I was chatting to a friend in the school playground the other day as we waited to collect our sons at the end of the school day. We were talking about the school play that her five-year-old was involved in – a rather ambitious production of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. By all accounts it was great … amusing little-ones, rousing music, tearful mums watching on, proud dads with cameras… you know the routine.
As we chatted about the play, the conversation went a bit like this:
Friend: ‘So, Joseph in the coat was Jesus’ Dad, right?’
Me: ‘Well, no, actually. The Joseph in the play was actually in the bit of the Bible called the Old Testament. Jesus features in what’s called the New Testament.’
Friend: ‘Oh. I thought the Bible was all about Jesus. So what about the brothers? How do they fit in?’
And so we started up a great conversation about the Bible, its big picture, its rich collection of stories. But, to be honest, I think the whole discussion was more eye-opening for me than it was for my friend. Because it highlighted again just how little people know of Scripture – and also demonstrated how interested some people can be when they start to think about the Bible in a new way.
I don’t think badly of my friend for knowing so little of Scripture. How can she know something she’s never been told? And for her, not having been brought up in a Christian home, never having any church connection, the Bible is simply not on the radar. It’s the case for something like nine out of 10 people in the UK.
But then, the next morning I was back at my desk working for Bible Society in the UK, researching and gathering stories to use in supporter appeals and other fundraising content. I was reading through a letter I’d written, about the demand for the Bible in Algeria where the Church is growing massively. And the passion of the people there is what stood out. The risks they take to get hold of a Bible, the way their eyes are opened when they read it for the first time, the tenacity with which they hold onto God’s promises.
Take, for example, this comment, made by a 50-year-old woman at a church in Algiers: ‘My shock, as I read the Scriptures, was to discover a loving God! I found a God who gave value to women. Even when I was a Muslim, I never accepted polygamy. As I read the Bible I discovered that, for God, I am as important as my husband!’
Amazing, isn’t it?
So, I began to wonder, what would this woman from the Algiers church say to my friend, a mum-of-two living in England’s home counties? How would she articulate what my friend is missing out on, by not opening up the Bible for herself? Where would she start to encourage her?
And it shows, for me, the critical importance of Bible Society work – the mission in the UK to open up Scripture in creative ways to people like my friend, and the mission around the world to offer the Bible to people like the Algerian woman.
I can imagine my friend’s son on stage, belting out the lyrics to ‘Any Dream Will Do’ and all the others. There’s one bit, when Joseph is in jail, where the narrator sings,
‘Don’t give up Joseph, fight till you drop.
We’ve read the book and you come out on top.’
Let’s pray that many more do read the book – and come to love it for themselves.