The transformative word of God
Posted on: 3rd September 2018
CMS missionary Josh Apieczonek (serving with his wife, Susannah) teaches the Bible to university students in France with the Groupes Bibliques Universitaires de France (GBU). Read how a ministry of teaching God’s word can transform lives, from problems of self-image to dealing with devastating loss.
Christian ministry in France is not as straightforward as you might imagine. French society uses the law to heavily restrict public expressions of faith (such as praying and singing) and applies institutional pressure to stop activities like meeting in schools for Bible reading, even if this is not, strictly speaking, illegal. A French group has even written booklets for French Christians to explain what they can and can’t legally do at schools, universities, government offices and public spaces.
Because of this, I often struggle to explain to those who don’t follow Jesus exactly what it is I do with students. Part of the challenge is worrying that any mention of the Bible, Jesus, God or Christianity will shut down the conversation. Secular and French culture both imply that Bible reading is a weird, abstract exercise that must be cordoned off from the ‘real’ world. Christians can unwittingly acquiesce when we see the Bible as separate from the rest of life.
But as Christians committed to wholeness in mission, we truly believe that when we study the Bible, we’re studying the author of life itself! We are convinced that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and that Christ crucified is the wisdom of God. To teach the Bible is to address the person at the deepest level, training them to walk in step with the gospel and lead self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age.
So we in the GBU persist in bringing God’s word as we have opportunity—meeting in public places like libraries, cafeterias, common rooms and even outside, with Bibles open so that people can see us and join us. I don’t preach at university and only rarely in our night events. But I assist in leading Bible studies, meeting leaders and meeting one-to-one with individuals both regularly and informally. So I can see that the Bible is finding its way into people’s lives in all sorts of ways. Here are two such stories:
Pierre, a PhD student in cloud computing, admits to worrying about his rapidly receding hairline and the negative impact on his marriage prospects. We reflect on what faith in Jesus looks like in his situation. Our studies in Luke’s gospel remind him that the one who has authority over demons, sickness, storms, sin and death is unlikely to be undone by hair loss. Following up a few months later, he is surprised to remember the level of anxiety he had. When I ask why, he says, “Because, remember? God’s got it sorted. I don’t need to worry.”
Christine, a feisty student in HR, loses her father to sudden illness yet refuses to stop leading the uni Bible group during this trying period. She says preparing for the group is sometimes the only thing pushing her to keep reading God’s word and sustaining her through her devastation. We find comfort for her in reading the Psalms together and helping her preach to herself the promises of God in the midst of her tragedy.
From fears of baldness through to grief in a time of devastating loss, these are just two of many French student stories that have arisen and been deeply helped by the study of the word of God. To join with others in reading the word of God—whether in conversation or through speaking to an evening Bible gathering—is a profound expression of caring holistically for a person.
The word of God is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12). Read more stories about the transformative power of the Bible in the lives of French students here.
CMS has supported mission in France for nearly three decades. If you know the gospel and can speak French or are willing to learn, consider serving in student work or church planting with CMS. Get in touch with your local branch today.