It was after lunch on Friday and I was helping to fill in at our Center City store doing what I love best – serving customers – when he walked in. He was a middle aged man with a question written all over his face and he was walking towards the Bible section. I walked over and greeted him and before I could ask a question, he looked at me and said, “Do you have one of those teaching Bibles?” It took me a minute to grasp what he wanted, but it soon became clear that he needed a Study Bible. His pastor had suggested that it might be time for him to begin teaching and preaching from God’s word, but in order to do that effectively, he needed a “teaching” Bible. Just like me, he had one other problem, he needed glasses to read and wanted to see if the Bible would come in large print too.
After learning that he wanted a King James Bible, we began looking for options. What a blessing to be in a store that has so many Bibles to consider. We could have chosen a Thompson Chain, a Scofield or a plain old King James Study Bible, but we settled on the Life Application Study Bible in the end. For my money, nothing beats the Life Application Study Bible in any translation for its use in helping people to understand God’s word and to apply it – which is the essence of teaching. I suggested that we look at one of his favorite passages together and he quickly turned to a parable in Matthew. As I explained how the notes worked, his eyes lit up and he began to get excited. Maybe teaching the Bible would not be so daunting after all.
As we finished the conversation and he purchased his teaching Bible, I could not help but think about how many places in Africa where this would not have happened. Someone might have stumbled into a Christian bookstore or the Bible society and been looking for a teaching Bible too. In all likelihood, they would have found would have been a small selection of reference Bibles with no study notes as study Bibles are often too expensive for anyone to afford. It is no wonder that the pastors in Liberia in 2014, treated my gift of the New Living Translation of the Life Application Study Bible as if it were gold. For many, that Bible would be there only reference library and their primary source for studying God’s word.
Fortunately, some of that is about to change in 2017 with the launch of the Africa Study Bible from the courageous team at Oasis International. They say that the Africa Study Bible will combine the clear, accurate text of modern translations—beginning in English with the New Living Translation—with study tools that reflect uniquely African insights and experiences. This Bible was created because hundreds of millions of Africans know and love Christ. However, most Bible resources come from a Western perspective—cultures far removed from the reality of life in Africa. I first met Matthew Elliott, President of Oasis, on my trip to Africa in 2008 and caught his passion for Christian literature for the growing church on this vast continent. How excited he must be to see this dream becoming a reality.
I look forward to the day when these Bibles and many other study tools will be available to my African brothers and sisters at reasonable prices. One thing I know for sure, they will greatly appreciate a Bible with teaching tools written from an African perspective that will help to explain and apply God’s word to a church that is growing by leaps and bounds. Much like the Ethiopian man mentioned in scripture, there are millions of Africans today asking the same question – “What does this mean?”. How exciting that in the years to come there will be many pastors using this new tool to help teach the Bible just like Philip did so many years ago. What a great day it will be when I can serve alongside our teams in Liberia and Sierra Leone and help someone get one of these new Bibles –Thanks Oasis for making this possible.