Try Something New
SGM Lifewords’ Programme Director Danielle Welch caught up with Rob Cotton, Biblefresh campaign manager, at one of the launch events earlier this year …
The Biblefresh campaign is a response to the fact that fewer and fewer UK Christians are choosing to engage with the Bible. Do you think people you’ve met at the Biblefresh launch events recognise that problem in their own churches?
It’s been a funny mix. On the one hand, the research we’ve carried out has identified a clear problem, and people are receiving that and proving willing to recognise the symptoms in their own setting. But we’re also providing opportunities for people to share the things that they’ve experimented with which have worked; what’s served them well in their context. I hope as we’ve held the Biblefresh launch events, we’ve given church leaders the opportunity to recognise that, although we’re all wrestling with the same issues, there are lots of different ways of approaching the challenge.
One concern raised at this launch was that Christians can too easily put the Bible on a pedestal. What would you say to the charge that the campaign might fuel that kind of response?
We’re very aware that in raising the issues of lack of Bible engagement and Bible literacy within the church, leaders can easily be tempted to Bible-bash their congregations, making them feel guilty, or second-rate, or failures. We’re really not looking for that as a response. We’d like people to engage with the Bible in a way that is genuinely fresh. We need to find ways of encouraging people to do something that is different, engaging, and that fits with contemporary culture; to acknowledge and be honest enough to say: “the old way hasn’t worked for everyone, let’s try something new.” What’s missing? What’s available? What are the needs? What would be helpful for young people? Biblefresh gives us the chance to deal with some of these tough questions and issues.
Biblefresh is asking people to be photographed with a piece of paper which has a sentence on it about how the Bible has impacted them. How has the Bible changed you? What’s on your piece of paper?
There are various things on my bit of paper depending on the setting to be honest! But I think for me the key words would be … “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” – understanding that whereas I may feel weak or that things are totally beyond me, Christ does strengthen me, and in him I can do all things. That for me is a very positive promise. It’s maybe changed me from someone who’s very shy and timid to someone who’s actually upfront talking to a group of church leaders. That’s the impact of Scripture, applying the promises of God to my life and allowing them to change who I am, as part of my journey of faith.
If you had an audit at the end of Biblefresh, what would success look like? What are you hoping for at the end of it?
We’re still working through some of that to be honest. For me, success would look like church leaders who feel more confident about Scripture and how they preach and read and apply it to their own lives. But it would also be about churches where there are fresh approaches to Bible engagement: new initiatives in each of the four streams of reading, training, translation, and experience. Success will look different in different places, but at the root, it will be about whether Biblefresh churches have tried something new, creative, innovative; and hopefully at the end of this campaign the research will say there is more of a confidence in Scripture, there will be more people reading and engaging with the Bible.
Photography by Kris Calver