Are you curious about what bible translations sell at Christian Book stores? No? Well, I can’t blame you. As a – capital M – mainstream Protestant, I’ve never felt compelled to walk into a Christian Book Store unless I feel the need to see how Christian Pop Culture is destroying the world this year. But I do know that people do actually enter these stores and spend their money so below are the top ten selling bible translations through June 2, 2012.
|Based on Dollar Sales||Based on Unit Sales|
If you’re like me, you only recognize a few of those translations. But what really stands out is how none of those translations are what we use in church on Sunday morning. Now, I get why that’s the case – I mean, as a Mainstream Protestant, there aren’t enough of us to keep the NRSV numbers high. But these numbers do make me curious about what happens when congregants – those who actually go into a CBS every once in awhile – what happens when they hear a translation in church that doesn’t match with their bible at home? I’m guessing most don’t really spend much time thinking about it or notice. But I think those of us up front tell ourselves that the differences are beneficial. I think we think that the person hearing the Word spoken with different words might have to pay attention a little more to the text. But is that really true? I think a more common reaction, and one that I employ all the time, is to just zone out during the scripture readings. My body might be in the pew but my mind…my mind is in a different dimension. Usually, by the time “Praise to you O Christ” is spoken, I’m back inside the church but that’s not always a given. Now, if my behavior is more normal than not – the different words fails to engage the individual. Instead, the person is left focusing on the fact that the words are different rather than the content of the words themselves. I think a great example of this is if you happen to attend two different churches (or services) that use the two different ELW approved translations of the Lord’s Prayer. This is a problem for me since my field site uses the more ecumenical translation while my home church uses the prayer that includes trespasses and all that. So, when I’m at either service, I always stumble over the Prayer and find myself asking “okay, which one do I speak today?” Content loses in respective to what is spoken. Now I don’t think everyone is attending multiple churches but I do think this matters for the stranger that comes into the door. If they find themselves being confronted by different words, those words need to be explained and grounded for them. If not, then it is possible that the visitor will be trapped noticing the “differences” and, seeing the differences, might end up feeling that the church is just too “different.” And if that happens, they’re just going to walk out the door, never to return. I’m not saying that churches should be afraid of the words they use in their services – but I am saying that those words need to be given grounding, expression, and explanation. And if the preacher or presider doesn’t spend time doing this, I think evangelism suffers and, in this day and age, evangelism matters, even for capital M mainstream Protestants like me.