Do We Bible Translators (and Bible Translation Agencies) Know When We Have Succeeded?


  • Doug Trick
  • Holly Butler


Everyone wants to succeed. Every Christian organization that takes seriously the call to stewardship wants to be responsible with resources (human and otherwise) entrusted to it. As responsible stewards, we regularly review our programs (resources, activities, outputs, outcomes, etc.) with a view to determining how successful we have been in accomplishing our purposes. This raises the question, “How do we measure success?”

There is a strong tendency for organizations to measure success in terms of resources, activities, and outputs. A church-planting agency may point to an increase in the number of church-planting workers, a corresponding increase in church-planting activities, and an increase in the number of churches planted. These increases are considered as indicators that the agency is successful. A Bible translation agency may point to the number of completed Scripture translations as an indicator of success.

The “Results Based Management” (RBM) model has been used more recently by Bible translation agencies in an attempt to explicitly move away from an emphasis on “activities” and “product outputs” to a focus on impact in the lives of individuals and communities.  That is, “success” is not defined simply in terms of whether the Scriptures have been translated well for a particular people group but more in terms of whether or not people are being changed in response to having greater access to God’s Word.

This paper reflects on some of the concerns with the RBM model and particularly its application to Christian mission.