By Gordon Govier

Looking Back at 47 Years on Staff

InterVarsity Press (IVP) publisher and InterVarsity vice president Bob Fryling has a lot of friends. Many are long-term relationships that go back to when he began his career as an InterVarsity campus staff member 47 years ago. But Bob enjoys his acquaintances among newer staff just as much, noting that individuals with a like-minded spiritual curiosity and eagerness to follow God’s leading seem to find a natural home in InterVarsity.

“I’m grateful for the DNA of InterVarsity, things that capture the imagination and dig deeply into the soul such as the love for Scripture,” he said, speaking at a recent chapel service at InterVarsity’s National Service Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

During Bob’s almost 20 years at IVP, IVP has been consistently recognized as a Best Christian WorkPlace. With more than 1,700 titles in print, IVP books also consistently win awards for their quality. And IVP has published more than 15 million Bible study guides.

Bob’s love for Bible study flourished as an InterVarsity student, preceding his time on staff, as he began the practice of a daily quiet time. “That discipline to daily ask, ‘What does the Bible say?’ is one of the reasons I’ve stayed with InterVarsity,” he said.

Bob illustrated his talk with references to the Rembrandt painting The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, InterVarsity has weathered some storms, but maintaining our focus on Jesus as Lord has kept the ministry afloat. He identified three practices of following Jesus that he has found most significant about his time with InterVarsity.

  • A focus on unity. “Genuine Christian unity,” he said,  “is a love of commitment that overcomes diversity, that overcomes difference, and says that because we love one another, we will be a witness to the world that Jesus has come in the flesh… Unity is desperately needed in our world.”
  • Kingdom intentionality. Bob recalled the message by Black evangelist Tom Skinner at Urbana 70, when he challenged White evangelical silence about racism. In the same message he spoke on the militancy of vocational calling. “He called for a kingdom that was shaped by the Spirit of God and by the Word of God,” Bob said. “That had a profound effect on all of us who were on staff at that time and what it meant to have a kingdom vocational calling.” Bob also noted, “Our commitment to multiethnicity is not a commitment to PC values. It’s a commitment to kingdom values.” 
  • A Great Commandment imperative to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength,  and to love our neighbor. “We don’t have a simplistic vision of what it means to be a disciple,” he said. ”We want to be involved with what God is doing in the world and follow him. We care about issues of truth. And we act on that truth out of love.”

Bob concluded by encouraging his listeners to stay focused on the mission of reaching the campus with the gospel: “This is a great movement of God that he has used for decades and will continue to use for the sake of his work on campus and in the world.”

Bob’s complete chapel talk is featured on the InterVarsity podcast.