Michael Perreau is Director General of United Bible Societies. Originally from Malaysia, he was educated in the UK, where he founded a global business.He has been involved in leadership and transformation in a number of countries, and has also mentored other ministry and mission leaders.
Is the Bible still relevant today in our diverse, fast-moving, ever-changing world? Can this ancient collection of writings really speak to us in our postmodern, pluralistic societies? I passionately believe that the answer to both these questions is a resounding ‘yes!’, and that Bible advocacy, which is about changing society’s perceptions of Scripture and releasing its truth into people’s lives, is an absolutely key part of global Bible ministry today.
Here in the UK where I now live, and in much of the so-called ‘developed world’, Christianity and biblical values, which used to be a central part of society, are very much on the periphery.
The relative freedom, social justice and equality that we enjoy in these countries today is largely due to the efforts around two centuries ago of Christian social transformers who put the Bible into practice and worked to make society better.
But many people here now feel that the Bible has nothing to do with life in the 21st Century. And so it has been put aside and ignored. Even ridiculed.
In other parts of the world, the challenge is somewhat different. The Church may be growing most rapidly in the global south, particularly in parts of Africa and Latin America, with the Bible more widely and openly respected there, but biblical values haven’t permeated the socio-economic or political systems. Inequality, injustice, violence and corruption are major problems in these regions.
And in countries where Christianity is a minority religion, the Bible’s voice is kept at a low volume or even silenced in the public sphere, seen by the culture at large as irrelevant, or even provocative or dangerous.
So how do we release the Bible’s truth into these diverse situations and cultures? How do we build public confidence in the Bible and help it speak to the issues of today? These are some of the key questions being explored by our recently-established International Bible Advocacy Centre, which is being run on behalf of United Bible Societies by the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS).There are no simple answers.
Bible advocacy takes a different tone, style and meaning in different countries.
It needs to be adapted to the context in which it is practised. As we begin to develop this vital area of Bible ministry around the world, our Bible Societies will need to be creative, innovative and courageous. And they will need to learn from each other.
There are already inspiring examples of Bible advocacy being undertaken by some of our Bible Societies. The Bible’s voice is now being heard in politics and leadership in Guatemala, Africa and the European Union, in environmental issues in Portugal, and in issues of forgiveness and reconciliation in Cambodia, to name but a few. But there is still much to be done.
Why is this work so important? I believe that Bible advocacy can help transform society. Not only does it create opportunities for people who wouldn’t otherwise hear the Bible’s message to encounter its voice in issues they care about, but it also helps to create an environment where Christians can grow in confidence in proclaiming and living out their faith in public, not just in private.
If we truly are to be restorers of God’s Kingdom in this broken world, which we are called to be, we need to live out our faith in private and in public, transforming our neighbourhoods, communities and countries with God’s healing, restoring, refreshing Word.
I believe Bible advocacy can help inspire and equip God’s Church for this work, which is why I am so passionate about our International Bible Advocacy Centre.
I want to end with this passage from Isaiah 58:9-12, which offers a wonderful vision for the type of restoration that Bible advocacy can bring:
When you pray, I will answer you. When you call to me, I will respond.
“If you put an end to oppression, to every gesture of contempt, and to every evil word; if you give food to the hungry and satisfy those who are in need, then the darkness around you will turn to the brightness of noon. And I will always guide you and satisfy you with good things. I will keep you strong and well. You will be like a garden that has plenty of water, like a spring of water that never goes dry. Your people will rebuild what has long been in ruins, building again on the old foundations. You will be known as the people who rebuilt the walls, who restored the ruined houses.”
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