The work of the Irish Bible Institute began over 30 years ago when a group of evangelical leaders in the Republic of Ireland formed the Irish Bible School (IBS) in Coalbrook, Co. Tipperary (1982). Their vision was the development of an Irish-based, non-denominational, evangelical Bible College to train the future leaders of the emerging Irish church.
In 1992 the School of Biblical Christianity (SBC) began to offer evening classes to students in Dublin. After 5 years SBC undertook an evaluation of its ministry. This led to a new name, Leadership Institute (LI), and in September 1998 a program for full-time, day students started.
A relationship between IBS and LI developed and strengthened through the years and led to a merger in 2000 to form the Irish Bible Institute (IBI). It was decided that much more could be achieved together by combining resources. In its first few years IBI was graciously given a space to operate free of charge by Grace Bible Fellowship in Dublin – for which we remain deeply grateful.
IBI’s vision is to see vibrant, gospel-centred churches making an impact for Christ across Ireland. Our mission is to serve the Irish church through commitment to excellence in biblical education and leadership development.
Our core values are the Word of God, developing Irish church leadership, biblically relevant training, the diversity of our students and Christ’s great commission.
We believe that God has blessed the decision to merge and work together. Numbers have grown significantly, and we have been able to make our programmes more accessible and flexible for students.
From January 2004, work began on developing a Strategic Plan for the next 5 years. A series of meetings was held with Board members, staff, and people committed to IBI. The outcome was a clear focus on program accreditation (validation) and premises development. We were encouraged to engage in ‘blue sky thinking’ – forgetting about practical realities to think boldly about what sort of premises and what sort of courses would we dream of for the future? We did not imagine then how quickly and generously God would meet these dreams!
BA and MA in Applied Theology
We were enabled to work towards an MA due to an unexpected bequest from a lady we had never met. It enabled us to employ Steven Singleton to develop the programme and in May 2005 a university validated MA degree programme was launched with 17 students taking a course in Biblical Interpretation taught by Dr. Craig Blomberg. Since then over 80 students have benefitted from this programme, many of whom are Irish church leaders. In September 2008 we experienced the joy of seeing the first graduates. This program continues to exceed our expectations.
We also launched a BA (Honours) Degree in Applied Theology in 2006. Again we had more students than expected and the program has developed very successfully since its launch. Feedback from students, leaders and external examiners has been very positive in terms of the quality and relevance of the training for Christian ministry.
Another important development was the transfer of students and staff from Carraig Eden Theological College in 2009.
In early 2004 we hosted an event for ‘Christians in Business’. Due to sharing borrowed facilities only a small room was available and the event was very cramped. About two months later a businessman who attended that meeting got in touch. He made us a remarkable and generous offer to provide a new home for IBI. Consequently, in September 2004, the IBI Board was in a position to lease 9,400 sq.ft. in an office block in Ulysses House, Foley St., Dublin 1 and by July 2005 we had moved in to our brand new purpose-designed facility. It is located in the heart of the city, within a 3 minute walk of Connolly train station, Busarus and the Red Luas Line – at the hub of the public transport network – which makes IBI accessible to students from all over Ireland.
Another remarkable part of this story unfolded when Derek Langran, the Board Chairman at that time, told us that his late father had worked in Foley Street during the 1950s and 60s. For years he had prayed that God would ‘do something’ in this area which was famous for prostitution and crime. IBI now stands on the very same site where he worked. God answers prayer!
The 9,400 sq ft leased is comprised of three separate units on the first and second floors of Ulysses House. IBI occupied one unit, and the remaining two units were to be rented out, with the income received covering all of the lease costs. The deal was that IBI would lease the property for fourteen years, and then purchase it in 2019 for what it had cost in 2005. That was a very good deal at the time, as property valuations were increasing steadily – as we know now from hindsight, that was all about to change.
We had tenants in the two rental units for five years from 2006, but when they moved out in June 2011, IBI was left in a precarious position, with large liabilities on the premises and no income to meet them. Despite every effort, new tenants were not found. By this time, the economic crash had happened, and the valuation of the premises had plummeted. There was some serious soul-searching by all involved at this time – we believed that God had led us to Ulysses House and it was ideal for our ministry in terms of the location and layout. But where to from here?
God once again surprised and amazed us. The Bank which held the mortgage on the property agreed to an offer of 25% of what we would have been liable to pay in 2019 – as long as we could raise the funds within 6 months!
We needed to raise €1 million within 6 months which seemed impossible. But this appeared to be the way God was leading and the only viable way forward. So, on 17 March 2012, IBI launched the ‘Building for the Future’ appeal to purchase the premises. Looking back we are still amazed at what transpired. So many people caught the vision and the opportunity, and their enthusiasm and excitement really carried the small staff team through what was an enormous task. Gifts came in from all over the world, large and small. There was a great sense of ownership expressed from the Irish church, with over 55% of the total raised coming from the island of Ireland.
By August 2012, IBI were in a position to say to the Bank that we were ready, we had the funds in hands. Despite many legal hitches and potential lengthy delays in the process, God cleared the way and the purchase was completed on 25th October 2012 – debt free! Praise the Lord!
There was a wonderful day of celebration in IBI on 1st December 2012 when c. 200 people gathered to give thanks to God for his amazing provision.
Since then, we have secured tenants for all of our rental space including Tearfund Ireland, IFES Ireland and Vox Magazine. 2013-14 was the first year in which the property contributed towards the operations of IBI. What a transformation!
Another recent important development: In October 2011 the University of Wales (our validating University) suddenly decided to withdraw all of its external validations worldwide, which included IBI. Our contract with them ran through to October 2013, meaning that September 2013 was our last intake of students onto their programmes. Following a long process we secured new validation with York St John University (YSJU) from August 2014, for which we are very thankful. We have been able to add both a Youth Ministry and a Leadership specialisation to our BA programme, and a Transformational Leadership specialisation to our MA programme, which is exciting. Again, God’s timing was perfect – He is working his purposes out and it has been an amazing privilege for the staff team here, our Board and supporters to witness that. We give Him all the honour and glory.