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IFES Bible Study Consultation

So, I’ve been back from Singapore for just over a week now, and thought it was about time I posted some reflections on the event.

I was in Singapore for the IFES Bible Study Consultation, which brought together about 30 people – mostly students and young staff, not all pictured – representing more than 24 countries.

The aim of the consultation was to get a sense of how IFES is doing in the realm of Scripture Engagement – one of the core commitments of the Living Stones vision – and to consider how we can continue to improve in this area over the coming years.

This event was deliberately billed as a consultation – rather than a conference, or training event – to reflect the heart of the process we would be going through: actively listening to one another, as participants representing the 11 IFES regions presented a summary of the reports they had produced to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of Scripture Engagement in their context, before taking time to plan together for the future.

It was a joy to be a part of this process, with a group small enough to get to know one another well, leaving with a real sense of commitment to one another, and a fresh sense of commitment to God’s word and its power to transform lives.

Some highlights include:

  • seeing the enthusiasm of participants as they heard stories and examples of ministry in other parts of the world;
  • hearing stories of best practice, and learning from one another about what has enabled certain aspects of ministry to grow and flourish in particular parts of the world;
  • to reflect on the many different ways students are engaging with scripture, and a growing sense of (and desire for) community – locally, nationally, regionally, and internationally – “…we depend on our global affinity as a movement.”;
  • worshipping together, as a diverse group of God’s people – and joining the local church on Sunday at St Andrew’s Cathedral (one of their many services each week);
  • the creative groups that considered scripture engagement in the following realms: personal Bible study, IT and new media, scripture and non-text-based learning, scripture in evangelism (using non-popular texts), and training.

There was an expectation that the consultation would come up with ‘something new’ as a product of the consultation. In fact the real result is, I think, a real demonstration of the current trends in student ministry, and society more generally. The participants left with a sense of something new, not because of something they created together at the consultation, but rather from taking away something new that they have seen working in another context: the process itself facilitated a ‘ministry exchange’, where ideas, creativity, community and generosity flowed in abundance as we learned together. I’m excited about how this might be further facilitated beyond the consultation, and there was a resounding call for a greater facilitation of the resources that can be found around the IFES world.

Each of the participants was encouraged to think about what they would be taking away from the consultation personally, what they could feed back to their IFES Regional Secretary, and what was important for IFES internationally. Please pray for each participant as they return to their context, and in particular for the conversations they will be having with leaders.

For myself, the event was personally significant. I was asked to present on the subject of ‘Scripture Engagement in a Digital Age’, and both in the process of preparing for the presentation, and in the course of the consultation, I become increasingly convinced that this is a subject worthy of further study. I am excited by the times we are living in, and by the opportunities the ‘digital revolution’ provides, so long as we are able to understand the times well, and respond appropriately. Please pray for me, too, as I consider how I can give more time to this subject, and work with others to see this thinking applied not only to my role, but possibly even in other areas of IFES ministry.

And a final word of thanks must go to FES Singapore, and all the staff that made us feel so welcome (even though we must have caused more than a little inconvenience to them); you have truly taught us what hospitality looks like.