’t get used,” Wycliffe USA’s Chris Gassler explains.
“What we do in EthnoArts comes under the category of Scripture engagement.”
The EthnoArts team is global, working hand-in-hand with communities that just received Scripture. They help believers find creative ways to express truth from God’s Word, in whatever culturally relevant form that takes. More about EthnoArts here.
“Communities are experts in their arts. We’re trying to encourage them to use their local expressions,” Gassler says.
“A lot of times, this job is giving people permission because people have looked at the Western world and said, ‘Oh, that’s how you do church, that’s how you do Christianity.’ I’m there to say, ‘No, no, no, you can be yourself!’”
Gassler draws on his background in professional music to lead songwriting workshops in countries across Africa. Each session balances biblical accuracy with the cultural application.
“We do a devotional in the morning before we get started; interacting with the text, talking about all the Gospel implications of it, because people in certain communities may or may not have heard the message in an accurate way,” Gassler says.
“A lot of times in a workshop [on] the first day, I’ll give them a passage and say, ‘I want you to quote this entire passage in a song,’ something short, something straightforward; I often will use Philippians 2, somewhere between verses four and 11.”
Are you an artist? See how God can use your talents on the mission field!
Art may not seem like a natural “fit” with Bible translation, but “[Bible] translators love Scripture engagement. It’s a natural extension of the translation [because] you want it to be used,” Gassler says.
“If you get down to the way people express themselves, arts are at our core.”
Header image depicts believers recording new Scripture songs at a songwriting workshop. The group is singing a new song based on Philippians chapter 2:4-11 in the Baka language. (Photo, caption courtesy of Wycliffe USA)