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Why we do it

Q: Why do we do what we do?

A: Because we have been called to “Declare His glory among the nations, His amazing works among the entire population.” Psalm 96:3.

First and foremost, we work in answer to God’s call. In 1997, I was “compelled to go” to Latvia when a Christian brother asked for my help with a Christian radio station there. The apostle Paul expressed his call with the phrase “Necessity was laid upon me” in 1 Corinthians 9:16 and that thought resonated particularly as I sought God’s direction in replying to the request.

The second part of our purpose, and no less important, is to declare His glory among the nations. The world needs to hear and experience that there is nothing we face today that our sovereign God isn’t aware of or that is beyond His control. Knowing that, we desire to take the encouragement of David to “Declare His glory among the nations, His amazing works among the entire population.” Psalm 96:3. All nations deserve to hear of the love of God. At a time when the news around us is seldom good and fear of the future is becoming more prevalent, there has never been a more critical time to declare His Glory.

However, disciples can’t be made without resources. This includes the Bible, study guides, commentaries, worship songs, devotionals, and Christian biographies and more – content providing clarity and accurate understanding of scripture. Discipleship resources like these are critical tools for making spiritually mature disciples.

Sadly, after more than 2,000 years of disciple making, most language groups have few, if any, of the resources available in our Western churches. It’s kind of embarrassing when you stop to think about it. In a digital age with a global economy and easy travel, there are still more printed resources directed to English speaking believers than in all the other languages combined! It’s a lopsided scenario where the West is rich while believers around the world lack the basic resources to teach and grow.

As all Christian content is copyrighted, including Bibles, we emphasize an optional approach to the “all rights reserved” practice. It’s called open licensing. Content that has an open license can instantly be used by believers around the world and translated into their own language without additional paperwork requirements. As a result, we help others to explore creating content with an open license as one way of speeding up the process.

We are called to go, and to say among the nations, the Lord reigns!

Q: Why doesn’t everyone have a Bible and the needed discipleship tools yet?

A: Providing discipleship resources for every language group is a monumental task, and most discipleship resources are English only and not available to the global church.

The sheer magnitude and complexity of the task of making disciples of all nations means it’s much larger than any one of us. In addition, missiologists teach that it is crucial to use the heart language of each people group in order to bring about a "heart change", to lead an unbeliever into becoming a disciple. With nearly 7,000 languages spoken in the world, and half of these languages with fewer than 10,000 speakers, reaching each people group in their own languages is an immense undertaking. There almost 4,000 spoken languages in the world have don’t yet have any parts of the Bible available.

One thing that stands in the way are believers unwilling to release their work openly so others can translate it easily and without complicated legal paperwork that would be mostly unintelligible in a minority language.
Copyright law was created in the 1700’s to protect the economic interests of the publishers and then the creators of a work. Copyright is a modern, secular creation although not inherently bad. But held too tightly, copyright law can be used to restrain and even prevent the translation, adaptation, and distribution of existing discipleship resources by the global church.

The church around the world then has two choices: start from scratch to re-create discipleship resources in every language, or make “infringing” use of the copyrighted discipleship resources they need. The embrace of “all rights reserved” through copyright law can literally pit the “haves” (mostly located in the West) against the “have-nots”, most of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.

Many times “all rights reserved” becomes an insurmountable obstacle and places minority language groups in a moral bind. Do they go ahead and supply their Church with “infringed” content (the secular legal definition) and take from other believers or struggle to create new content? Mostly they go without, which is tragic. They shouldn’t have to be faced with “stealing” from the West in order to grow spiritually.

We live in an age where we have the technology, we have the distribution channels and we have amazing abilities in on-demand publishing with ministries like Publish 4 All. With a global dominance of mobile phones and computers, the scarcity of discipleship tools is not because we don’t have technology tools.

Getting the spiritual content the world needs takes the help of people, and there is a shortage of believers willing to produce content specifically for the global church. Biblical content is desperately needed that can be used in training new believers and with those who God raises up to lead them. Yes, the efforts around the world are incredible and we play just a small part in the body of Christ. God has called us to this and He has called many of you also.

And then the uncomfortable part about why everyone doesn’t have the tools yet – the part about money. It’s expensive. The funds to support the efforts of those working in this arena are scarce. If the Lord is asking you to share in this load, please answer His prompting.

Q: How does Distant Shores Media work to address the shortage of discipleship resources in every language?

A: We work with individuals and ministries to help them create content that can be shared openly and translated by others within the global church without the licensing restrictions.

The global church is alive and continuing to grow. Despite the incredible lack of basic discipleship tools in their own languages, the global church continues to rise up like it has for centuries and follow the call of God to grow in spiritual maturity and to join in the task of making disciples. All over the world our brothers and sisters are giving of themselves to make disciples of people groups around them. Believers around the world are passionate and dedicated, and they are many, but they need the help of others, the same as when we began our new walk with Christ.

Providing sufficient biblical study tools in other languages is a much harder and more prolonged process than you might realize. If it only involved translation then it might be faster; well, kind of. If everything in English was culturally appropriate, using stories and examples that were easily understood in other languages and in other national contexts, then the first step could be checked off.

The next step would be to get permission to make the translation of the existing work. It’s a long agonizing process and largely unattainable in the short term. The third step may be the easiest - using existing technology platforms to distribute the content. The church and missions community is quite active and progressive in this area. But you can’t circulate what you don’t have.

All the technology of the 21st century has little effect if there isn’t anything to distribute on it. We’re surrounded by incredible inventions but it doesn’t matter if every language group holds their own Christian content tightly. Success will not come through technology and platforms. It will come from believers creating, and translating when necessary, the basic Bible study tools, and Christian helps that we are so accustomed to in the Western Church.

When Distant Shores Media created the Open Bible Stories project, we wanted to mobile optimize biblical content for the then emerging mobile technology. However, all of that content was “all rights reserved” and impossible to distribute on any platform that would allow translations by others without a complicated licensing process.

So the Open Bible stories were created to given the global church an initial tool that it could claim as their own and then translate and distribute the content as they say fit. The work was a collaboration of more than a dozen people lead by Tim Jore that took almost two years to complete with literally hundreds of hours worth of labor. Then the incredible generosity of the picture graphics being released under a Creative Commons license by Bill New at Sweet Publishing cut another year or two off the task. His gift to the global church significantly cut the time needed to produce the work, first in book format, then in digital format for internet and mobile phone distribution.

Even though the work has now been translated in hundred of languages and used around the world, Open Bible Stories didn’t happen until someone paid the price to create it. Original content doesn’t come through technology, it comes from the painstaking work of men and women willing to share of their talents and experience.

The global church will have a good supply of study materials when one of two things happens. The first is for the Western church to open its storehouses and supply easily, quickly and without restrictions as we experienced in the case of Sweet Publishing. The second is for new content to be created that others can quickly take and adapt to their own language and people group. There isn’t enough existing Christian material to fill that need right now so the best way forward is to create new content released with an open license that can never be restricted from the church.

Once that takes place, technology can step in and quickly help to address spiritual needs in almost every language. The internet and data capable mobile phones have leveled the playing field so biblical content can now be transmitted digitally to the four corners of the globe with the click of a button. Mobile phones are ubiquitous in every people group of the world and in many cases, with much better systems than we have in our over-regulated West. The global church already has mobile phones in the most remote parts of the world. According to a recent Ericsson study, 90 percent of the world’s population over the age of six will have a mobile phone within four years.

This creates a tremendous opportunity for the Gospel – when discipleship resources are made available on mobile phones, the global church can be equipped to grow spiritually in very little time. By distributing discipleship resources as digital files for use on mobile phones and through the Internet, you avoid the expense and logistical problems inherently associated with distributing physical resources. Coupling the ease of digital file distribution with new print-on-demand technology creates even greater opportunities to tell of His glory among the nations.
In addition, today’s technology also allows for "open collaboration." For the first time in history, technology is available that allows the global church to work together to create and translate discipleship resources in every language, from anywhere! Instead of having to wait for someone to come and translate the Bible for them, people groups can now begin to work together to translate their own Bible and other discipleship resources.

But the bottom line is you have to have something to put into the digital pipeline. And you have to start somewhere, either using existing content, mostly withheld through licensing restrictions, or by creating new content that can never again be blocked, withheld or restricted from others. It’s hard work and the road ahead isn’t simple, fast or easy. But it’s worth doing because our Christian brothers and sisters around the world are that important to us. A world that is lost and without hope needs to hear of God’s glory, and that He is a God who loves them.
We at Distant Shores Media are committed to creating open licensed content and working with as many other people and ministries as possible to enable them to add to the supply of Bible study tools needed by the global church – in every language, no exceptions.

Q: Are There Platforms to Enable It?

A: Door43 is one project that enables the church to take advantage of these opportunities.

http://www.door43.org is a web-based platform developed by Tim Jore that uses wiki technology to enable open collaboration in the creation, translation and distribution of discipleship resources. It’s an open platform where anyone can contribute to the content, while also making it possible to maintain the highest level of content.

All content in Door43 is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license. This means that not only is the content free of charge, it gives anyone the legal freedom to use, redistribute, translate and adapt the content without restrictions but with two conditions. The original creator of the work must be attributed and whatever is derived from the original work has to be released under the same license.

Door43 is configured to be multilingual and able to serve all of the nearly 7,000 languages in the world today. Rather than merely support the most popular languages, Door43 provides equal support for even the smallest languages.
The global church does not always have access to adequate computers, but most of them have mobile phones. Because of this, Door43 is mobile-optimized to enable people to create and use the discipleship resources in Door43. Mobile web portals provide robust access to Door43 content via the Internet. Audio and video content are mobile-optimized, which minimizes download sizes and increases the reach of the content.

Q: What else is Distant Shores doing to meet this huge need of discipleship tools in every language?

A: We are developing Open Bible Stories and other open projects.

  • New versions of the Open Bible Story series directed at multiple audiences are being created in consultation with our partners
  • Working with authors to assist their efforts in creating open licensed Bible study tools and helps for the global church
  • Writing and producing Bible studies that can be used openly by the global church
  • We’re creating a new website on Christians and copyright to help others understand how to navigate this treacherous area
  • Conducting training seminars when requested for ministries who want to know more about the ethical responsibilities of reaching the world in today’s digital, copyright dominated culture
  • Assisting an international ministry to create an open translation of the Bible to be released without licensing restrictions or conditions
  • Declaring God’s glory among the nations at every opportunity

Q: Can You Help?

A: This effort can’t be accomplished through any one person or organization. Declaring His glory among the nations is the work of the church. And you can help.

Review the Bible study tools you’ve created

Many of you have spent a lifetime writing Bible studies, devotionals and other notes created for teaching in your church, your men’s or women’s small groups or as sermons. You have hours invested in writing letters to other explaining spiritual concepts. You may not have access to be published widely, but your work may have as much or more value to the global church than some of the “big” names that commonly show up in books.

The Open Bible Story (OBS) series that we created is not necessarily better than the 100+ illustrated Bible storybooks that are currently available on amazon.com or cbd.com. The difference is that we released the OBS series with an open license so that it could spread quickly to several hundred languages. We literally don’t know how many because no one has to get our permission to translate it or report back to us with a copy. We consider that to be a minor downside and unimportant when you see the work spread so rapidly around the world. It illustrates how big the need really is.

You can be a part of reaching the world and you can do it even from your home. Your work, no matter how insignificant you may think it is, may be just what your Christian brothers and sisters are looking for to help them in their spiritual walk. There are no guarantees your writing will be picked up and translated into other languages. That’s based on the choices made by readers in other countries and the availability of your work. But I can assure you if left unpublished, it will have no impact, no lives will be changed and the lessons you’ve learned may be lost. You’ve nothing to lose by letting the world see and have open access to your spiritual walk and they have eternity to gain.

Tell your story

God has given everyone of us as believers a story to tell. That’s the story of what He has done for us and what we have learned through his word and our life experience as Christians. These are the things we recount in our small groups, share with our friends, use as an illustration in our teaching and record in our journals. If God has done something in your life worth sharing, if you have experienced God’s greatness, if He has met you in your spiritual darkness and lifted you up, then by all means tell others.

Your experience and what you’ve learned can help to stir up others by way of a reminder of the glory of God as explained in 1 Peter 1:12 – “Therefore I will always be ready to remind you of these things…” Even a short devotional length narrative you write has the opportunity to bless someone in the body of Christ somewhere in the world. When it’s released with an open license, then others can read it, translate it and adapt it to their language and culture and God is gloried. [To learn more how this process works, click HERE.]

Pray for our efforts

Paul and Timothy wrote to the church in Colossae asking them to pray "that God may open to us a door for the Word" (4:3). We would ask for that same privilege. Would you pray that God will continue to open doors for the word to equip His church with unrestricted discipleship resources in all their languages?

Tell others

Would you be willing to connect us with others who may be interested in being part of this approach to world missions? We are looking for open doors to tell the story of how their involvement can help to provide badly needed discipleship content to the family of believers in other nations. So tell others about us, recommend us through Facebook and your other social media accounts and speak ask to those around you would be willing to have us talk to with them in person about the part they can play.

Give

We certainly don’t hide that we need your financial support. We’re consumed with declaring His glory among the nations and the expense of a salary, as well as the office and travel expenses are real. The DSM team is consumed with the burden of declaring His glory among the nations. We need others, individuals, businesses and churches who will stand with us to help make this possible. Thank you for considering us in your giving plans. [click HERE for more information]