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Wycliffe Associates Claims To Help Spoken-Only Language Groups Gain Access to Scriptures

Wycliffe Associates, a Florida-based Bible translation organization, continues to make claims about its work around the world while providing little or no evidence of the progress or success of that work.

An Aug. 9 press release claims it “is helping spoken-only language groups gain access to the Scriptures by strategically equipping and training national Bible translators.”

“There are thousands of oral cultures,” says Tim Neu, chief operating officer. “In an oral culture, sounds—words—are the currency of life. Everything of value is heard.”

Neu says many Christians in these oral cultures live in places of intense persecution, where hostile authorities harass them for their faith. 

According to the press release, “In one country, authorities captured six Christians who were returning home from a Bible translation workshop and seized their equipment. They interrogated the Christians for three days and beat them repeatedly, not allowing them to eat or sleep.”  

MinistryWatch asked for specifics about this incident, but we did not get a response.

Wycliffe Associates says it is providing Bible Translation Recording Kits (BTRKs) to these “spoken-only language groups.”  It says these BTRKs “helps mother-tongue Bible translators use a translation method known as MAST (Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation) to translate and record the Scriptures for their language group.”

MAST is, however, a controversial process.  MinistryWatch wrote a series of articles about MAST that raised questions about the effectiveness of the program and the truthfulness of the claims Wycliffe Associates made about it.  In 2020, Wycliffe Associates resigned its membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) while under review for claims it had made about MAST.  Later that year, Wycliffe Associates President Bruce Smith, as well as a number of members of the development team at Wycliffe Associates, left the organization.

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Wycliffe’s latest press release claims, “Each $2,000 BTRK includes a laptop computer, a microphone, and specialized Bible translation recording software that is easy for translators to learn.”  Further, it says, “Since launching the BTRK program, Wycliffe Associates has distributed 1,299 kits. Currently there are Bible translations in progress for 743 languages worldwide.”

The release says Wycliffe Associates has distributed 1,299 BTRK kits since launching the program.  At $2,000 per kit, that would come to more than $2.5-million.  MinistryWatch asked when the program started, and where those kits have been deployed.  We received no response.

The release also repeats a claim made often in Wycliffe Associates press releases.  It says, “Currently there are Bible translations in progress for 743 languages worldwide.”  However, it is not clear if this statement means they are projects in which Wycliffe Associates is directly involved.  However, last month, Wycliffe Associates said it was involved in 748 translation projects.  That would suggest that five translation projects have been completed in the past month.  We asked Wycliffe Associates to share the names of those completed languages, but we received no response.

Warren Cole Smith

Warren previously served as Vice President of WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD Magazine, and Vice President of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, editor, marketing professional, and entrepreneur. Before launching a career in Christian journalism 25 years ago, Smith spent more than seven years as the Marketing Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.