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The Power of Partnership: New Sports Bible Launches in Southeast Asia

Published on July 30, 2019

Chad Bonham

“For the word of God is alive and powerful.”

Hebrews 4:12a

As a local sports ministry leader, John* fully understands the challenges of ministry in his home nation.

In his country, for instance, people in a certain region are culturally traditional and often resistant to new ideas or change. In a different region, people are more restricted are hesitant to be involved in openly religious activities. 

That’s why the new FCA Sports Bible in his native language is one of the most ambitious projects to take place in the small but densely populated Southeast Asian country in recent years.

Yet, there is one unifying factor that has the power to bring John’s country together: love of sports. His people are passionate about soccer and martial arts. This created an immense opportunity for the local sports ministry and the local FCA representatives.

Inspired after working on the FCA Thai Bible, John knew there was a great need for something specific for his language as well. There are more than 1,300 active soccer teams, and John has deep connections into the coaching world. He prayed about it, and then approached Dan Britton and Silas Mullis at FCA along with Richard Loh at Biblica.

But it wasn’t a standard Bible printing and distribution job that needed to take place. First, FCA and Biblica had to decide on a very important issue—which Bible translation would be used. In the end, a new modern translation was the most logical choice.

“So often, the older translations like the King James Version tend to be difficult for the younger generations to understand,” Richard Loh said. “There are certain passages that aren’t clear. But Biblica creates modern, contemporary and accurate translations for the young people. That’s why it’s so important for us to partner with FCA. Both organizations can really work together to serve the needs of the church and sports ministry.”

Originally planned to launch in January 2018, the game plan was put on hold until this summer when the leadership of the largest denomination led a detailed review process and gave their final approval for its use within its churches.

“It’s like you’re challenging the whole church leadership,” John explained. “But when we showed them the Bible, we were able to explain the purpose behind it, and show them the devotionals inside, and we finally got approval to work with the churches for distribution.”

Early on, John distributed 500 Bibles at a leadership camp. Another 1,000 Bibles were handed out at a large church sports camp. The remaining 8,500 Bibles will be distributed starting this month, July 2019.

“The Sports Bible will provide a tool for the Huddle groups,” John said. “We have a lot of teams and clubs but not many of them have Huddles. With the Bible, we’ll be able to start Huddles for all of the teams. It’s an important resource for the coaches and the team captains. It’s the best way for us to train them to use the materials and help them make disciples.”

4fe3e29c-83e1-4ba2-924b-80eaebaa787aBiblica representative Richard Loh was at the church sports camp where the first Bibles were distributed. He was thrilled to see the elated responses from the participants as they thumbed through its pages and not only read testimonies from popular soccer and Taekwondo athletes but realized that the translation was more familiar than what they might have expected.

“It’s so easy to understand,” one teenage boy said. “It’s really in our language. This is how we speak at home.’”

 “Not many of the young athletes have a Bible,” John explained. “The Bible is very difficult to distribute in the restricted areas. Using the sports ministry team, we can get Bibles into their hands. Having this Bible is another answer to prayer. It’s opening many doors for us.”

“Over 20 years ago I started Sports Ministry in our country,” shared Sam, local sports ministry pioneer. “Sports ministry was seen a physical thing but not a spiritual ministry. Now many of our pastors are leading sports ministries. I expect this will be a dynamic Bible to engage the next generation of young people.”

Next up for John is the printing and distribution of 30,000 Bilingual Sports New Testaments. Richard Loh believes that this is just the beginning of its expanded collaboration with FCA in an effort to saturate Southeast Asia with the Word of God.

“What a blessing that we could provide these Bibles in partnership with FCA,” he said. “They have the people. They have the participants. Biblica has the contemporary translation. When you put that together, what a great partnership that is.”

*The name change was made for security purposes.