When the leaders of First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, Okla., decided to change the version of the Bible used in worship services, pastor Nick Garland knew right away the version he wanted to use: the strong, clear and true Holman Christian Standard Bible.
And while the decision might have been easy for Garland, it was no small consideration. Each week, Garland is responsible for preaching God’s Word during two Sunday morning services in a worship center which seats about 1,500 people on the church’s main campus. He also must consider the satellite campus the church will be launching this fall.
“I am a biblical conservative and strongly believe that Bible translators should translate as closely as possible to the Greek and Hebrew texts,” Garland said. “For me, the HCSB has done that well.”
Garland has been Garland has been familiar with the HCSB for several years. As a Lifeway trustee, he was part of the board that urged the organization to consider publishing a new translation of the Bible.
“With the theological world adrift and not in unity regarding the veracity, full authority and absolute infallibility of Scripture, we needed a translation that was reliable and sure for Southern Baptists and conservative Christians to use,” Garland said.
Specifically, Garland said he appreciates that the text of the HCSB is not a paraphrase or a “cultural shift” written to appease a modern view of political correctness.
“Rather, the HCSB has sought to remain true scholastically and grammatically to the text of God’s Word,” Garland said. “The Word should change the world, not the world change the Word! I believe that has been demonstrated by the HCSB.”
During a 20-year process, an international team of 100 scholars and English stylists representing more than 20 different Protestant denominations worked together using the original biblical languages of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. The HCSB New Testament was released in 2001 and the full HCSB was released in 2004.
Garland said while he recognized the HCSB as a good text for his congregation, he was slowed in his decision by the practicality of changing from one version to another, having used the same translation for a quarter of a century.
“Like many people, whatever Bible translation one uses in the early days of one’s Christian journey as a leader, that is the one that is kept, read and used,” he said, adding that he had three copies that he used simultaneously — all “studied, marked, outlined and treasured as my devotional and study Bibles.”
When the HCSB was first published in 2004, Garland received gift copies of the version, which he said he enjoyed reading occasionally, but continued to rely on his marked-up study Bibles for preaching.
Recently, however, Garland said he became convicted that it was time to switch to a translation that was more trusted and true in its language. He said several reasons contributed to the decision to use the HCSB as his church’s pew Bible and as the Scripture from which he preaches. In an era when Lifeway Research indicates only four in ten (41 percent) American adults say they read the Bible at least once a week, and nearly half (46 percent) say they rarely or never read the Bible, a sound translation must also be readable.
“The text is very easy to read in a modern vernacular,” Garland said. “Even the most difficult texts have greater clarity simply because the language is more readily understood. The passages that people most often call ‘favorites’ read with a simplistic beauty that is memorable.
“The HCSB truly retains the veracity of the text while enhancing the clarity through use of clear verbiage,” he said. “Through the years, some people have found it hard to study the Bible because of archaic phrases and words. HCSB has provided a tremendously accurate translation that is simple enough for anyone to understand.”
First Baptist Church, Broken Arrow, has ordered about 500 HCSB pew Bibles to be placed in the pews of their main campus and about 75 for the satellite church location — volumes Garland expects to be used during each worship service. Garland noted that he does not put Bible passages on the screen while he is preaching. Instead, he encourages worshipers to bring a Bible or use the provided pew Bible to read the Scripture verses for themselves. He believes when readers handle the Bible, they are more likely to study God’s Word on their own time.
“I would encourage pastors to consider encouraging their people to read from the Bible they are holding so that they can mark a text in their Bible and have it to read later,” he said. “If people grow accustomed to studying the Bible in every worship service, they will want to purchase one of their own to keep and to study. If worshipers use a pew Bible, my hope is that they will stop by our bookstore at the close of worship and buy one for their personal study.”
For churches exploring a new translation for their congregation, Garland said he believes the HCSB is exactly what the Lifeway trustees expected when they commissioned a new translation: a reliable, readable translation.
by Julie McGowan