When Tim Carriker opens his Bible, he sees a mission theme following from Genesis through Revelation.
As general editor, Carriker worked with more than 50 writers on the seven-year project. Although two study Bibles in English have mission in their titles, Carriker points out the Portuguese language Bíblia Missionária de Estudo is the first study Bible with reflections on mission positioned alongside the biblical text.
“This Bible is not just for missionaries, although we certainly hope they will receive great benefit from it,” Carriker says. “We understand the mission of God is for all the people of God, so in a sense it was written with the whole church in mind. It’s for any person who wants more understanding of God’s interaction with the world and on behalf of the world, how that works in reaching into other cultures, and how it works in the history of the people of God.”
Carriker, who holds a doctorate in missiology and the New Testament, has taught mission for more than 30 years. While he has an extensive background in biblical studies and missiology, he says he never thought about a study Bible for mission until one day in 2007. That’s when he received a call from Jamierson Oliveira, a Brazilian journalist and editor who had edited a study Bible dealing with apologetics. Oliveira asked Carriker if he would be willing to explore the possibility of producing a study Bible on mission.
“He shared the vision [of a study Bible] with an emphasis on the story of God’s love for the world from beginning to end,” Carriker says, “and I thought, ‘My gosh, why have we never thought of this before?’”
Carriker spent the next four to five months writing the study notes for the first eight books of the Bible. “It took me a while to learn this was not a project for one person,” he acknowledges. “At the rate I was going it was going to take 35 years [to finish the Bible], and it actually should be an ecumenical endeavor.”
So Carriker began recruiting writers and eventually enlisted the Brazilian Bible Society as publisher. About half of the writers provided commentary on Bible passages and the other half wrote thematic articles related to the mission of the church.
The study Bible’s contributors include two world-renowned U.S.-based missiologists, Northern Ireland native Christopher J. H. Wright and Peruvian-born Samuel Escobar, and mission teachers and practitioners from various Christian traditions in Brazil. Oliveira served as the project’s editorial coordinator.
The study Bible contains 32 pages of maps, charts and graphs that help readers understand mission in biblical times and in the contemporary context. Many of the visual aids came courtesy of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hampton, Massachusetts. The Mission Study Bible contains maps that show where various religions are strong, where different ethnic groups live and the languages they speak, and information on how successful Christians have been in evangelizing the world’s peoples.
The Mission Study Bible is already in its third printing and about 50,000 copies have been sold. Plans are underway to translate it into Spanish and English, and Carriker says there’s a possibility that an edition will be published in Chinese.
Carriker says Brazil’s resources for Bible publishing and its experience in mission sending served the study Bible project well. “The Brazilian Bible Society prints more Bibles than any other Bible society in the world,” he notes. “They print Bibles in Portuguese, Spanish and Korean. It’s a very important Bible society in the family of international Bible societies. It serves both Catholics and Protestants.”
According to Carriker, the United States is the only country that sends more missionaries abroad than Brazil. He says about 127,000 Protestant and Catholic missionaries who serve internationally today come from the United States and about 34,000 are sent from Brazil. About 6,000 of the Brazilian missionaries are Protestant, and Carriker estimates that about 1,000 of them have sat in his classes. He says when he started teaching there were just a few hundred missionaries from Brazil.
Carriker and his wife, Marta, began serving in Brazil in 1977. After six years in a church-planting ministry, he and Brazilian partners organized the first formal training program for Protestant missionaries in Brazil, the Evangelical Missions Center in Vicosa. After nearly a decade in Vicosa, Carriker left the faculty and taught at several other schools during the 1990s.
In 1999 Carriker began working with the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPIB). He serves as its coordinator of continuing education for pastors and as a missiological consultant. Marta assists mission teams from the United States who come to Brazil.
While serving in mission, Carriker has written nine books in Portuguese, mostly on mission, and has edited several others. He says he considers the study Bible a major milestone in his ministry. “We’re looking at the final laps, and I can’t think of a better way to finish things off than a project like this that will have an impact on the mission movement in the Two-Thirds World.”