Frequently Asked Questions
- Who is Lutheran Bible Translators, and what does LBT do?
- How many people still need Bibles in their heart language?
- Why not teach these people groups English and give them an English Bible?
- Who supports LBT’s work?
- Is LBT part of LCMS?
- How long does translation take? What does it involve?
- How many missionaries does LBT have?
- What training do the missionaries go through?
- What is missionary life like?
- Do missionaries learn the local language?
- Do I have to be a pastor to be an LBT missionary?
- Can I serve with LBT even if my gifts do not match your Priority Needs?
- Do LBT missionaries have to raise their own support?
Who is Lutheran Bible Translators, and what does LBT do?
Lutherans started LBT in 1964 to make God’s Word accessible to everyone—literate or not, educated or not—in the language of their hearts. In addition to written translations, we communicate Scripture audio-visually. We’re involved in Scripture Engagement and literacy programs.
There is no “Lutheran Bible.” There is a German Bible (the Luther Bible) translated by Martin Luther and printed in 1534. And there are Bibles with study notes written from a Lutheran perspective.
Simply, we are Lutherans who translate the Bible into languages that do not have God’s Word available to them.
How many people still need Bibles in their heart language?
Fewer than 550 of the more than 7,000 languages in the world have translations of the complete Bible. Fewer than 1,300 have a translated New Testament. That means about 180 million people today do not have any Scripture available in their language.
Why not teach these people groups English and give them an English Bible?
Messages are communicated best in a person’s mother tongue, or heart language. The hearer or reader can process the information on an emotional heart-felt level, rather than just an intellectual one.
Who supports LBT’s work?
LBT is supported solely by churches, church organizations and by individuals with a heart for missions. LBT does not receive direct funding from Lutheran synodical bodies.
Is LBT part of LCMS?
LBT is an independent Lutheran organization and does not receive direct funding from any synod or denomination. However, LBT has fostered a close partnership with the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and is a Recognized Service Organization (RSO).
How long does translation take? What does it involve?
Translating the entire Bible may take as few as eight years and sometimes more than 25. Translation times may vary due to the complexity of the local language, and the availability and education level of local language partners. Civil war, sickness, and other unforeseen obstacles have slowed some of our translation projects.
We begin with an invitation from the national churches and Bible societies to work with a group that has an oral language. When LBT missionaries arrive, they learn the language and culture, build relationships with local people, and work with local language experts to develop a written language.
Excellence takes time. Once translation begins, it involves a lengthy process of creating a draft, making many translation decisions, and reviewing the text many times. They check the text with local people for comprehension. They check the manuscript with experts in biblical languages to be sure the message stays true to biblical intent. To learn even more about the process, visit The Translation Process.
A printed Bible may seem like the conclusion of the process, but it’s only the beginning. After the Bible is in print, audio resources are created. Scripture engagement and literacy efforts are launched so individuals who speak that language learn to read God’s Word and teach others how to read and understand its truths.
How many missionaries does LBT have?
As of 2016, there are 43 LBT missionaries and 23 associate missionaries. They are working over 20 Bible translation projects, 60 Scripture Engagement programs, and four Language Development programs. This work is being done in over 50 different languages in 15 countries.
What training do the missionaries go through?
LBT missionaries are trained at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics near Dallas, Texas. The program includes various graduate-level courses in a chosen field, as well as in language and culture acquisition. Depending on a missionary’s background and area of interest, they can also receive training at other institutes.
To learn more about training requirements, visit our page Become a Missionary.
What is missionary life like?
Missionary life offers many difficulties, like sickness, culture stress, difficult living conditions, war, and separation from family, friends, support groups and the familiarities of home.
On the other hand, missionaries experience many joys, like knowing they are serving faithfully in God’s mission and spreading His Word, making new friends, and experiencing new environments, new foods, a new home, new languages, and new adventures!
Do missionaries learn the local language?
As national coworkers have increasingly higher educational levels and English skills, the need for speaking the local language can vary. However, we encourage all missionaries to learn the local language as much as possible. It encourages local relationships enables long-term success. It informs better translations.
Most missionaries spend their first year on the field learning language. Hiring a language tutor is the norm, and some missionaries live with local families while they learn the language.
Learning the languages especially helps missionaries who start by creating an alphabet for oral unwritten languages. However, missionaries don’t actually do the translation work; the missionary serves as a translation advisor, working with the national people who understand the language best.
Do I have to be a pastor to be an LBT missionary?
While a seminary education is beneficial on the field, it is not necessary to be an ordained minister or to have attended seminary to be a missionary with LBT.
If you are a LCMS-rostered pastor, educator, or DCE, you can remain on the active roster while serving overseas with LBT. You can receive a call through LCMS World Mission and be seconded to LBT.
It may surprise you to know that many LBT missionaries began as educators and teachers. Skills acquired through the training and certification process are extremely helpful in literacy and Scripture engagement work as well as translation. Teaching experience greatly helps missionaries who train a team of nationals in translation or literacy/Scripture engagement principles.
No matter your background, however, you will need training in translation or literacy/Scripture engagement principles, anthropology or linguistics. You may also require some training in biblical exegesis and analysis, depending on your field of service. If you are pursuing the translation advisor track, a basic proficiency in exegetical skills and in Greek or Hebrew will be necessary. These skills can be achieved through undergraduate studies.
Can I serve with LBT even if my gifts do not match your Priority Needs?
There are many ways to be involved in missions that support those doing the work of translation and Scripture engagement, even if they’re not listed on our Priority Needs page. We need missionary pilots, business managers, computer technicians, and teachers for missionary kids. Whether with LBT or with one of our partner organizations, LBT will find a place for you to serve the Lord with us!
Do LBT missionaries have to raise their own support?
All LBT missionaries are required to do Partnership Development, which means finding prayer partners as well as financial partners—people willing to support their ministry overseas. However, LBT missionaries are salaried and receive full medical, dental, and life insurance as well as retirement benefits and vacation time. For more information on this process, visit Become a Missionary.