In a digital age, how do you best reach people through a study of the Bible? Is it through social media, mobile-friendly websites, paper Bible courses, apps, or a combination of all? That was a question for representatives from every world division, Adventist World Radio (AWR), Hope Channel, Adventist Mission, GC Communications, and the Office of Global Internet. They met together in Jerusalem, April 22-29, 2018, to discuss the most effective ways to encourage Bible study among over seven billion people globally.
The meeting looked back to 1942 when, for the first time, the Voice of Prophecy Radio Ministry introduced free Bible lessons by correspondence. Called ‘The Bible School of the Air,’ it was an idea that caught on like wildfire and within just one year had spread to Inter-America, South America, and South Africa. It was cutting edge, observed attendees. Within a few years, there were Bible Correspondence Schools and Voice of Prophecy Radio programs in over 100 countries.
Today, there are 140 Bible Correspondence Schools and affiliates in about 127 countries. Nevertheless, times are changing, and the Schools must adapt to the culture of the internet, with digital Bible studies and other such methods have become a significant and growing part of many Bible Correspondence Schools.
Kurt Johnson, Bible School Director for Voice of Prophecy International and an Assistant in the Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department of the General Conference, has been the world coordinator for the Bible Correspondence School Ministry since 2000.
“Just as HMS Richards Sr., the founder of the Voice of Prophecy, used the latest technology in 1929 — radio airwaves — so Bible Correspondence Schools must use the current technology for the benefit of the Gospel,” said Johnson. “As Seventh-day Adventists, we are called to share with the world the Three Angels Messages of Revelation 14. In order to share with the world’s masses, we must reach them through the pathways through which they communicate.”
He reminded those present that today, it includes not only the printed page but cell phones, laptops, and tablets. “We must use the digital platform to communicate the truth of Scripture. At the same time, we must remember it is the personal relationship — friendships — that are a must for successful discipleship.”
During the advisory, attendees animatedly discussed the development of a web-based Bible study request Distributor, mobile-friendly Bible study websites and apps, development of new Bible courses, funding and resources, and reports from the division Bible Correspondence School Coordinators and various media entities.
Adventist Church Vice-President Artur Stele noted that as a church we have been talking about revival and reformation for almost ten years. “It will happen when we bring together The Word and technology,” he emphasized.
Whether from Africa, South America, Asia, or Europe, that message was consistent. Michael Ngwaru, from the South African Indian Ocean Division, confessed that his eyes are now open to many new ideas. He will now be developing digital models.
Even more impressive was the willingness for schools in one part of the world to share their resources with other regions. There was an open spirit of generosity and mission. Wayne Boehm, of Hope Channel South Pacific, noted the “different languages, different cultures but one mission,” and the way ideas and sharing back and forth was happening almost spontaneously.
“I am delighted to personally witness this spirit of cooperation,” stated Victor Hulbert who represented the Trans-European Division at the meetings. “It can be a very special benefit especially to the very small language groups who need to update and produce new resources.” He also appreciated the efforts to stay on the cutting edge of outreach using the latest technologies – following the spirit of HMS Richards.
That cooperative spirit is seen in a short video report of the event.
A strong spiritual component was the foundation of the consultation. The participants sang songs of praise; they knelt in prayer seeking the Holy Spirit, broke communion bread together, and gathered in singing and praying on Mount Carmel. As they prayed together, they asked for the power of the Spirit that led Elijah, the apostles, and God’s children through the centuries.
The result? Ramon Canals, Personal Ministries and Sabbath School director for the world church, said he believes that working together with radio, TV, Internet, and Bible Correspondence school ministries, right through to the local church level and under the power of the Holy Spirit, the ministry lofty goals are possible.
“We came together with one goal in mind, to unite ourselves together to reach the world for the Second Coming of Jesus,” he said.