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At the dawn of the 21st century, Bible societies find themselves facing a brave new post-Christian world. The problem isn't a lack of Bibles but rather an unprecedented lack of biblical literacy among both the churched and the unchurched. That's a curious problem in a country where publishers sell millions of copies of the Bible every year.

In fact, as pastor Brian McLaren writes in Finding Faith (Zondervan 1999), the Bible is the next-to-last place seekers turn to find spiritual guidance. (The last place, McLaren claims, is the church.)

Glenn Paauw (pronounced "pow") of the International Bible Society (IBS) believes this can change. "The signs are all around us: American culture is on a spiritual search," says Paauw, director of product development for the Colorado Springs-based ministry. Paauw sees a phenomenal opportunity for ministry, and he doubts that ministries like IBS can respond to it merely by doing business as usual.

Founded as the New York Bible Society in 1809, IBS spent its first century on pioneering distribution programs that placed Scriptures directly in the hands of people who needed them, including sunburned bathers on America's beaches and frostbitten members of Richard Byrd's expeditions to the North and South poles. The society also placed Bibles in hotel rooms half a century before Gideons International existed.

But the 20th century brought big changes to IBS. Acting on pleas from evangelists and the National Association of Evangelicals for a faithful but readable English Bible translation, IBS commissioned the New International version (NIV) translation in 1967. First published in 1978—through an arrangement that grants Zondervan rights to publish various retail editions but allows IBS to create low-cost ...

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April 23, 2001

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