Tag Archives: evangelism

The Bible and Mental Health

 

Imagine your friend tells you that she wants to kill herself, tonight. Imagine the despair you can see in her eyes. It’s clear: she no longer wants to live. Silence fills the room. What do you say? What can you do?

New Zealand has a very high youth suicide rate. It is twice as high as that of the United States, and five times higher than that of Britain. For many students, the above is not a hypothetical scenario but a real conversation they have had.

This reality became apparent as I trained students in evangelism last year. While we went through the content of the gospel and how we can share it, their insecurity in relating to friends living with depression and anxiety became apparent. They saw the importance of coming alongside them in their suffering, but was the gospel what they now needed? How could it be good news to them?

I realized that there were two needs. Firstly, students need to develop a ‘Christian lens’ from the Bible through which to see mental illnesses. Secondly, students also need to understand what anxiety and depression is and looks like. This will enable them to better love and share the gospel with those around them, to the glory of God. So the training event ‘The Bible and Mental Health’ was birthed.

Tim Capill, a pastor in Christchurch, came and gave us a biblical overview on the origin and solution to our suffering. Based on Psalm 139, he also spoke on six truths we can hold on to about God whilst we suffer. It was a brilliant talk that provided a solid biblical framework on suffering and, in particular, how we can trust God through depression and anxiety.

Dana Lee – a Christian psychologist specializing in youth and trauma also came and ran two seminars focusing on what clinical depression and anxiety look like. We practised in pairs with scenarios focusing particularly on our listening skills.

It was an event with a great turn out: over 50 students came to be equipped. As the organizer, I am encouraged to see that these students now have a better understanding and more compassion for those suffering with depression and anxiety. They have also become more confident that the deepest need of these friends is the same as that of anyone of us: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Candy Grice, staff worker with TSCF New Zealand
CandyG@tscf.org.nz

Book recommendation (by Sabine Kalthoff, IFES Secretary for Scripture Engagement): Mark Meynell, When Darkness seems my Closest Friend – Reflections on life and ministry with depression. The honest account of a personal journey with very helpful general reflections. A worthwhile read.

A Valuable Training and Mission Resource

“The Word Among Us” is a very valuable resource that we have used as part of our training for new student leaders in Jalisco. This booklet has helped students to have stronger convictions regarding Scripture and to love the Bible more. It has also encouraged and challenged them to live out their faith according to Scripture, and it has encouraged them to trust in the power and impact of God’s Word.

Isaac was one of the first students who started to explore the six main aspects of Scripture Engagement that we find in this resource. As a result, I could see how Isaac would reflect more in depth about his personal life and his relationship with God’s Word, and in a natural way he could see the relevance and importance of doing mission at university. He also felt more confident and motivated to do it.

The questions on page 27 of “The Word Among Us” also helped us to invite new students to our Bible studies on campus. We ask them if they are fine with us asking them a few questions, and when they say yes we start by asking, “Have you had any contact with the Bible?”. If so, “where and when?”. Many people say yes, but when we ask a few more questions they end up realising that they actually know very little about the Bible, and when they acknowledge this they are open to learning more about it. At this point we invite them to the Bible study on campus. Many people agree to come and others say they might come sometime.

This is how we met Monica, a biology student. She agreed to come to our Bible study after we interviewed her using the questions on page 27. That day we looked at Mark 2:13-17, which is about how Jesus calls Levi. Monica was very enthusiastic and took part in the session. She went home happy and came back the following week. She started attending regularly throughout the whole semester and we have been able to get to know her better over this time.

It is our responsibility as staff workers to equip students to carry out our mission and help them to engage with Scripture. This is why we use this valuable resource, “The Word Among Us”, when we equip new student leaders.

Rosa Angélica Ramírez Blanco
Staff worker in Jalisco
Compañerismo estudiantil

Reaching out to an International Student with Far-Reaching Consequences

My name is Masha and I’m still a student. My father is not a believer and worked for the state security services until his retirement. My mum was a Christian, but she died when I was nine. I knew the truth from my childhood, but it didn’t inspire me. I didn’t really care about life after death, the creator of this world or other deeper questions. Even though I knew that God exists, I had no interest in a relationship with him. But then after a Christian summer camp at the age of 19, I started to go to church and six months later, I accepted Jesus.

I got involved in ministry for international students. I saw a big need to serve these students who suffer from loneliness as they are far away from their families and homes. One of those students was Katia (changed name), a girl from one of the most closed countries in Central Asia. She came from a traditional Orthodox background, but knew very little about God and the Bible. She started to attend our church because of a friend who was going there. Then after two months, she stopped coming.

I decided to take the first step and suggested to her that we meet. She declined several times saying that she was too busy with her studies. But then she found a day for me and we met. We had a great conversation. I shared my story and suggested that we read the Bible together. (At the beginning of my Christian life, I also had someone who read the Bible with me.) I had never invited someone to read the Bible with me before. I was a little scared and had no idea how to lead a Bible study. I was so happy when she agreed and we started to meet up every week. During our meetings, she asked lots of questions about Christianity and the gospel. Her strategy was to speak little and to ask much. But I liked it! And I was very encouraged when she started coming to church again.

During the student’s international forum that we put on, Katia heard a lot about Jesus and his love. She also had three dreams in which she tried to run from the devil and Jesus saved her. After this forum she accepted Jesus. She now comes to church and our meetings for international students, and of course we still continue to have our personal Bible study. It is moving to see how she has grown in her spiritual life. In May, she got baptised. She said: “I think God did not bring me to this country by accident!”

Masha, linguistic student in Eastern Europe

Scripture in evangelistic talks

When speaking evangelistically in a university context, I want to deal with issues that are relevant to students while also showing that the Bible speaks relevantly into these issues. Questionnaires helped identify some themes which connect with students, e.g. identity, achievement and self-esteem, relationships, meaning of life, death.

I start my talks with the deeper questions which lie behind the theme: How do we build identity and self-esteem? What does it mean to live in a society which builds identity on achievement: I achieve, therefore I am? What does this do to our society, to our relationships, to our self? So I raise questions, give an analysis, and look at the answers given to us by current trends in our society. Then I relate the issue to a passage from Scripture explaining how God comes into the picture and why together we will look at a biblical text.

My reasons for opening up the Bible with students in this context are:

  • I want students to start exploring the Bible by themselves – often we distribute gospel copies in the lecture hall and read the passage together;
  • I do not just want to talk about ‘God’, but want people to encounter Jesus. God revealed himself in a person and I want people to meet this person by inviting them to look at the reports about his life;
  • I am convinced that the Holy Spirit wants to make the words of the Bible come alive in people’s hearts.

I achieve, therefore I am. What would be a good gospel passage to help people understand that God is different and treats us differently from our society? In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus tells a story that reveals the character of God. It comes as quite a surprise, if not as a shock: He treats us according to his goodness and not according to our achievements. But his goodness also reveals our evil heart: Are you envious because I am generous?

By relating a gospel story to the theme, I want students to understand that Jesus is relevant to their lives. Here are some other examples of how I have linked themes with Bible passages:

  • Relationships (just being used by others; healing and forgiveness); Luke 7:36-50.
  • Die happy: Let us eat and drink because tomorrow we are dead: Luke 12:16-19.
  • Religion (contrasted with the reality of Jesus): Philippians 2:5-11. 

Encountering Jesus in these stories has led many students to read one of the gospels by themselves. In this way, God’s Word itself becomes the evangelist.

Martin Haizmann
IFES Associate General Secretary
martin.haizmann(at)ifesworld.org

Uncover – Introducing your Friends to Jesus

They say that the best ideas are often the simplest ones. Uncover is a simple idea – an attractively designed Bible study resource with a series of six evangelistic studies in Luke’s gospel. This booklet can be used in small groups or more informally in one-to-one meetings.

Along with it, a special “Uncover” edition of Luke’s gospel was published. It encourages seekers to go beyond reading just the passages which are included in the Bible study booklet to discovering the whole story of Jesus. This gospel edition includes links to short online videos which speak to some of the questions which seekers might have as they read the gospel.

After an initial training phase, the IFES movement in Great Britain (UCCF) challenged all of their core student members to read Luke’s gospel with at least five of their non-Christian friends.

Sam Hardy dared to take up this challenge: ‘I shyly asked my flatmate to do the Uncover study with me and he thoroughly enjoyed it. He has since become a Christian.’

Ed was invited to an Uncover Bible study by his Christian friend Jonno. He shares: ‘I found it interesting to look at the gospel in depth with someone who knew more about it. The more I read, the more I wondered if it were true. Jesus was always able to answer people’s questions and loved them. He was an incredible character.’ As Ed continued to investigate, he was drawn to Jesus and became a Christian.

Many similar stories could be told. All of this is taking place in a post-Christian context which means that many students have little or no understanding of who Jesus is and what Christians believe. A negative attitude towards faith is common. Uncover invites these students to examine the evidence about the life and purpose of Jesus using Luke’s gospel – to uncover for themselves who he is. Instead of expecting the students to come to Christian meetings, the gospel is taken to them: in the coffee shop, in their flat or wherever.

The response to Uncover has been amazing. Students have grasped the vision like we have never seen with any past gospel project. They have found new confidence to invite their friends to meet Jesus in the gospel. Since we started this project in 2011, thousands of non-believers have been reading Luke with their Christian friends; hundreds have come to faith. God’s Word is still powerful to draw students to Jesus today – in any and every context!

It has been encouraging to see that a number of other IFES movements in Europe have been inspired by Uncover. Some have translated the material for use in their own context.

For more information on Uncover, see: http://www.uccf.org.uk/uncover/.

Pod Bhogal (PBhogal (at) uccf.org.uk)
Head of Communications, UCCF

Come and Meet Jesus!

Many students are not interested in reading the Bible. They think it is irrelevant, unreliable, or simply old-fashioned. Yet, it is through Scripture that we know Jesus Christ. How can we help students meet Jesus in and through the Bible?

The Mark Drama is one initiative towards this end. Students invite other students to come and see this 90-minute-drama on the life of Jesus. It is played in a round theatre (see picture). As a result, the spectators are drawn into what is happening instead of watching at a distance.

After the performance, a non-Christian student in Chile said: “It is hard not to cry. And it’s amazing to think that this might be true.” Students leave having heard the gospel in a way which is very real and inviting.

The Mark Drama is performed by 15 students who do not need to have any prior experience in acting. Using existing material, they learn the structure and basic content of the gospel of Mark. Then, together with the help of a trained director, they prepare the performance itself.

Many actors are touched deeply by this experience:

  • “I learned the gospel like never before. It brought me closer to Jesus because it was as if I lived with him during his days on earth.” (Latvian actress).
  • “During the past weeks, scenes from the drama have stayed with me and have shaped my life and thinking. I have rarely experienced a text so intensely.”(German actor)

Liene Lice, who has been directing the Mark Drama in Latvia comments: “No-one can stay indifferent after watching it – some people laugh, some cry, some are lost in thoughts, all have experienced the gospel.”

IFES movements in more than ten countries have been working with the Mark Drama. The movement in Chile, for example, put on its first performance in 2011. Since then, they have had more than 25 performances with over 1500 people hearing the words of Jesus through Mark’s gospel. In Germany, many performances take place within the university – a great way of making Jesus a topic of conversation in the student world. Afterwards, the script to the play is handed out: a copy of Mark’s gospel.

For more information, visit the Mark Drama website. If you would like to investigate whether this might be interesting for your context, feel free to contact Andrew Page who developed the Mark Drama: andrew (at) themarkdrama.com.

“Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41). Let’s help others discover Jesus and by doing so discover him more deeply ourselves.

Sabine Kalthoff

Further Links:
GBU Chile’s Mark Drama on facebook (in Spanish)
GBU France’s Mark Drama blog (in French)
SMD Germany’s Mark Drama blog (in German)
Video Clip of Jesus healing a paralytic (in English)