What Does Innovation Mean in the Bible Translation Movement?

What Does Innovation Mean in the Bible Translation Movement?

November 14, 2022


Whether through technological advances, new ways of managing projects, or strategic partnerships, innovation has been a pillar of Seed Company since its inception. For Randall Lemley, Seed Company’s Vice President of Collaborative Exploration, innovation is simply “recognizing new ways of doing things that increase the value of what you’re doing.”

Discover how innovation is accelerating Bible translation. Step into Seed Company’s past, explore what God is doing right now, and get a glimpse of the future.


Innovation Means New Technology

“Can you imagine trying to get your job done, in your home or workplace, without technology?”

This question is fitting, coming from Randall. It’s easy to take for granted the technological tools woven into our everyday lives. We need laptops, Wi-Fi, and Zoom to do our jobs efficiently and effectively.

Bible translators need those same tools, and more.

From the 1990s to Today

Randall says that working with Apple in the ’90s felt like a “victory” for Bible translation.

While flying around the world on business trips, he’d always carve out time to gift translators with used Apple equipment. Back then, these were considered “high-tech” resources.

Thankfully, technology in the Bible translation movement has come a long way from used Apple equipment. Today, the translation process would be hard to complete without the advances God has made available. Without technological innovations like those listed below, Randall estimates that it would take us around 80 to 100 more years to translate God’s Word into every language.

Translator Silvia from Zapoteco del Istmo Cluster

4 Technologies Accelerating Translation Today

Eurasia Media Distribution Consultation Online

EMDC is an interactive, educational platform. It allows global colleagues working in Bible translation, church planting, evangelism, and other ministries to listen and learn from each other.

Clear Bible, Inc. and the Consultant Checking Dashboard

The Consultant Checking Dashboard is a new software, in development, that will accelerate the translation checking process. Consultants will be able to quickly view how source texts and translated texts related to each other, all on one screen.

Taste of Translation

Taste of Translation is a two-day workshop in Southeast Asia. It highlights a fresh approach to language surveys while also educating community leaders on the steps of translation.

Minority Language Websites

In West Africa, language communities that have been overlooked because they have only a few speakers now have their own websites! Seed Company has partnered with a Nigerian IT cohort to produce websites that promote a language’s Scripture and culture.


Innovation Means New Ways of Working with People

While Seed Company has been pursuing new technologies and methodologies since its inception in 1993, founder Bernie May also valued moving Bible translation forward through people—both investors and recipients of Scripture. He knew it was important to find a way to make national colleague participation in Bible translation sustainable.

After gathering the input of friends and business leaders, Bernie realized that people would be interested in financially supporting translation projects led by mother-tongue translators if they knew three things: 

  1. what they would cost,
  2. how long they would take, 
  3. and what they would produce.

In response, Bernie made a plan to break translations up into 3-year projects with manageable, measurable goals. With this approach, not only could investors more easily track the progress of the translation, but teams could achieve success more quickly, thus inspiring them to continue the work. Randall calls this innovative approach the “projectization” of Bible translation.

Today, this new direction that Bernie pioneered is is common throughout the Bible translation movement.

Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, AR, visits Dadiya translators

4 Ways to Measure Translation Project Success

Bernie’s heart for innovation became the foundation for Seed Company’s ongoing passion: finding the best ways to get translated Scripture into people’s hands and hearts as quickly as possible. Translating Scripture in a way that’s clear, accurate, and natural is imperative. However, we ultimately measure a translation project’s success by its impact on the people. 

Four key areas help us evaluate the success of any Bible translation project:


We care about the pace of translation projects. It’s innovative if we can get Scripture into the hands of minority-language speakers faster.

Experience the story of the Rendille, in which local translator Laban partnered with Seed Company to accelerate the completion of the New Testament for his community.


We care about the quality of translations. It’s innovative if our translations effectively communicate the truth inherent in Scripture at a heart level.

See how one Slovak Romani translator addressed a translation quality challenge—one that took “three coffees” to solve—in order to clearly communicate the story of Samson and Delilah.


We care about involving those who will be the recipients of the translation. It’s innovative if we include the community in the translation process; more of God’s people can embrace his Word that much sooner while also helping to get the work done.

Discover how Oral Bible Storytelling is opening the door for women with few educational opportunities to lead the way in Bible translation.


We care about engaging people and communities through Scripture. It’s innovative if God’s Word has greater impact.

Find out how innovations in sign language translation are reaching more Deaf people with the gospel.


The Future of Innovation Depends on Partnership

“Everything we do is in a framework of partnership,” Randall explains, “including the exploration of new ways to accomplish our mission.” To accelerate Bible translation and advance God’s kingdom, we share new ideas, approaches, and technology with global partners. “The thing that excites me right now about advancements in Bible translation,” Randall continues, “is that we are progressively including more of God’s people in the joy of this work.”

Bernie May once said of Bible translation work, “This is the hardest job you’ll ever love.” 

That sentence resonates with so many partners in the global Bible translation movement—from translators and ministry partners to staff and investors. It’s a task we can only accomplish together with the Lord’s blessing and guidance. 

Randall concludes, “The privilege that God gives us to be involved in things and to see our participation making a difference—that’s something we want others to be able to share.” 

Learn More About Seed Company’s Distinctive Approaches




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