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Undivided 2012

Today (5 April) sees the start of the IFES Europe student evangelism conference in Gyor, Hungary.

I’m planning to trial Storify as a means of documenting the event based on what is being discussed and shared online. I’m not at the event myself, but I hope the storify stream below will help give a flavour of what is happening and how people are responding. I see potential in using storify as a means to document other IFES events as they happen around the world. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

world student day: 21 October

World Student Day is an annual event that brings the IFES Fellowship together to celebrate the work of God in the lives of students, and to pray for one another and for specific situations facing students around the world.

World Student Day will take place on Friday 21 October 2011, starting as the day begins in Tonga, and drawing to a close 48 hours later as the day ends in Samoa.

I’m very excited about this upcoming event – and by the work many people have already put into making it happen; specifically my team back in Oxford who have pulled out all the stops whilst I am away for meetings, and Tim Pieszka for his creativity in making the promo video below.

Will you join us?

how long is a day?

If you thought the concept of the IFES World Student Day was confusing – squeezing 48 hours into one day – you should try reading Augustine on time.

And yet, Lord, we perceive intervals of times, and compare them,
and say, some are shorter, and others longer. We measure also, how
much longer or shorter this time is than that; and we answer, “This
is double, or treble; and that, but once, or only just so much as
that.” But we measure times as they are passing, by perceiving them;
but past, which now are not, or the future, which are not yet, who
can measure? unless a man shall presume to say, that can be measured,
which is not. When then time is passing, it may be perceived and measured;
but when it is past, it cannot, because it is not.

If you’d like to read more, do get a copy of The Confessions of St Augustine.

And if you’d like to know more about the IFES World Student Day (Friday 21 October 2011), check out the web page, facebook page, twitter account, and the #ifeswsd hash tag. Oh, and there’s a promotional video coming very soon.

world assembly update

So, we’re back from World Assembly, and I blogged a lot less than I had hoped (surprise, surprise). As I process all that happened there, all the conversations, the friendships made and renewed, and as we plan for the future, I hope to write more. For now, here are some places you can find out more about what took place in Krakow over the last couple of weeks:

Happy browsing!

a social media prayer

To close our World & World session last night – looking at the topic of new media and social networks – I prayed the following prayer:

Father God, thank you that you are a God who communicates, a God who has spoken. Thank you for your word, the bible, and for the word made flesh. As we desire to serve you, and communicate you to a world who needs to see you clearly, will you help us to live for you in all of the places you call us to, whether online or offline. Thank you that you are Lord of the Universe, and Lord of the University. Thank you that you are the Lord of facebook, of twitter, of google+, and of all the media that are yet to come. And thank you for this community you have called us to be a part of. Thank you for the many ways we can express that community. We want to pray for those who can’t be with us – that by our use of technology we can even in some small way capture and communicate all that you are saying to us here, and of our sense of partnership with our wider family. Lord we love you, and long for you to be made known amongst the nations, that every knee would bow and confess you as Lord. Help us as we desire to be part of your communications plan, in word, status update, tweet, and deed. For your glory we pray. Amen.

en route to world assembly

As I write this I am on my way to World Assembly.

After many months of planning, it’s finally here. People from across the world started travelling some days ago, and by Tuesday more than 600 people will finally gather in Krakow, Poland.

You can read more about World Assembly in this week’s prayerline email, and there will soon be a live social stream (very excited by this) where you will be able to see blogs, photos, tweets and other online comment, and indeed interact yourself with all that is going on in Poland.

This quadrennial event is the biggest single gathering of IFES: students, staff and supporters from right around the world. Together we will hear stories of God at work through students, and pray together, for one another, and for the University – the place God has called us to serve.

And yet this gathering is just a small representation of the IFES Fellowship around the world, and one of the reasons I am excited by our plans to share as much of what is going on at World Assembly online, and to listen to the wider Fellowship as they interact from a distance. Please pray for the plans that have been put in place to help facilitate this, that they might serve a sense of unity and participation across many thousands of miles.

As well as blogging, tweeting, and sharing photos online, I am also helping to run two ministry forums on the subject of ‘ministry opportunities in a digital age’, and moderating one of the ‘Word and World’ plenary sessions on the subject of ‘new media and social networks’. To date most of my time has been focussed on more of the logistical side of World Assembly, so I’d also appreciate prayers as I pull together my thoughts for these sessions.

Next post from Poland!

university statistics

Some startling statistics about universities, taken from the BBC.

At the beginning of the last century, the power of nations might have been measured in battleships and coal. In this century it’s as likely to be graduates.

In 1998, there were only about a million students in China. Within a decade, it had become the biggest university system in the world. Figures last month from China’s education ministry reported more than 34 million graduates in the past four years. By 2020 there will be 35.5 million students enrolled.

There are more universities operating in other countries, recruiting students from overseas, setting up partnerships, providing online degrees and teaching in other languages than ever before. In Qatar, the purpose-built Education City now has branches of eight overseas universities, with more to follow. Shanghai is set to be another magnet for international campuses.

Much like in the renaissance in Europe, when the talent class and the creative class travelled among the great idea capitals, so in the 21st century, the people who carry the ideas that will shape the future will travel among the capitals. But instead of old European names it will be names like Shanghai and Abu Dhabi and London and New York. Those universities will be populated by those high-talent people.

Universities are also being used as flag carriers for national economic ambitions – driving forward modernisation plans. “Universities are being seen as a key to the new economies, they’re trying to grow the knowledge economy by building a base in universities,” says Professor Altbach.

Technology, much of it hatched on university campuses, is also changing higher education and blurring national boundaries. Online services such as Apple’s iTunes U gives public access to lectures from more than 800 universities and more than 300 million have been downloaded. And where else would a chemistry lecture get to be a chart topper?

What are the expectations of this Facebook generation? They might have degrees and be able to see what is happening on the other side of the world, but will there be enough jobs to match their ambitions?

Who is going to pay for such an expanded university system? And what about those who will struggle to afford a place?

engage #1

Over a series of ‘engage’ blog posts, I aim to share aspects of my presentation on ‘Scripture Engagement in a Digital Age’, which I first gave at the IFES Bible Study Consultation in Singapore.







I started the presentation asking four questions:

  • What is the Bible?
  • What do we mean by Scripture Engagement?
  • What technologies and media do you make use of on a daily basis?
  • What are the characteristics of the ‘digital age’?

How would you have answered those questions? Tell us by leaving a comment below.

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.