In the last two months Paul Williams has moved continents, started a new job and paid a quick visit to Kenya. He tells us how the Bible has shaped his thinking, how he came to be at Bible Society, why he’s excited about the future…
I grew up in the Brethren church, so we were quite immersed in the Bible. Both my grandparents were Bible teachers and I used to be quite competitive in the Bible quiz! In my teens, when I made my own decision to get baptised, I found that the Bible stopped being just an encyclopaedia of facts that I could be good at learning and I began to encounter God through reading it.
When I left university and began working as an economist, I struggled to see how my faith related to my working life – in theory but also in practice. I was asking, how do I live this biblical faith out? In the end the way I sought to answer that question was to study Bible and Theology at Regent College in Vancouver.
My thesis was about the relationship between the Bible and economics. For me, the way to answer the question of the relationship between Christianity and the market was deeply connected to how I, and the Church more broadly, was reading and interpreting the Bible. Later, as a lecturer, the core of my teaching in every course has been biblical theology, anchoring every aspect of life in the overall story of God’s mission portrayed in the Bible.
When I looked into what Bible Society is doing, it excited me. I saw how Lesslie Newbigin – a big hero of mine – had been a key influence on Bible Society’s work with his emphasis on mission in, and to, the West, and his experience of the Bible’s missionary power in India. I’d written a mission statement for the next 10 years of my life and what was extraordinary was that the more I dug into Bible Society, I started to see quite a lot of the same elements built into Bible Society’s vision. So that was very exciting. I thought, Oh this is quite a good match where I feel God speaking to me and leading me.
I’m excited but also attentive. I’m in listening mode, and am keen to hear what the Bible Society community – all of our supporters, staff and trustees – are doing and saying, and how we as a community are discerning what God is saying. I’m also very attentive to the spiritual temperature in Britain as well as abroad. I think there are some really exciting opportunities before us and my task at the moment is to discern not only what those are but what God wants us to focus on, and how.
My hopes are that Bible Society is faithful to God’s calling in this generation as it has been in previous generations. I believe God is mobilising the Church in the UK for a new wave of mission. I think that part of that mobilisation involves equipping his people to understand, use, read and engage with the Bible. For many of us it’s as if the ‘sword of the Spirit’ has got a bit rusty and we’ve forgotten how to use it. So I think Bible Society has a very important role to play in this generation’s call.
Paul is married to Sarah and they have two adult daughters, Hannah and Emilia. Before joining Bible Society, Paul was an academic theologian at Regent College in Vancouver, where he’s still a Research Professor of Marketplace Theology and Leadership.