Chris May Talks About 'Bible Reflections' - A database of Bible Teachings
A conviction that the Bible 'has incredible width and depth that no single church or Christian organisation could ever possibly cover' couched with a desire to give people generally access to a database of sermons, is behind Chris May's 'Bible Reflections' project.
"What I wanted to do was give people access to this huge wealth of material and make sure it was as easy as possible for them to find what they needed, whether it was to prepare a sermon, or lead a home group, or just for private contemplation and study." says Chris.
(PICTURES: CHRIS MAY, THE BIBLE)
Chris gives a 'Q & A' session to Editor, Emma about this exciting new venture!
Tell us about yourself Chris?
I was born and raised in Manchester and left school after A-levels and went on to study engineering at the University of Leicester, followed by further postgraduate study in manufacturing and management at Cambridge. I then had a stint working for Cadbury’s (aah chocolate, those were the days) before returning to Cambridge University, this time as a Senior Fellow with a portfolio combining tutoring, lecturing, research and consultancy.
Whilst there I became a Christian and met Catherine, now my wife of 20 years. Then I moved into the NHS as a hospital manager (don’t ask) and my career has been in healthcare ever since. We moved to North Wiltshire in 1994 when I joined a healthcare consultancy practice based in Chippenham. Six years later I left to form a new company (Mayden) which has since moved from a consultancy practice into software application development, still primarily in healthcare.
We now employ 20 staff and run a number of big web applications used by healthcare staff across the country. Meanwhile, back at the ranch (on the edge of the Bowood estate), I am now the proud father of three teenagers all at the stage of contemplating their future careers...
How did you come up with the idea for your project - 'Bible Reflections'? What inspired you?
Over the last few years I have supplemented some great church based teaching (I attend Holy Trinity Combe Down) with six terms at Bible College, 48 hours of lectures on the old and new testaments from Yale University, a church book group that doesn’t believe in light reading and a variety of ad-hoc lectures and talks.
All this convinced me that the Bible has incredible width and depth that no single church or Christian organisation could ever possibly cover; even the best churches will tend to develop a personality that promotes the Word in a certain way.
Quite simply, if you heard a great sermon in your own church last Sunday, it stands to reason that there will have been many more – delivered in other churches – that you will have missed.
What I wanted to do was give people access to this huge wealth of material and make sure it was as easy as possible for them to find what they needed, whether it was to prepare a sermon, or lead a home group, or just for private contemplation and study.
I run a software company that provides web applications so the answer to this problem was instantly clear to me; we now have the technology to do this. What surprised me was that no one had thought of it before – except in America of course.
Who else is involved?
I first managed to grab Richard Meryon just after he had stepped down from Christian Vision for Men; he helped me formulate the concept and market-test it nationally.
Then, when he left Combe Down and moved to Jerusalem as the curator of the Garden Tomb, he arranged for his role to be replaced by Ian McKay who had just stepped down as head of fund-raising for the Bible Society.
The site is now managed exclusively by Joel Mennie who juggles Bible Reflections with a part-time role at Holy Trinity in what has been quite an innovative and beneficial joint venture. I am also hugely indebted to Tomas Cerney, the technical brains behind the web development, who sacrificed many weekends to get this done.
How do you source your contributors?
One of the hardest questions we had to answer – and one I still struggle with – is the extent to which we put limits on the content.
On the one hand I absolutely want Bible Reflections to reflect a wide range of views on what the Bible is actually saying to us – but not to the extent that it contains views that are wacky, dangerous, subversive or extreme. This is easy to say but far less easy to define.
For the time being we have decided to restrict content to material bounded by churches in the Evangelical Alliance, which actually covers a vast array of churches across the country; chances are your church will be a member. At the moment this limitation is helpful as even in the EA there are many gifted speakers and we’ve only just started to discover most of them. So as with many projects of this nature we’re starting with recommendations from people we trust and progressing from there.
Who is this site aimed at serving/helping?
Anyone who needs to access material on a given topic or bible passage, whether for personal study or in preparation for leading. Anyone who can’t get to church but would like to hear or read a good sermon anyway. Anyone who has heard a good (or bad) sermon but is struggling with the message and wants to hear an alternative view. And like me, anyone who has to drive hundreds of miles up and down the motorway network and wants something interesting to listen to...
What are your hopes and dreams for this site and what it can achieve? Who it can reach?
We’ve discussed all the things this site could be but for now we want to focus on its core function, that of getting good biblical teaching out to those who are looking for it, whatever their reason. While the content will be largely biased to the UK, the site’s presence on the web means it can be accessed by anyone around the globe. For now, I’d just like to build an on-line community of around 20,000 people and get some discussion and debate going on what the Bible is really telling us.
Any plans for the future?Lots! The site is literally version 1 and no web site stops at version 1. We will be adding lots more functionality over time, beginning with email news updates and more personal tools. Outside the website itself, we will be looking at building up relationships with other Christian organisations where there is mutual benefit. We also need to look at how the site can become financially self sustaining.
Anything you would like to appeal for?
If you haven’t yet visited the website, please do. Have a good look round, take a moment to register so we can keep you up to date with developments and let us have any feedback – all comments are welcome and appreciated.
We’re particularly interested in hearing from anyone who might be willing to give up some time to upload and index new material to the site; we would like to get a small army of volunteers together as this aspect can be very time consuming for one person but a lot can be achieved if a large number of people are willing to give a bit of time.
We currently have over 600 sermons on the site and we still don’t have all the Bible referenced. We are aiming at full coverage and this will take thousands of entries to achieve. Right now we will take all the help we can get!