As part of the Big Conversations on Bible Engagement taking place across our United Bible Societies Global Fellowship, the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) have launched a multi-year global study that will analyse attitudes to the Bible, and measure levels of Bible Engagement across the world.
They plan to survey a range of 1,000-3,000 adults in up to 100 countries – including Northern Ireland. Our team in Belfast is excited to be involved in this ambitious piece of research throughout its duration (2022-2024). We firmly believe that the research being undertaken is a foundational tool that will inform our ongoing conversation as we envisage and discern together a new season for transformational Bible Engagement both at a local and global level.
To best conduct this research and ensure that Bible Societies continue to work together and collaborate on Bible Engagement, BFBS have committed to facilitating seven Bible Engagement Forums across the globe annually throughout the three-year study. Each of these Forums is designed to bring together Bible Societies from similar missiological backgrounds to hear about their contexts and experiences and consider how we can best collaborate moving forward.
Recently, Catherine Little and Andrew Dickson had the opportunity to travel to the first of these Forums at BFBS’ headquarters in Swindon, where they participated in discussions with colleagues from BFBS, as well as colleagues from Bible Societies in Australia, Germany, Netherlands and Flanders, New Zealand, Scotland, Canada and the United States.
In an intense two-day Forum, we addressed five “what” questions that lie at the heart of considering Bible Engagement in our local, Northern Ireland, context, as well as the bigger, global picture:
1. What is Bible Engagement?
2. What is the role of the Bible in the Church?
3. What is the view of the Bible in wider society?
4. What ought the role of the Bible Society in Northern Ireland be?
5. What are our hopes and dreams for Bible Engagement in our nation?
Given the similar missiological contexts of the nations present at the Forum, each Bible Society’s answers to the above questions were closely related.
We each recognised that Bible Engagement is more than simply reading Scripture but is rather a dynamic process which engages in studying, hearing, listening and experiencing the words of the Bible that we can encounter Jesus, be transformed by the Holy Spirit, and then carry and apply what we are learning in our everyday lives.
We celebrated that Scripture still speaks today, and that there are many people across our nations and the Church who are passionate about the Bible and hungry to hear God’s voice and discover His help and hope. Yet, we also lamented over things such as individualism, consumerism, postmodernism and many more, which have reduced Bible Engagement and shaped many commonly held views which associate the Bible as being irrelevant, antagonistic, problematic, and completely at odds with 21st century values. However, despite this, we still have hope. Each Bible Society represented in Swindon still has dreams to see God change the story of Bible Engagement in our nations. Collectively, each Bible Society, including our own here in Northern Ireland, left Swindon committed to:
- Contributing to building up the Church and fostering greater unity across our nation(s).
- Having individual churches and denominations see Bible Societies as the primary place for Bible Engagement, translation, as co-partners in both mission and in the research and development of Bible Engagement strategies for local churches and communities.
- Leading by example and playing our part in helping people of all ages and backgrounds renew their confidence in the Bible.
- Partnering with the Church to promote the Bible in wider society, that it might be viewed positively once more, with many coming to faith and a new generation fully engaged with the Bible.
We eagerly anticipate the results of the six other Forum conversations to come alongside the first results of BFBS’ surveys later this year. We would very much value your prayers as we participate in this three-year long journey and continue to play our part in God’s Big Story, as we seek to reach everyone in Northern Ireland and around the world with God’s word.