In the coming five months of 2021, the overarching communications theme for the European Evangelical Alliance will be “Bible Engagement”. As this year’s Week of Prayer (WoP) focused on the same topic, we are very pleased that Andi Bachmann-Roth, new General Secretary of the Swiss Evangelical Alliance and co-leader of the project team for this year’s WoP material, has agreed to answer some of our questions.
How is the theme of Bible engagement reflected in your work and what is particularly important to you in your personal engagement with the Bible?
In the basis of faith of the Swiss Evangelical Alliance, the Bible has a high priority. A living faith and vibrant churches exist only when we learn to live with the Bible as our source and authority. With our web resources we want to help people and churches to rediscover the transforming power of the Bible. We collect tools and events around the book of books. I am currently reading the Gospel of Matthew with friends. It is important to me to read the Bible as a whole and not just pick out the comforting and encouraging verses. This is sometimes exhausting and irritating, but important for a holistic faith. And especially when the Bible is uncomfortable, it’s helpful to share your questions with friends.
How has Covid-19 influenced this year’s Week of Prayer in Switzerland? What was your experience with YouVersion as an additional tool for the Week of Prayer?
During the Alliance Week of Prayer, Christians from a wide variety of churches meet in their regions to pray and worship together. Much of this was only possible virtually this year. Churches have already gained a lot of experience in launching digital offerings. And so beautiful, interactive worship and prayer groups were created via Zoom or Skype. Others have created creative prayer actions that were possible despite the Covid-19 restrictions: Prayer trails, or prayer meetings at the crossroads of the city. We uploaded our material to the Bible App YouVersion for the first time and several hundred people in Switzerland have made use of it. It is a great addition to the prayer booklet, especially for young people.
What are the threats and opportunities for consistent and deeper engagement with the Bible that you see in the developments of the past year?
People are also using “online shopping” more and more when it comes to the Bible. Since it is not possible to attend a Bible evening or celebration in the local church, people prefer offers from the Internet. The challenge here is certainly to find out from the abundance of the many great offers those that are helpful and trustworthy. But it’s no different with books. If I listen to a lecture on the Bible at home on the sofa via Youtube video, I may not have the opportunity to discuss what I have heard and there is no one there to encourage me to integrate what I have heard into my life. A consumer-oriented, distanced and purely rational approach to the Bible does not do it justice. The Bible questions me, challenges me to rethink my life. For this I need a community that accompanies me in this process of transformation. But that’s exactly what virtual channels can be used for. I observe in many places how churches and organizations offer virtual vessels that integrate exactly these elements of communal Bible reading. Here, offers are emerging that will certainly remain relevant beyond the Corona time.
How can we as an Evangelical Alliance support the church in encouraging youth and minority groups in their Bible engagement during this challenging time?
People are moving more into the digital world. It is a great opportunity to bring them into contact with the gospel in this way. This requires offerings in a language that they understand. With the SEA working group “Interculturel” we try to overcome exactly these linguistic gaps, for example by offering materials in different languages via Youtube. Even with young people, ONE “translation” is probably not enough. Studies show that young people move in very different milieus. It is our challenge to pick up the young people in their living environment. Of course, this is easiest when there is already physical contact and we already know their “language” somewhat. As SEA, we have a youth representative who accompanies and encourages church leaders in these tasks.