The Future Potential of Freely Giving
If more producers of biblical resources around the world begin to embrace the power of freely giving, we could see a new Reformation. Martin Luther accidentally changed the course of history because his pamphlets and books couldn’t be restricted by copyright law. Why? Because that wouldn’t be invented for another two centuries. Eric Metaxas writes,
The success of the Reformation—the rapid spread of ideas that changed the world forever—was accelerated by the “free and open” nature of the publishing environment of that time. Of course, in this new era of printing, before there were copyright laws, a single copy of Luther’s writings could quickly beget others—which begat others, which begat others—and before anyone knew it, they would be fanning out across the landscape like Abraham’s descendants and would become as numerous as the stars in the heavens.
Today, we have the opportunity to experience the same kind of ‘going viral’ with regard to the spread of the biblical languages and the resources that facilitate their study and application. The technology already exists, and the church in many parts of the world is highly motivated to meet their own needs for Scripture engagement. Billions of people have already equipped themselves with digital devices that could be used to study the Word of God in the original languages, and to legally give unlimited copies of training materials and resources to everyone they meet.
Think of your favorite Bible study program and all the resources in it, but available in every language of the world, with text and multimedia content, and with the freedom to print, stream, broadcast, and give away copies to everyone, by any means desired. This would be the freedom not only to consume the resources, but also to reuse the content for the creation of new theological resources that are deeply connected to and interlinked with the Bible and other resources.
All of this is possible and within reach of the global Church. But we will continue to be plagued by inefficiencies until we release the Word of God from the legal restrictions with which many of us in the Christian world have bound it. By letting go and making biblical content and original language training available under open licenses, the global church can make the most of every opportunity that the internet and mobile technology affords for advancing the Word of God. The full capacity of the rapidly expanding, educated, connected, and motivated global church can then be unleashed to translate, distribute and use the Word of God in every one of their spheres of influence.
In the chart above you can see the potential of freely giving over the years. The more creators of biblical resources begin to release their content under open licenses, the more likely we are to see exponential growth in the global Church. Right now most are aiming at linear growth, which seems to be winning at the beginning. But if we allow the seeds of open materials time to sprout, we may see something truly amazing in the future as God works in the midst of a Church eager to give freely.
So we invite you to be a catalyst for change in this arena. Help your church become more aware of this issue. Encourage those in your life who are creating biblical content to consider publishing it as we’ve discussed above. Pray for authors and big publishers to catch the vision, step outside their comfort zone in faith, and give sacrificially. Take part in gently pointing your friends away from the “all rights reserved” rut the American church has been stuck in for so long. We look forward to what God will do with all of this for his glory and the joy of his people.
*Much of the text above taken or reworded from Tim Jore’s article Letting Go.