Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Fire Bible and The Fishing Net

The First Bible and The Fishing Net
By Dr. Dave Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionary to the Philippines

More than twenty years ago Donald Stamps, an Assemblies of God missionary to Brazil, had a vision to create a study Bible that would provide Brazilian pastors, most of whom did not have the financial resources to invest in a personal library, with a one volume theological goldmine of biblical truth. Shortly after completing the notes, he went to be with the Lord. But the vision lived on. Not only was his work, at first known as the Full Life Study Bible, known better today as the Fire Bible or, in English, the Life in the Spirit Study Bible, translated into Portuguese, the language of Brazil, it has also been translated into thirty-seven other languages, including Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, where Debbie and I live and serve. In just a few months, the Fire Bible will be rolling off the presses in Cebuano, another major language of the Philippines. As with Tagalog, I am the managing editor of the Cebuano edition.

These Bibles don’t just appear overnight. A lot of work must be done both in the States and on the field.  In the States, funds must be raised. When the Tagalog edition came out in 2004, the price tag was about $162,000.  The Cebuano edition, at the time of this writing, will cost about $318,000, most of which has still not been raised (if you would like to help, please visit On the field, a managing editor, normally an AGWM missionary must be chosen and contracts must be signed with the local Bible Society for rights to their Bible translations. Then translators and editors must be selected and trained. In time, secretaries, copy editors, readers, and other people need to be added.  This phase of the project alone normally takes about two and one half years.

As the various notes and articles are completed, they are sent, normally over the Internet, to LIFE Publishers, the publishing arm of the Assemblies of God World Missions, who oversees the projects. Thanks to modern technology, their superb staff does the layout in languages they cannot even read.  As the layout is completed, the files are sent back to the field for further proofreading and correction. When the translation phase is finished, LIFE Publishers outsources the printing and binding all over the world, always looking for the best quality at a reasonable price.  For example, the Tagalog edition was printed in Japan and bound in Indonesia before being sent back to the Philippines. The Cebuano edition will be printed and bound in Belarus (White Russia) and will then sent to the Philippines for marketing and distribution in about August or September of this year. Needless to say, we are excited about its arrival!

But what does all this have to do with a fishing net?

The answer is, well, rather simple. Several years ago God gave my wife a prophetic word that he was going to send an unprecedented revival to the Philippines, a land that has seen wonderful seasons of refreshing in the past. God also commanded us to “get ready, get ready, get ready.” How does one prepare for revival? By making a fishing net.  Not the kind that comes from a pole with a short scoop on the end but the kind that is staked out in the ocean at night, tied to huge hawser ropes at least two hundred feet in length, and takes entire fishing village to haul in to shore in the morning. Like any good fishing net there are many interlocking strands that must be woven in for the net to be strong.

The fishing net is a metaphor for training workers in accordance with 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul instructed young Timothy “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (NIV 1984). In order for the harvest to be conserved, thousands of trained workers, both clergy and especially laypeople, are needed. In our part of the Philippines, our vision is to plant a church within walking distance of every Filipino, meaning we need an unbelievable number of trained workers to do the job in just our part of the land.

In our part of the Philippines, the major strands of our net are three fold. The first is to train them through Evangel Bible College, our local Bible school. Although our school is small, we have consistently graduated young men and women who have become fine pastors and lay leaders. But not all are called to be church planters. Second, seeing the need for more churches and believing the prophetic word from God included mobilizing and training laypeople, my wife began a program in 2007 that called for training ordinary church members to plant house churches in their communities. These churches, in turn, are being challenged to plant more house churches. We began with three church planting schools strategically placed throughout our district and have since expanded to fourteen. To date, 184 people have graduated from this program, with more than a hundred more slated to graduate next month. So far, at least 207 house churches have been planted, and more are on the way to meet the staggering need for bringing the gospel to the Filipinos in our region. The third strand is a leadership enhancement program, which I have been asked to create, and is currently under development. This program will seek to develop and strengthen those already in ministry and will most likely include an ongoing personal mentoring program.  

These three strands neatly intersect with other inner strands that are designed to strengthen our fishing net. The Fire Bible is one of those inner strands. For several years in a row, we were able to give a copy of the Fire Bible to each graduate from the Bible School—helping them to both study and teach sound, Pentecostal doctrine in their churches. We have also placed copies of the Fire Bible in the school’s library for the use of the students and faculty. Nationwide, many other pastors purchased a Fire Bible in book stores. In total, more than 8,000 copies have been sold, including several dozen by pastors in our region through a payment installment program that we offered for a time. We have almost exhausted the 10,000 copies printed for us by LIFE Publishers and are looking at reprinting in the next year. If you can help us with the costs of reprinting, please visit

To date, the house church planting program has used other inner strands by employing materials, partially financed through the American Assemblies of God’s Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge (BGMC) fund, which were created specifically for planting house churches. As the number of churches expands, hopefully exponentially, house church leaders are calling for additional training.  In the coming months, we will be taking a look at the Fire Bible, as well as other materials, to see how it might be used in this program. The same will be true for the leadership enhancement program currently under development. Like a good fishing net, we need a variety of strands for catching and keeping the “fish.”

To reach the lost and gather the harvest, a large, strong, fishing net must be constructed and maintained in order to bring in the harvest that God is sending and, we believe, will be sending in ever increasing number.  The fishing net is comprised of trained laborers, using the Fire Bible and other tools, to plant and grow more churches. May God help us to make the net strong!

CPS/leadership---looking for ways to integrate the Fire Bible


To multiply the number of churches we will be adding another level of training that calls for more closely mentoring those involved in house church planting. 

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Copyright 2012 Dr. Dave Johnson 

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