Reformer and Bible Translator
Sixth President of the United States
English philosopher and physician
Missionary to China
About the Digital Bible Society
Wherever we travel, we encounter church planters and evangelists who ask us for Bibles and discipleship resources. Many, especially those serving minority languages groups, have given up trying to secure Bibles in a desired language because of the costs involved, while others are unaware they even have a Bible in their own language.
Meeting this need is the goal of dozens of organizations like Wycliffe Bible Translators, Faith Comes by Hearing, Global Recordings Network, Jesus Film Media, Mars Hill Productions, and others who are pressing forward toward the mark of insuring that everyone can have a Bible in their heart language.
While most of these organizations have been doing this for a while, our ministry began in the summer of 2000 when our friends, Chinese-born Pastors Amy and Hong Sit, took a missionary named Jon Lee into their home. Amy, now with the Lord, was the daughter of Leland Wang, the Chinese Evangelist, who, along with Watchman Nee and others, launched the Chinese House Church Movement.
Working in China for over twenty years, Jon Lee had seen precious few Bibles and Christian books and was overwhelmed by Pastor Hong’s library. He immediately began scanning Hong’s books into digital formats with the goal of taking them back to China on a CD and giving them to his friends. He started with the unabridged Matthew Henry, a six volume, 12,000+ page behemoth Bible commentary.
"Anything is better than Nothing..."
It wasn’t long before Jon became exhausted and started asking for help. Pastor Hong contacted his friend, Ken Bitgood, and asked for advice on how to best scan such a mammoth book. Ken, a Bible enthusiast and self-taught computer programmer who had grown up using and writing Bible software, agreed to meet with Jon and introduce him to what was, at that time, cutting edge, commercial Bible software (PC Study Bible, Logos and others). Jon saw the abundance of resources available in the United States and began weeping. He then asked Ken to give him copies of these programs for distribution across China. Ken said, “No, that’s illegal. It’s against copyright law.”
Jon questioned this line of reasoning by asking, “What do you care about American copyright law when we are going to jail for distributing Bibles?”
Jon questioned, “What do you care about American copyright law when we are going to jail for distributing Bibles?”
Ken told him it was a matter of conscience and asked, “Why would you even want Bibles and books in English? Wouldn’t it be better to distribute in Chinese?”
“Of course, it would.” Jon said, “But, English is better than nothing and that is what we have in China, nothing!”
It was at this point that Ken suggested “Why don’t we just pray that God would help us find Chinese resources for which we could secure permissions, and that we use our skills to help build them into deliverable libraries.”
They agreed and prayed a simple and bold prayer with a commitment to follow through as God provided. That simple prayer launched a ministry. Within days, they began meeting people from a variety of ministries who were busy creating Chinese Christian resources with the purpose of distribution in China. Six months later, Jon was traveling by train across China bringing resources to friends and colleagues on CD in a library he named “Chinese Treasures”. And, in spite of the crude nature of this library, Jon’s initial distribution was a resounding success.
Recognizing the need to improve upon this work, Ken and his wife Deborah, their three homeschooling boys, and a dozen or so friends went to work on producing a better product and soon formed a 501(c)3 ministry they called Digital Bible Society. Over the next ten years, this all-volunteer group formed partnerships with nearly 50 Chinese missions and resource agencies and produced 5 major versions of Chinese Treasures as hundreds of thousands of free-to-copy CDs went out to Chinese speaking people around the world.
American Orator and Revolutionary
American lexicographer, textbook pioneer, English-language spelling reformer, political writer, editor, and prolific author.
Morgan, R. J. (1998). Thomas Nelson Publishers
Arabic and Farsi Bible Libraries
In January, 2010, friends from “The World Bible Translation Center” (now BibleLeague International) invited leaders from 14 ministries to Fort Worth, Texas to reviewed the work we did for China and discuss the dream of prepare resources libraries in Arabic and Farsi languages for free distribution across the Middle East. That same day, five major organizations stepped asking us to accelerate this initiative by hiring full time employees and pledged the provide the funds to make it happen.
We immediately went to work hiring programmers and designers to help us put the new libraries together. At the same time, we were inundated with new content as new partner ministries contacted other partners and friends to help us get resources in Arabic and Farsi.
That same month, Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, introduced a new device, the iPad, and changed mobile computing forever. Meanwhile, new devices were appearing every week. Tablets, MP3 players, MP4 players, hand-held projectors, book readers, and smart-phones were flooding the market, especially overseas. All of these emerging devices had one thing in common, the ability to read data from a tiny chip called a Micro SD. These small data storage units were not only easy to carry but could hold more than fifty times as much as a CD-ROM. With proper compression, we could not only add dozens of Bibles and scores of reference materials to a library but hundreds of hours of video and thousands of hours of audio asl well, all on a single chip. When the year was over, we had libraries in Arabic and Persian many times the size of our Chinese projects.
An Alliance of Ministries
In July of 2011, several like-minded organizations agreed to form the Digital Bible Alliance, a fellowship of ministries committed to seeing the work of Digital Bible Society continue. Additional funds were committed to the development of libraries in ten additional languages: Russian, Spanish, Urdu, Vietnamese, Burmese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Turkish, Bengali, and Hindi.
This not only gave us the basic funding needed to build additional libraries, it also provided increased distribution networks for those resources. By the end of 2012, DBS had assisted in the creation and distribution of over 30 million digital Bibles and Christian resources and over 250,000 copyable digital libraries for closed access nations - without any idea of just how many have been copied.
In the autumn of 2012, the International Forum of Bible Agencies voted to entrust the Digital Bible Society with a project which would index every print Bible, every audio Bible, and every visual Bible ever made in order to more easily identify what was available and secure the needed resources. Work started on the Find-A-Bible project in February 2013. By 2017, three major updates have been implemented and it continues to grow in scope and content.
Work started on the Find-A-Bible project in February 2013. By 2017, three major updates have been implemented and it continues to grow in scope and content.
Thanks to initiatives like the Digital Bible Library from ETEN, hundreds of Bible translations became available for widespread distribution in 2014. We call it “the year the Bible went free.” Our focus grew toward ensuring that these Bibles were compatible with a wide range of formats, and to do so, we built an online distribution platform and called the “Bible.Cloud.”
Bible Cloud and Print on Demand
As Mission agencies and workers began discovering these freely downloadable Bibles, we started to receive requests for printed versions. Meanwhile, “Print-On-Demand” processing was emerging as a reliable and affordable means of printing books, especially for low volume orders. Consequently, we began processing and making Bibles available at the cost of printing on behalf of partners like Wycliffe and Pioneer Bible Translators through services like CreateSpace and Amazon.com.
Our story continues to unfold. It seems we are just getting started serving Christians around the world, by insuring that all people have free and open access to God’s Word and that every disciple-maker is equipped with what they need to make disciples in every tribe, nation and tongue.
Perhaps you, your church, or your organization, desires to be part of this unfolding story. If so, please contact us, we would love to talk.