Post 46 / Director's Vision, The Next Language
June 7, 2021
The Good and the Best
Is it possible for the good to become the enemy of the best?
I have come to believe that one of the overarching lessons of the Bible is exactly that. Its books are replete with examples of the same.
Take Ishmael and Isaac. It seemed good that Abraham had a son – Ishmael. He later became known as the son of the flesh/law. Isaac appeared later to become known as the son of promise. Thousands of years later Paul instructed us to “cast out the bondwoman”- representing the works of the flesh.
Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. [Gal 4:30-31 KJV]
The next one is a little more subtle. Take the law, ceremonial system, tabernacle, temple etc. In these instances these were all parts of a system instituted in detail by God. Their origins and purposes were unassailable. But there came a day when even they became the worst enemy of something better – the Messiah, God in the flesh.
During the ministry of Christ the greatest opposition (outside of Satan himself) were the keepers of the law and the temple. It was they themselves that would settle for nothing less than crucifying the Son of God. They should have been the first to recognize this Anointed One. When the Magi came looking for the new born King whose star they followed, Herod believed them and went to the trouble of killing all the children of that age in and around Bethlehem. The religious rulers who confirmed where the Messiah was to be born apparently didn’t even bother to check it out.
According to historian Herodotus the Temple was one of the seven wonders of the world. Jesus referred to it as “My Father’s house” at the very beginning of His ministry when He cleansed the temple. By the end of His short career He referred to the temple as “your house has become unto you desolate” as He wept over the city. The Jews anticipated that the Messiah would establish a political kingdom. Instead He twice physically assaulted the Temple and its misuse – (apparently His only physical attack on anything or anyone). He began to use language that referred to His body as the temple – which in fact the law and the prophets and the temple itself were always pointing toward. Paul referred to the entire system as shadows pointing to Christ. When the Light appeared the Jewish leadership embraced the shadows and deservingly fell under the final destruction of both the Temple and the city. Jesus predicted that with precise detail. What had been good became rubble and the shadows gave way to a “new and living way.”
By now you might be asking what this has to do with GRN? In its beginning Gospel Recordings was primarily a point of the evangelistic spear – a voice in the wilderness crying as did John the Baptist, “Prepare ye a way for the Lord.” We prepared those Gospel seeds with the primary intent being that teachers, church planters, and disciplers would use them, spreading those “seeds” to maturity in the form of Scripture translation and disciples and churches. That pattern (what we now call “partnership relationships”) could be documented repeatedly in my personal recording career in the Americas in the 1960s and 1970s.
But, it was evident at one point from the dusty stacks of 78 rpm records in the warehouse in Los Angeles that some of those languages were not seeing any distribution. Ed Young was the first person I remember that had a passion for distribution. That became increasingly the emphasis across the mission. I remember training Ed to do field recording because, as I told him, that was his ticket out of LA and into Mexico where he could then record and work on distribution. Believe it or not, I don’t think that leadership in the mid-70s would have sent anyone out only to do distribution.
Books could be written about the highly successful entry of the mission into distribution in the agricultural camps of Culiacan, where thousands of day-laborers were hauled in from Mexico’s villages to harvest comestibles that ended up on American dinner tables. Projects like Culiacan’s sprang up all over Northern Mexico and were successfully distributing materials in over 200 of Mexico’s tribal languages. This was and still is very fruitful. I have participated in several such projects over the years. What a joy to put God’s Word in the form of CDs or SD cards into the hands of seekers from Mexico’s remotest and poorest regions, after a big screen movie and invitation on a soccer field or some such common area in the agricultural camps.
This is all good but is there something better or missing?
I see two weaknesses. One is that our zeal is for the most part not spearheaded by local churches or church planting ministries. On my most recent trip to Culiacan in February I was asked by a mature participant after several migrants had prayed for salvation, “Who takes charge of these new believers and disciples them?” That was hard to answer. Fortunately, there are a few local ministries engaging in this but not in an organized way. GRN has never been a church planting ministry. When Vaughn Collins oriented me when I first arrived he warned me that sooner or later I would be tempted to follow-up on the success I would see from the recordings. He advised, when that happens, please find a church planting mission to do that and don’t forget that there are hundreds of languages out there that are still waiting for the first Word. You may be the only one that can break that ground. Ironically, Vaughn went on to do a couple of Bible translations in Indonesia where he wanted to go beyond what GRN could offer.
But, that brings me to the second and more serious weakness of the success of our distribution in Mexico. There are still close to 100 languages that have never been recorded in Mexico. That takes nothing from the 289 that have been recorded, but the schedule of “projects” to the camp migrants and distribution to the rest of the 289 has shrunk new recording efforts down to barely a single language a year. This is an in-house equivalent to the 90 and 9. Jesus left the 99 (in the wilderness) to seek and find the single lost sheep. I am saying that we need to make a course correction to free resources – both human and financial – to reach EVERY language.
I have used Mexico (with no intended aspersions on current leadership) because it is not untypical of what we are doing around the world. Just this morning I looked at a distribution report in Nigeria. Nigeria alone has over 400 unrecorded languages.
When you analyze even our recording projects you find that the bulk of the programs and recording time is going into already recorded languages. I do not deny that there are under-recorded languages, but when we start measuring recorded content in terms of hours instead of minutes it is likely that we have gone way beyond our “preaching” niche in the chain of mission timelines to an unreached people group. It could be better accepted if the Gospel had already arrived to every language, but that is far from the fact. I would challenge us to step out front again and go for the one lost sheep. This is the pioneering ministry God raised up Gospel Recordings/Global Recordings Network to be, and one that is still needed in this modern world.
Larry DeVilbiss | Executive Director
Global Recordings Network USA
P. S. As a “thank you” for your continued support of the ministry of Global Recordings Network USA, and in celebration of over 80 years of God’s faithfulness, we have compiled a collection of 80 daily devotions written by GRN founder, Joy Ridderhof. You may read or download your copy of Rejoice Always – 80 Devotions with Joy Ridderhof here.