Monday, November 7, 2011

Star Trek Never Seemed So Possible (or, “A Very Geeky Blog Post”)

In regards to the title of this blog episode, I should perhaps clarify. I’m not a “trekkie.” I like the television series in all its many forms. I’m just not a fanatic. I felt this fact needed to be stated for my own integrity and reputation as a serious person. That said, Star Trek is on my mind a lot lately. Let me explain.

I do not know if all of the amazing things in the world of Star Trek will ever become reality. Transporters, really? Maybe. The food replicaters would be nice, but come on! Who would give up grill’n burgers and brats over open coals? And in what reality would William Shatner ever be taken seriously enough to become a captain?

There is, however, at least one piece of trek-oligy that is not only likely to become a reality, it already is! In the show they had to come up with a way to easily allow for all of these crazy alien types to communicate with each other without an endless scroll of subtitles. No one would tolerate a show that required more reading than listening. Let’s face it, we are too couch-potato-ified for subtitles! On the other had, it wouldn’t seem very likely that everyone in the future simply learned every possible language in the science fiction universe. The solution, a universal translator of course!

The show’s universal translator allows people to simply speak their own native language, while it is instantly translated into the ear of the listener. Amazing! Impossible? Believe it or not, we are already moving in that direction. I use the web based program Google Translate every day here in Germany. I can type in any letter, any email, or even Wilson’s homework assignments, and presto change-o, it is instantly transformed into English. It’s not perfect, but it is workable. Even my web browser automatically translates webpages that use foreign languages. Some people actually have an app on their mobile phone that allows them to speak into the phone, and then play back an audio of the proper translation. This feature recently saved a pastor friend of mine a great deal of frustration in an Italian taxi!

Now, here is why this fascinates me. What is one of the greatest obstacles in missions? Even beyond culture, it is language.  Trust me, I know. As I fumble through conversations in German, I am constantly reminded of the enormous missional and evangelistic potential of these emerging communication aids. Imagine your church is going on a two week mission trip to Romania. One problem, no one speaks Romanian. No problem! You have a handy little universal translator! The potential to share the gospel becomes limitless. The confidence alone that a mission team would gain would by itself make their mission efforts more productive.

It will be exciting to see how technology advances into the future, and how Christians might use that technology for the Kingdom. As our world becomes more and more connected, and as internationals continue to cluster everywhere from Wiesbaden, Germany to Raleigh, North Carolina, these kinds of tools will certainly play a vital role in ministry. Just imagine a day of technological Pentecost in which believers from all parts of the world could listen to the same sermon, in the same room, yet hear it in the language of their hearts! What a day of rejoicing that will be!      

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  1. That was an awesome blog post as always! I hadn't really thought about this but you are so incredibly right on again as always! I am glad you guys got home safely. It was so wonderful to see you! I will be keeping you in my prayers!

    Sarah Wade

  2. That reminds me of Isaiah 40:5, where it says "Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." (NASB)
    Can you imagine this not being possible until now, these last few years? where there is satellite TV broadcasting live for the whole world to see and hear? Can you imagine seeing God on the news? Hearing His words being translated simultaneously into every language on earth?
    Now THAT would be awesome!