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Mission, vision and strategic plan of the Bible society of Slovenia, including background information and research
Our mission is rooted in the nature and action of God as revealed in the Scriptures: God speaks his Word into the world and thereby reveals himself. In this act he reconciles, heals and summons all nations to himself. Our mission as Bible Society represents a specific aspect of this divine act, namely, the work of the written Word of God in the contemporary world, done in partnership and within the context of the apostolic/missionary calling of the whole Church. Our particular mission can be summarized as follows: We are called to develop the work with the Scripture, so that its message can encounter, challenge and transform lives, bringing divine reconciliation and healing to the people of our country. The missiological basis of our work is further developed in the document “The Role of the Written Word of God in the Plan of Salvation”.
• Our aim is to effectively inculturate the Biblical message by discovering ways of culturally relevant communication and advocating its value for the society at large, so that it can become an accepted and acceptable part of the contemporary Slovenian life. We envision a new culture of Bible reading (accepting, absorbing, enjoying) in private, communal and public spheres. This encounter with the Biblical message is to have a transformational effect, shaping the lives of people within the Church and, through them, those outside it.
• • Because of the nature of our mission, it is of key importance for us to partner with all the Christian Churches, individuals, movements and other organizations that accept the Scripture as their core value and inspiration. We are building a network of partnerships with similarly minded movements and groups within Slovenian churches. With the growth and spread of this network we envision the formation of a broad coalition, which will be able to agree on a long-term strategic plan of doing Christian mission in Slovenia. In order to facilitate this, we plan to organize Scripture engagement events and activities that can bring together greater circles of Christian individuals and partner organizations. We aim to develop products that kindle a new passion for the Scripture and Bible mission within Christian communities. As far as possible, the new products should be developed together with our partners, so that they “own” them from the beginning and become their users and promoters in their spheres of influence. We will effectively communicate the biblical message contained in our products using established media (print, audio, static internet), but even more through new
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Bible Society of Slovenia – Bible Mission Development channels (social media, networks and social events). The latter we will do as much as possible in partnerships with other members of our broad coalition. Because of the increase of our partnerships and the raising of the profile of the Bible Society as a reliable mission agency (and not a publishing company, as we are still often viewed), we plan to recruit new donors and supporters from these circles, and to develop and maintain a long-term relationship with them. With the increase in fundraising we aim to counterbalance the declining income from our general sales due to external factors (competition, market saturation etc.), and thus to secure the financial sustainability of our work in the long-term. Preparation of effective projects and securing of financial support for our work will be developed together with other Bible Societies of our worldwide movement, especially with those that are near to us. For this purpose the Bible Societies of Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Albania have formed the West Balkan Partnership.
• Moving incarnationally to meet people where they are: “instead of bringing the people into the Church, bring the Church to the people.” This includes crossing cultural barriers and finding new ways of communicating the biblical message in the “language” of new cultural groups. Communicating a sense of direction and purpose in life for everyone. Stressing the powerful, liberating effect of the biblical narrative: o it is an open story, inviting everyone to become involved in it, o it provides a new identity, o the Scripture is a “tool” to remain included and inscribed in this new story, o God as “Emmanuel”, personally present and involved in the lives of people, o God’s kingdom as a present reality (as well): Romans 14.17. Advocating a culture of hope as a fruit of God’s word (Romans 15.13). The good news of God radically contradicts the presently prevalent sense of discouragement in Slovenia. Communicating a notion of faith that releases people from their burdens. Providing a prophetic critique of evil aspects of contemporary society. Being serious about the biblical hope means clinging to a high vision of restoration and healing of the society even if it is seems far away or impossible to reach (cf. Martin Luther King’s speech I Have a Dream).
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We strive to achieve the above aims through the following projects (as of 17th June 2011): 1. Bible Reading Marathon (SLN 86120). 2. New Bible Translation for Youth and the Non-Churched (SLN 86106) 3. Bible Communication through New Media (SLN 86121) 4. Bible Study Material for Groups (SLN 86108)
Bible Society of Slovenia
Bible Society of Slovenia was established in 1993 by seven Slovenian Churches (The Catholic Church, The Lutheran Church, The Baptist Church, The Christian Bretheren Church, The Pentecostal Church, The Adventist Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church). It is the only Christian ecumenical or interdenominational organization with daily operations in Slovenia.
Bible Society of Slovenia – Bible Mission Development The most important project of the Bible society of Slovenia and all the joint Churches was producing a common Bible translation – the Slovenian Standard Version in 1996. It is a formal/literal translation of the Bible which is being used by all the above churches ever since. In 2001 the Bible Society of Slovenia has presented a revolutionary web Bible search engine www.biblija.net, which enables Slovenians to read the Bible online and also on their cell phones. The search engine has been offered to the UBS fellowship and is to this day in use by other major Bible societies like: British and Foreign Bible Society (www.biblesociety.org.uk/search-the-bible/); The Netherlands Bible society (www.biblija.net/biblija.cgi?l=nl), The Bible society of Spain and others. In 2010 the Bible Societies of Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Albania have formed the so-called West-Balkan Partnership in order to consolidate our work and develop common projects to address similar needs and challenges in our wider area.
Wider society context
Slovenia became an independent state in 1991, after separation from Yugoslavia, of which it has been a part since 1918, and a constitutionally recognized republic since 1945. In 2004 it has joined the European Union and in 2007 it became a part of the Eurozone. Despite the democratic changes and economic development since 1991 it is generally felt that the transition process was not transparent, but rather allowed small political elites to take advantage of the situation, whereas the life of the majority has not improved or has become even more difficult than before, especially in the areas of employment and housing. Public media often write about the lack of common values and a loss of direction in the society. There seems to be a general despair about the future, which correlates with the sad fact that Slovenia has some of the highest rates of suicide and alcoholism worldwide. Since Slovenia is a former communist country, the influence of atheist mentality remains strong. It is one of the most secularized places in Europe. Because of historical reasons, the image of Christianity in the eyes of secular public is very bad. Christians are viewed as hypocritical and too politically motivated. There remains a strong political and cultural divide between the Christian and the non-Christian part of the population. Most of Slovenian Christians are Catholics with only 1% Lutherans and even less of other evangelicals. Many of the Catholics are cultural Christians without a personal faith in God. Even many of the active, church going Catholics do not have a habit of regular Bible reading. With that their testimony to the secular Slovenian public is impaired.
A need for a new Christian mission
Research reveals growing trend of secularization in Slovenian society and its acceleration among the youth. As the society in general is becoming increasingly secular, there is a growing need of basic Christian testimony. Christians are becoming a minority in Slovenia, and they themselves need tools and encouragement for fresh Bible missionary activities in an environment where basic acquaintance with Bible and Christianity is disappearing. Slovenia is becoming a mission field in the classical sense of the word – an area needing carefully planned, coordinated and long term missionary effort to (re)introduce the Christian message.
Addressing a new thirst for “spirituality”
A growing segment of Slovenian population describes itself as “spiritual seekers” or even as “believing”, though they don’t belong to any religious institution. They are thus estranged from the language and culture of the historic Slovenian Christianity and deeply suspicious of its motives (usually seen as an imperialistic power game). 3
Bible Society of Slovenia – Bible Mission Development There is a great need to recast the Biblical message in a new language and into new cultural expressions, reopening the treasures of biblical spirituality, and clearly detaching oneself from the perceived abuses of the historic Christendom. On the positive side, some less known aspects of Christianity could be brought to attention, especially the rich mystical and spiritual traditions, where experiential and relational encounters with the divine are prominent. Any attempt of a new Christian mission will have to confront the widely held assumption that Christianity is something well known (and detestable or at least irrelevant). There is a great need of showing and stressing a vast difference and otherness of the real Christian message from these false assumptions. This is valid also for the issues related to the Bible: it needs to be reintroduced as a relevant and spiritually potent book, as a tool and a catalyst for spiritual formation.
1. Slovenian Census, 2002
Total population of Slovenia is 2,000,092 (July 2011 estimate). The situation of religions in Slovenia according to the 2002 census: Catholic 57.8% Muslim 2.4% Orthodox 2.3% Other Christian 0.9% Unaffiliated 3.5% Other or unspecified 23% None (atheist) 10.1% Source: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/si.html (see People / Religions).
2. Niko Toš, 1999
A non-Christian researcher Niko Toš demonstrates (with an extensive analysis of 15 variables measuring three dimensions of religiosity: orthodoxy, belief in God and belief in life after death) that: • • • Approximately 1/5 (19 %) of the Slovene respondents practice Church religiosity, 1/5 (21 %) practice autonomous religiosity, 3/5 (60 %) are not religious.
A comparison of the seven Eastern and Central European countries of the survey shows Slovenia (along with the Czech Republic and Hungary) at the lower end of a scale of religiosity in Europe. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Slovenia.
3. Catholic Researches of Church Practice in Slovenia
Since 1999, when Toš’s research was conducted, the situation has deteriorated. While the official data of the Catholic church shows that 15% Catholics still adhere to the Sunday mass regularly, an alarming information is that only 6,5% of the parishioners are involved in any form of small group program (Bible group, marriage group etc.) within the parish. And even this information includes people singing in church choirs, which, according to experience, is many times not at all connected with personal faith. According to the same research, the number of people engaged in Bible groups is even 4
Bible Society of Slovenia – Bible Mission Development much smaller. In the archdiocese of Ljubljana (it consists of 233 parishes and has 562.529 members), only 1.090 attend Bible group meetings, which means 0,19% of all Catholics in the archdiocese. Source: “Bogoslovni vestnik” 2010/2; official bimonthly journal of the Ljubljana Faculty of Theology. Website: www.teof.uni-lj.si/?viewPage=60 According to one of the Slovenian catholic bishops, msgr. Peter Štumpf, the regular church attendance is much lower: about 8% of Catholics, which means about 6% or 5% of total population of Slovenia. A research paper by a Christian sociology professor Dr. Vinko Potočnik: www.scribd.com/doc/32417102/Untitled See especially the chart in pp. 19 of the document. The research shows that 65% of Slovenes believe in existence of God, but only 37% believe in resurrection, which demonstrates the weakness of Christian orthodoxy in the country. A Christian radio news report about the image of religiosity in Slovenia: http://radio.ognjisce.si/sl/104/aktualno/1069/ A Christian newspaper article on religiosity in Slovenia: www.shrani.si/f/D/qB/48xWEolK/druzina-08-02-09.pdf
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