When you say “The Church” in Slovenia, you usually mean the Roman Catholic Church. There are only about 1% Protestants, and they mostly belong to a traditional Lutheran Church, which makes evangelical Protestantism really small in our country.
So, when we say that the Catholic Church is currently facing some serious problems in our country, we are saying that Christianity is the one facing these problems. Unfortunately as of two years ago, the already weak testimony of the Catholic Church in the secular public has now been further hindered by a huge financial scandal in the Archdiocese of Maribor, and even though the figures being mentioned in the loss of the Archdiocese go into hundreds of millions of Euros, the moral and spiritual damage to the believing community is even much greater – a lot of traditional believers stopped attending the Church.
In this grave spiritual situation in Slovenia, we see the Calling the Harvesters project a great opportunity for the Bible Society to go and find the “holy remnant” of active Christian believers, to bring them together around the Bible mission and equip them so they can encourage regular Bible reading in their communities. This will help bring people’s faith from traditional to a more personal level.
In January we began with one-on-one meetings with personal believers, leaders in different Catholic movements and communities. But we knew from the start that if this project was to be successful it has to be conducted on a “learn-as-we-go” basis. So, after the initial meetings with these leaders (for details see the “Calling the Harvesters: Slovenian Report from January to March 2012”), we jointly recognized that even before bringing different Christian leaders together to strategize the further Bible mission and advocacy development, there is a need for us to produce some tangible ideas, challenges and resources as a starting point around which to rally the potential partners.
“I Read the Word” Campaign
So we decided we need to start to conceive a nation-wide long-term Bible Advocacy and Scripture Engagement initiative, bringing together active Christians and key public figures, that would put a new focus on the Bible and help many traditional Christians and even secular people to start to read the Bible. We have called it the “I Read the Word Campaign”. With this very broad and at the time still very open idea, we approach individual potential harvesters and invite them to support it, participate in it and actively help to shape and develop it further.
The “first-fruit” of this broad campaign is a simple and practical tool we call “My Thirty Days with the Bible”. This is an abbreviated version of the E-100 Challenge, with 30 key readings from the Gospels and Acts. We produced a special bookmark with these readings, with which we give the people a challenge to read the Bible for the next 30 days. When they complete this challenge they are invited to join the broader E-100 challenge with 100 key passages from the whole Bible. Both the shorter and the longer lists were translated into Slovenian and were made available. For this purpose we have launched a special resource webpage http://berem.svetopismo.si, and we have made it possible to receive the passages through the e-mail. Since the beginning of the campaign in March, we estimate that several thousands of people have begun reading the Bible with the help of this simple tool. We have now produced a new version of the bookmark. (For stories on how it is being used in different Christian settings, please read the separate report: “Stories of Different Harvesters Promoting the “I read the Word” Campaign”.) We are planning to promote the campaign nationally during our Bible marathon in October. We are also making arrangements for 30 people of influence (from politics, culture, sports &c.) to read the 30 passages on video – we plan to use the videos to promote the campaign in web-based social media.
Three “Layers” of Harvesters
The “I Read the Word” campaign with its low-key start with “My Thirty Days with the Bible” means that the “Harvesters” project of Slovenia has become layered or nuanced in its approach and understanding who our harvesters are. We are now speaking of three levels of harvesters:
1. Low-level harvesters: The easiest entry point for most is the possibility for the people to become “Sowers of the Word”. Active Christians with a regular Bible reading habit are being asked to invite others to take part in the challenge to read the Bible in the next 30 days. They do this by simply giving away the “My Thirty Days with the Bible” bookmarks to their friends and acquaintances and by presenting the core of the challenge to them (we have written a special short guide on how to do that). By now over 50 people have applied to become “Sowers of the Word” through the webpage http://berem.svetopismo.si, and some decided to join the Bible Society during our visits of different parishes, where we present the campaign and our work in general.
2. Mid-level harvesters: These are the people willing to go one step further and become Bible society and “I Read the Word” campaign representatives in their local environment. During the later stages of the project this group will include pastoral workers and individuals that will participate in the training workshops planned within the “Calling the Harvesters” project. This is meant to equip them for doing the “Bible ministry” within their context. This would include organizing or supporting Bible study groups, doing presentations, organizing events etc. Their joint meetings will begin in the autumn. We are discerning this group from within the “Sowers” who show more interest and would like to do more.
3. High-level harvesters: A group of highly influential Christian leaders and workers. At the moment we established good contact with 5 such persons. We have had initial individual meetings with them, and we expect to have a joint meeting with them in early autumn. We envisage we could reach another 5 or 10 “high-level” harvesters by the end of the year. It might well be that some mid-level harvesters will progress into this level as well.
Recognized by Catholic Leaders
We are glad to see that the campaign also received recognition by the Roman Catholic Church. First, we met with auxiliary bishop Anton Jamnik and bishop Jurij Bizjak and obtained their personal support for the project. Then in May, Bible Society General Secretary Matjaž Črnivec and Benjamin Siter met with the head of Slovenian Bishops’ Conference, the archbishop of Ljubljana, dr. Anton Stres. We have obtained an endorsement for the project and he also invited us to actively seek ways of implementing the guidelines of the new pastoral plan that is being developed within the Catholic Church, in the area of biblical ministry. This is a very important recognition for our Bible society that will enable us to “call the Harvesters” with great confidence in the future.