“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” — Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)
Did you know Changi Prison is also referred to as the ‘Changi University’? This is because Ernest Tipson, then Representative of the British and Foreign Bible Society for Malaya, ministered God’s Word to fellow prisoners, assisting fellow inmates such as John Leonard Wilson (Bishop of the Anglican Church) to teach God’s Word to other inmates when he was incarcerated during the Japanese Occupation from 1942 to 1945.
Tipson was so well-loved that his obituary in the Journal of the British Association of Malaysia, 1958 stated: There were some gifted preachers in the internment camp (Changi), but no one appealed to the men more than Ernest Tipson.
Indeed, God had a plan for the Bible Society. Tipson’s relentless labour for God had sown the seeds for God’s grand plan for The Bible Society of Singapore—to make God's inerrant and infallible Word a living hope to all nations.
The Bible Mission
The Bible Society’s mission is to make the Word of God known to all people—all of our work is inwardly centred on the Bible, and outwardly expressed in service to people. This has been the ethos of our Bible ministry since its establishment.
The Bible Mission is now a global effort carried out in over 200 countries and territories, through 147 Bible Societies that come under the banner of United Bible Societies. The scope of the mission has also expanded: beginning with the functions of translation, publishing and distribution to put the Bible in people’s hands, our mission today also includes literacy, engagement and advocacy components to put the Bible in people’s hearts—focused on impacting and transforming lives through God’s unchanging Word.
Expanding the Bible Mission—Globalising Internal Missions
Since the establishment of our present identity, the Bible Society has seen an even more exponential growth in its mission and impact. Most evident was the expansion of the Society’s focus from translation, publishing and distribution to include literacy, engagement and advocacy.
Hence, in 1993, plans to convert the Bible House into a Bible Knowledge Centre were announced. The Society began to produce and disseminate Christian resources to help readers understand God’s Word better and grow in their faith and knowledge. It also organised various Bible literacy courses throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
SIBD—Mission through Discipleship
The Sower Institute for Biblical Discipleship (SIBD) was set up in 2014 to equip and strengthen Christians in this unbelieving age. SIBD is an inter-confessional training institute that equips and empowers the Body of Christ for Biblical discipleship in Singapore and Asia.
SIBD provides training for the Christian community in discipleship, leadership, literacy and missions. This is done through a wide range of programmes that help people explore the Word of God deeply and apply it in their lives. We also conduct Training-of-Trainers courses that empower people to equip their own faith communities.
Many of these programmes are collaborative efforts with established partners such as Walk Thru the Bible, WorldTeach, D6, Crown Financials and many more established Biblical training organisations and institutions. We also collaborate with denominations such as the Diocese of Singapore and TRAC Methodist Church.
These programmes are produced locally, with the aim of expanding overseas to bless other nations. Together, we hope to develop and provide holistic discipleship training to build the Church.
SIBD also works with Sower Publishing Centre and the Bible Resource Centre to make training materials available not just locally, but also outside of Singapore. These materials are translated and adapted for overseas audiences, particularly countries in the United Bible Societies’ Southeast Asia cluster of nations. Through this work, we provide valuable resources to Christian communities overseas, furthering the Bible Mission in these places. WISE—Word Intake for Spiritual Edification—is one example of a literacy programme that was designed by SIBD locally, and adapted for global use.
ETHOS—Mission through Fostering Partnerships
A vital expansion in scope was also reflected in the Society’s partnerships and collaborations with local Christian organisations in furthering God’s Kingdom in Singapore. In partnership with the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) and Trinity Theological College (TTC), the Society formed the ETHOS Institute for Public Christianity, a think-tank that seeks to engage contemporary local and global issues and trends from a Christian perspective, and thus advocate the Bible’s relevance in the present age. Since its inception, ETHOS has worked with internationally renowned speakers, religious leaders, as well as Ministers of Parliament in organising talks and seminars as part of its advocacy efforts.
CARE—Mission through Focusing on People Groups
At the Bible Society, we ensure that the people groups we serve are factored into our programme planning. Hence, we are constantly developing and resourcing local, as well as global, Scripture engagement programmes through our Centre for Advocacy, Relations and Engagement (CARE). CARE has several ministries under its belt. These are the Family, Children, NextGen, Sports, Arts Collective, Indian and Chinese ministries.
Over the years, CARE has run many successful Scripture engagement and advocacy events such as the Colours of the Bible art competition, where we collaborate with the Embassy of Israel to celebrate God’s Word through the arts. We also hold Scripture engagement events such as the D6 Conference, where participants meet to learn and discuss about family issues in a Biblical setting; as well as the Leader’s Essentials seminar, where we worked with Brendon and Cathie Clancy to teach church leaders and parents the essentials of ministering to children. Through these international collaborations and partnerships, we are working towards internalising global best practices to better serve the greater community.
Sower Publishers—Mission through Translation & Publishing
Publishing work ensures that the Bible is available in a range wide enough to cater to the varied needs of the world today. These are constantly evolving—especially so since the advent of the digital age. God’s Word needs to be presented in forms that maximise the Gospel’s reach, and that speak effectively to the hearts of all readers. Digital technology is paramount in supporting the whole Bible Lifecycle. The Bible Society underpins its programmes across the whole Bible Lifecycle with the application of appropriate digital technology to reach new audiences and generate greater engagement.
In Singapore, we produce Bibles and Scripture materials that cater to different audiences, ranging from schools to inmates and migrant workers. We are also moving beyond these Scriptural publications to produce a greater range of books to enlighten the local Christian community. Our publishing work is also shifting increasingly to digital platforms, which will allow materials to be accessed more easily.
IBEx—Mission through Field Experience
International Bible Experiences (IBEx) is the Bible Society’s tour and missions ministry. IBEx was established to help people engage with the living Word and experience the Scriptures come alive through our Bible Land Tours (BLTs) and Bible Mission Trips (BMTs). The outflow of this meaningful experience is a heart for God's mission. Since its incorporation, this ministry has organised many BLTs and BMTs, as well as public seminars and talks, to educate and engage the public on the Bible lands and Holy Land.
The past 180 years has served as a testimony of God’s faithfulness upon The Bible Society of Singapore. This year we celebrated the Bible Society’s 180th Anniversary on 4 July 2017, where we also rejoiced in God’s everlasting and abundant grace to the Society. It is our prayer that He will continue to use the Society as His vessel (2 Tim 2:20), until all the nations are filled with the knowledge of the Word who became flesh! (Jn 1:14)