Frequently Asked Questions


  1. Who are Lutheran Bible Translators and what do you do?
  2. How many people still need Bibles in their heart language?
  3. Why not teach these people groups English and give them an English Bible?
  4. What is a Lutheran Bible?
  5. How is the translation done and how long does it take?
  6. What happens after the translation is completed?
  7. How many missionaries does LBT have and where are they?
  8. What difficulties do the missionaries encounter?
  9. What joys do the missionaries experience?
  10. What training do the missionaries go through?
  11. What opportunities for advanced education are available when I join LBT?
  12. As a pastor, I have already spent four years in seminary, do I still need any other training to be a Bible translator?
  13. As a missionary with LBT, will I have to raise my own support?
  14. What if I have education loans or other debts?
  15. Who supports LBT's work?
  16. Is LBT part of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS)?
  17. Do I have to be a Pastor to be an LBT missionary?
  18. I am already a pastor. What kind of work could I be doing?
  19. I am a teacher. What could I do on the mission field?
  20. What type of housing would I have as an LBT missionary?
  21. Do missionaries need to learn the languages first, before translating?
  22. How do missionaries learn to speak the local language?
  23. What happens in case of an emergency?
  24. What kind of education will my children receive while living overseas?
  25. My gifts are in areas other than the Current Needs listed. Can I still be a part of LBT’s ministry?

Who are Lutheran Bible Translators and what do you do?

LBT is an independent Lutheran mission agency. It is the only Lutheran agency solely dedicated to long term missionary work in Bible Translation, Literacy and Scripture Engaagement.

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How many people still need Bibles in their heart language?

Of the nearly 7,000 spoken languages in the world, about two-thirds have no portion of Scripture available to them in their heart language. That's about 350 million people without any portion of God's Word in their mother tongue.

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Why not teach these people groups English and give them an English Bible?

Language communicates best when it's the mother tongue, the heart language of the person reading or hearing it.

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What is a Lutheran Bible?

There really isn't a Lutheran Bible by definition... the closest thing would be a German Bible translation by Martin Luther, first printed with both Testaments in 1534. We do not translate Lutheran Bibles... we are Lutherans who translate the Bible into languages that do not have God's Word available to them.

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How is the translation done and how long does it take?

The average New Testament translation can take 12 years if there are no serious delays. However, it has taken as long as 30 years. Translation times vary depending on a number of factors such as the complexity of the language, civil war, sickness, availability and education level of local national partners, and other unforeseen obstacles.

Working through the national church bodies and Bible Societies, LBT is invited to come and work with unwritten language groups. The missionary then develops friendships and partnerships with the local people, building relationships, learning the language and culture, and working with local experts in the writing and development of the written language structure. With the partnership of the national Christian church, Scripture translation then begins. The message is promoted through audio and other non-print media, as well as through community based literacy programs.

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What happens after the translation is completed?

The work has just begun. Scripture Engagement and Literacy efforts continue as individuals who speak that language learn to read God's Word and are able to teach others how to read and better understand its truths.

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How many missionaries does LBT have and where are they?

As of December, 2011, there are 41 LBT missionaries and 31 associate missionaries. They are working on 22 Bible translation, 59 Scripture Engagement programs, and 4 Language Development Programs in 51 different languages, in 15 countries.

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What difficulties do the missionaries encounter?

All sorts... Sickness, culture stress, difficult living conditions, war, separation from family, friends, support groups and the familiarities of home.

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What joy's do the missionaries experience?

All sorts... The joy of knowing they are serving faithfully in God’s Mission and spreading His word, making new friends, experiencing new environments, new foods, a new home, new languages, new adventures!

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What training do the missionaries go through?

LBT missionaries are trained at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics, near Dallas Texas. Depending on their background and area of interest, they can also receive training at other institutes. The one-year program includes various graduate level courses their chosen field, as well as in language and culture acquisition.

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What opportunities for advanced education are available when I join LBT?

Missionaries are encouraged to pursue continuing education programs, such as Masters or Ph.D. programs, that will equip and empower the missionary to be recognized for professional competence and facilitate the development of effective translation related programs.

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As a pastor, I have already spent four years in seminary, do I still need any other training to be a Bible translator?

Yes, you will still need further training in translation principles, anthropology and linguistics. However, the training in Biblical languages and exegesis you have received does put you farther ahead of most candidates in the training process and will be a great asset to you in your work.

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As a missionary with LBT, will I have to raise my own support?

All LBT missionaries are required to do partnership development. Partnership development is finding prayer partners as well as financial partners—-people who are willing to support your ministry overseas. However, LBT missionaries are salaried and receive full medical, dental and life insurance as well as retirement benefits and vacation time. For more information on this process, visit Partnership Development.

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What if I have education loans or other debts?

LBT does not provide assistance in paying off educational debt. A candidate for missionary service with LBT will not be considered when his or her debt level could cause a financial burden while serving as a missionary. We recommend if you have personal debt that you work for a few years to eliminate it before applying for missionary service with LBT.

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Who supports LBT's work?

LBT is supported solely by churches, church organizations and by individuals with a heart for missions. LBT does not receive direct funding from Lutheran synodical bodies.

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Is LBT part of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS)?

LBT is an independent Lutheran organization and does not receive direct funding from any synod or denomination. However, we do have a close partnership with the LCMS and are a Recognized Service Organization. If you are a LCMS rostered educator, pastor, or DCE you can remain on the active roster while serving overseas with LBT. You can receive a call through LCMS World Mission and be seconded to LBT.

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Do I have to be a pastor to be an LBT missionary?

While a seminary education is beneficial on the field, it is not necessary to be an ordained minister or to have attended seminary to be a missionary with LBT. If you are pursuing the translation advisor track, a basic proficiency in exegetical skills as well as in Greek or Hebrew will be necessary. These skills can be achieved through undergraduate studies.

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I am already a pastor. What kind of work could I be doing?

As a trained pastor with a background in Biblical languages and exegesis, you would be a natural fit for translation work. However, LBT has other needs in Scripture Use that you could also look into.

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I am a teacher. What could I do on the mission field?

It may surprise you to know that many LBT missionaries started off as educators and teachers. We currently have on the field a high school math teacher serving in translation, a K-12 music teacher and elementary orchestra conductor serving in ethnomusicology, and a junior high and high school history and Bible teacher serving in literacy and Scripture use. The skills you acquire through your training and certification process are extremely helpful in literacy and Scripture use work as well as translation. You will still need, on average, one year of further training in translation or literacy/Scripture use principles, anthropology and linguistics and you may also require some training in biblical exegesis and analysis depending on your field of service. However, your experience as a teacher will greatly help you as you train your team of nationals in translation or literacy/Scripture use principles. We are also urgently seeking missionary kid tutors to serve in short-term or long-term assignments. For more information, check out our Urgent Needs page.

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What type of housing will I have?

Missionary homes typically have indoor plumbing. Electricity is provided through a local service or solar panels. Assignments vary from living in remote village locations where fewer amenities are available, to living in modern cities with most of the amenities you would find here. LBT works with individuals to match their abilities and comfort level to the situation that works best for them.

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Do missionaries need to learn the languages first, before translating?

Yes, in some cases, they need to create an alphabet for spoken languages. But missionaries don't actually do the translating. The missionary serves as a translation advisor, working with the national people who understand the language best.

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How do missionaries learn to speak the local language?

As mother tongue co-workers have increasingly higher educational levels and English abiliites, the need for speaking the local language can vary. Living with a village family and having a language tutor are the norm. A fairly high level of competency in French or Spanish and/or language school education is required before going to assignment in a French or Spanish speaking country. Most missionaries spend their first year on the fieldBack to top


What happens in case of an emergency?

LBT will ensure the necessary procedures for guiding missionaries through a crisis situation (e.g. evacuations, medical emergencies, death of a member on the field, automobile accident, etc.) are in place and available to each missionary. LBT has a Crisis Management Policy and Procedure Manual that will provide the necessary action steps to respond to the crisis. We take every precaution to ensure the safety of our missionaries.

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What kind of education will my children receive while living overseas?

LBT gives parents the choice of how their children will be educated. Options often include home-schooling, international school, boarding school, or public school. LBT pays educational expenses for missionaries’ dependent children through high school while living overseas.

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My gifts are in areas other than the Current Needs listed. Can I still be a part of LBT’s ministry?

There are many ways to be involved in missions that support those doing the work of translation and Scripture use. Missionary pilots, business managers, and computer technicians are just a few of the areas where service is needed. Working with our partner organizations, LBT will find a place for you to serve the Lord with us!

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