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Bible Engagement Blog


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A Bible Engagement Church

While there are many church congregations that believe the Bible informs our faith and practice, there are very few Bible engagement churches. That’s not to say that the Bible isn’t read or preached in most churches, it usually is. But it is to say that Bible engagement hasn’t permeated every facet of local church ministry.

So what are the earmarks of a Bible engagement church? Here are ten suggestions:

  1. A Bible engagement church is a church where everything is aligned with Scripture, submitted to Scripture, and seen to be subservient to Scripture; in as much as when the Bible speaks, God speaks.
  2. A Bible engagement church models the priority of Bible engagement. The Bible is opened in the business meetings to inform the decision-making process, finances are disbursed according to the principles in God’s Word, weekly small groups study the Scriptures, and the church website, social media, bulletins, newsletters and PowerPoint announcements advocate for Bible engagement.
  3. A Bible engagement church is evidenced by the fact that everyone in the congregation knows that Bible engagement is a high priority. Ask an individual in a church what’s special about their church and if one of their top three answers is, “We value God’s Word,” then it’s possibly a Bible engagement church.
  4. A Bible engagement church fosters meaningful congregational participation and interaction with the Scriptures. It’s a disaster when, functionally speaking, a congregation thinks or acts as if Bible engagement is something reserved for the pastor, experts or professionals.
  5. A Bible engagement church is a community of faith where people line up their lives with the Word. In other words, they’re living epistles. On a 24/7 basis they’re striving (as the Holy Spirit empowers) to say and do what the Scriptures say they should say and do.
  6. A Bible engagement church intentionally integrates God’s Word into every aspect of the Sunday service. The Scriptures are read regularly and well, the content of the songs/hymns are biblically and theologically sound, the prayers are fueled by the Word, and the sermons consistently remind and reinforce the importance of connecting with the Word in order to connect with the One who is the Word.
  7. A Bible engagement church equips and teaches children, youth, adults and seniors how to engage with the Bible. Every person (all age groups) in the church has a Bible and a daily Bible reading guide. Bible engagement resources, curriculum and tools are incorporated and injected into every ministry, program or event in the church.
  8. A Bible engagement church incorporates the Scriptures fully into the discipleship and evangelism strategy of the church. Members of the congregation are taught how to personally listen, read, pray, interpret, contemplate, study, imagine, memorize, journal, apply and share God’s Word.
  9. A Bible engagement church has a pastor who preaches sermons that are Word-soaked, Spirit-inspired, and Christ-centred. The pastor finds ways to demonstrate that the Scripture text(s) for the sermon are more important than what will be said about the text(s). The preaching also takes seriously the oral and narrative nature of the Bible and incorporates sizeable readings of the Scripture.
  10. All told, a Bible engagement church makes Bible engagement central to the life of the church so that people live it out as part and parcel of everything they do together. A Bible engagement church is therefore one where the congregation have learnt how to let the Bible move; to be our voice in all the discussions we engage in, to be the main point in our preaching and teaching, to be the truth that we build our lives on, and to be the window through which we see Jesus.

Have your say. Is there something you’d add or subtract?

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement in Small Groups

Getting together with a micro-community of believers to read/hear God’s Word is an effective way to get to know God and understand how to live in a vibrant relationship with Him. Here are ten ways to strengthen Bible engagement in small groups:

Bathe everything in prayer. Pray before, after and during the time spent together. When you begin, pray something like, “God we’re going to be reading your Word. Help us to engage it actively, but also to listen attentively. You are the Teacher and we’re your students. Please convict, guide and transform us. Amen.” For the duration of the gathering be prepared to stop the dialogue to pray the Scriptures into personal needs or situations. When you close, pray something like, “Thank you Lord for the way we’ve met you in and through your Word. Help us apply your Word in everything we say and do. For your honour and glory. Amen.

Get to know each other. Create time and space for building relationships. Strong relationships are needed for heartfelt/meaningful dialogue. Foster an environment that’s friendly, respectful, and builds trust. Look for practical ways to love, encourage, and celebrate life together.

Read the Bible in multi-sensory ways. Be creative and three-dimensional, i.e., move beyond the printed page. For example, when reading about the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist/Communion in 1 Corinthians 11, have a fresh loaf baking in a bread maker so that the smell pervades the air. When you finish reading the passage, eat the bread while discussing the text.

Teach public reading of Scripture. When we read the Bible together we should aim to read it well. Some basic instruction will help people read more confidently and meaningfully. For more information check out the Bible Engagement Blog post, Reading the Bible Publicly.

Don’t reduce the Bible to a sourcebook for finding the right answers. The purpose of a small group Bible study should never be ‘knowledge about the Bible’. Bible knowledge isn’t an end in itself, nor is it a means to an end. The aim isn’t right answers, it’s knowing the One who is the answer. Interact with God’s Story in ways that our stories (as individuals and as a group) are formed and transformed by His Story.

Use open-ended questions. Allowing the formulation of any answer, rather than a selection from a set of predetermined possible answers, will help people press into God’s Word. Ask questions like, “What stood out for you?”, “Did it raise any questions for you?”, “Do you see the Father, Son or Holy Spirit in the text?”, or “Why is this in the Bible?” As a discussion progresses, direct people back into the Word. Ask, “Where do you see that in Scripture?”, or “Is there something in the text that informed your perspective?”

Make the main thing the main thing. Spend more time reading the Bible than reading books, commentaries, curriculum, or study guides about the Bible. It’s not a Bible study if the main thing is reading someone’s book about the Bible, listening to someone preach/teach on a topic from the Bible, or watching a video series about the Bible! God’s Word, read/heard, should be the primary text/content, and the Holy Spirit should be the ultimate teacher.

Discuss the uncomfortable/difficult passages. Be prepared to struggle with the ‘hard’ Scriptures, even when you don’t find satisfactory explanations. Wrestle with different points of view in a respectful and mature way.

Aim to read/hear the Scripture through the voices/ears of the whole group. Recognise how your own view of Scripture is limited, and that the fullness of Bible reading comes into its own when God speaks through different people.

Listen beyond your traditional theological grid. Allow God’s Word to challenge your presuppositions. Be humble. Be aware of the limitations of your insight and understanding. Be open to how God works mysteriously and powerfully, in and through His Word, to redeem and restore your life, and the lives of everyone in the group.

Using different methodologies may also be helpful. Try implementing one of these strategies:

The “Book Club” approach. Ask group members to read a whole book of the Bible prior to getting together, or read a big chunk when you are together (an entire story). Then open it up for dialogue. Discuss the writers intent, themes, plot, characters, what people liked or didn’t like, and so on.

The “Visual Arts” approach. Read a portion of Scripture, then view art forms (from different cultures and centuries) such as ceramics, drawings, paintings, sculptures, stained glass, wood carvings, and such, that illustrate the text. Discuss the artists context, how s/he interprets the biblical narrative/event, and how it may or may not be true to the text.

What would you add? Share your tips for strengthening Bible engagement in small groups.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Teaching Principles

The way we learn varies from person to person. There are 7 styles of learning: visual (spatial, using pictures and colour), aural (auditory, musical), verbal (linguistic, word-based techniques), physical (kinesthetic, using sensations or role playing), logical (mathematical, using reasoning), social (interpersonal, in groups), and solitary (intrapersonal, working alone, self study). Most of us incorporate a mix of these learning styles and rarely fit in only one category. My predominate learning style is intrapersonal, but I sometimes need an interpersonal learning strategy to help me reflect on and critique my understanding. I’m also very dependent on logical systematic thinking and word based techniques.

Because we’re all different in the way we learn it stands to reason that when we teach the Bible we should do so in ways that facilitate different learning styles. So with this in mind here are 12 creative Bible teaching principles:

  1. The Paul and Timothy principle. Learning is strengthened when it’s under the guidance of a Christian mentor (cf. Philippians 4:9). Some biblical examples include Jethro guiding Moses (cf. Exodus 18), Priscilla and Aquila explained the way of God more adequately to Apollos (cf. Acts 18:26), Paul teaching Timothy sound doctrine and practical faith (cf. 2 Timothy 1:13, 2:2, 3;10, 14), older women training younger women (cf. Titus 2:4), and the ultimate example of Jesus investing 3 years into the spiritual development of the disciples.
  2. The yacking principle. Some people love to chat. Bible teaching is strengthened when people are given occasions to verbalize their thoughts and discuss what they’re learning.
  3. The theme park principle. Memorable learning experiences help to etch God’s Word on our hearts and minds. Working in a soup kitchen is a more powerful learning experience than reading about the poor. According to Edgar Dale the least to most effective teaching methods are: verbal activities, visual symbols, simulated experiences and direct experiences.
  4. The Sherlock Holmes principle. Some people are more motivated to learn when the answers aren’t obvious. Simplistic yes/no questions should be avoided. Jesus, the master teacher, used parables with hidden meanings. When we teach the Scriptures we should interact with the mystery and suspense that’s ingrained in the Story.
  5. The sticky principle. The only Bible learning that really sticks is that which is Spirit informed (cf. John 14:26). Human teaching must be subject to and guided by the Teacher (the Holy Spirit) because only He can ultimately inform, transform and conform the learner to His Word.
  6. The Sandals Beach Resort principle. An environment that’s comfortable is usually more conducive for learning than one that isn’t. On a purely practical level the Bible is best taught in settings where there are suitable lights, furnishings, an ideal temperature and the distractions are eliminated.
  7. The action-attitude principle. We believe what we do more than do what we believe. Christibible-teaching-button-300x169an education professor John Westerhoff says, “If we want people to be able to accept or reject the Christian faith, we have to turn our attention and emphasis from teaching about Christianity to offering within the church experiences which demonstrate our faith.”
  8. The concrete principle. Organized, rationale, logical thinking should be the underlying foundation for all teaching. Learning that requires abstract, hypothetical, or philosophical thinking should be built on concrete foundations.
  9. The show and tell principle. My wife, when she was a full-time kindergarten teacher, scheduled a weekly show and tell. It gave each child an opportunity to show and tell the other children about something that was special or important. Show and tell shouldn’t be restricted to children. Facilitating creative space for all age groups enhances the learning experience.
  10. The Google principle. The ability to search the internet for facts, answers, opinions and such enables us to take ownership of what we learn and when we learn it. Bible study is strengthened when there’s shared ownership of the process.
  11. The travelling supper principle. A variety of settings enriches the learning experience. I’ll never forget studying Acts 17:16-34 while sitting on the Acropolis rocks where the Areopagus would have been situated. And I’ll never forget Psalm 30:5 after singing it over and over again with a congregation of poor believers on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent.
  12. The iTranslate principle. We learn new things better when we’re given a chance to put what we’re learning into our own words (e.g. Matthew 16:13-20).

 

Have your say. Share your Bible teaching principles.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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The Death of Reading

I recently read Philip Yancey’s article in The Washington Post titled “The death of reading is threatening the soul.” While Yancey’s article isn’t specifically focused on reading the Bible, it got me thinking about how the death of reading is having an adverse effect on Bible engagement.

Yancey’s premise is that reading books (“deep reading”) is dying out. He suggests this is due, in large part, to our brains being rewired by the internet to read only a paragraph or two (shallow reading).

In the book Saving the Bible From Ourselves: Learning to Read and Live the Bible Well, Glenn Paauw promotes reading the Bible in “slower, smarter, deeper” ways as a prerequisite to reading the Bible adequately. I agree with Paauw. Our spiritual formation is significantly hampered if we’re not in the habit of concentrated reading of big chunks of the Bible. As I said in the book Bible Engagement Basics, “When Christians subsist on a diet of Scripture snacks, they’re not feeding on the Word! Bible reading is more than a catchphrase, more than a shortStudy-of-Death-300x208-lived inspirational text, and more than samplings of texts isolated from their historical, literary or cultural contexts.”

So if deep reading of the Bible is essential for spiritual formation, how do we do this when our brains may no longer be attuned to deep reading? Or to phrase the question differently, Is there a way to overcome shallow reading and develop deep reading skills?

The answer to the above questions is that we can all develop deep reading skills. But determination or discipline won’t get us there. According to Yancey who quotes Quartz, “willpower alone is not enough.” We need to build a “fortress of (new) habits” if we’re going to break free from shallow reading. And how are a “fortress of habits” that facilitate deep Bible reading developed? Here are some suggestions:

  • Claim God’s promises. You can develop deep reading skills because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (cf. Philippians 4:13)
  • Ask God to renew your mind (cf. Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 4:23). If the internet can wire our brains to read one way (shallow reading) surely God can reprogram our brains to read another way (deep meditative reflective reading).
  • Change your lifestyle. Replace bad habits with good habits. We should make no provision for the flesh (cf. Romans 13:14). If you continue to spend most of your time on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and reading emails you’ll never develop deep reading skills because you’ll continue to get a dopamine rush (the neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers) from your shallow reading.
  • Ask mature Christians to help you (cf. Proverbs 15:22, 19:20, Galatians 6:2). Don’t try to battle this out by yourself. Invite instruction from Christians who have strong daily devotional Bible reading habits.
  • Spend time in prayer (cf. Mark 11:24).

Have your say. What would you add or subtract?

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Create a Banquet

Writing experts say that half the struggle is getting people to read what you write. They also say that a good title is everything. This may be true. When I saw The Hottest Thing at Church is Not Your Pastor or Worship Leader, the title of a Christianity Today (April 2017) article, I was enticed to read it.

It’s a good read. It highlights the fact that the number 1 explanation for why Americans go to church is for “Sermons that teach about Scripture.”

That’s music to my ears! I firmly believe that reading, preaching and appreciating the Word (which is to appreciate the One of whom the Word speaks) should rank above every other reason for why we go to church.

Which reminds me of something a veteran Bible teacher and preacher recently said to me, “We should lay out a banquet for people to feast from when they come to church.” He’s absolutely right. The preaching and teaching of God’s Word should be spiritually tasty and filling.

Unfortunately pastors don’t always provide their congregations with a weekly banquet on God’s Word. Sometimes it’s only a snack and sometimes it’s just a morsel – certainly not enough to sustain or nourish a congregation.

Pastors, “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). That’s literal language. It’s not a suggestion. It’s not figurative. With every ounce of strength and passion, prayerfully and humbly, carefully and patiently, in the power of the Spirit – preach the Word! Exegete the text. Do everything possible to invite every person to enter into the Scriptures, engage the Scriptures, encounter the One of whom the Scriptures speak, and emulate the Scriptures in everything they say and do.

I still remember, about 30 years later, how one pastor told me that it only took him 3-4 hours to prepare his Sunday message. He was proud of this because it gave him more time to spend with his family … the implication being that it was good and right for him to make his family his highest priority. I’m still flabbergasted! A good message takes days of preparation, hours and hours of wrestling with the text, and even sleepless nights as the preacher seeks to reconcile himself with the text because he knows he can’t preach if the Scriptures don’t have ascendency in his own life.

In fact sermon preparation is somewhat similar to cooking. When my wife and I want to prepare a really nice meal for friends or family it takes us about two full days to do the planning, shopping, cooking, table setting, vacuuming and dusting (our house must first be clean before we can serve up a banquet), dish washing and drying. Similarly, when I prepare a sermon I know it requires planning, getting all the ingredients together, arranging and organizing, making sure my own house is in order before I tell others how to get their house in order, serving something sumptuous, and doing what needs to be done so that others will say, “Thanks, that was great!”

One more thing: I’m a nobody when it comes to cooking and I’m a nobody when it comes to preaching. But that’s okay. The Christianity Today article mentions how the Gallup poll also discovered that “people in the pews care far more about what’s being preached than who’s preaching it.” That’s good news for every ordinary pastor who is diligently feeding the congregation a Sunday banquet week in and week out.

It’s also a reminder that the preacher plays the supportive, not the main role. When I go to a restaurant and eat a good meal, the food itself, not the chef, is the focus of my gastronomic experience. Similarly, the texture, flavour and aroma of the Scriptures should be the focus of the preaching, not the preacher. And for this to happens the preacher’s main aim should be to preach the Word so that everyone can “taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Engaging the Bible Relationally

Many people engage with the Bible in order to know more. They study the Bible to learn about faith, God, morality and how to live their lives. Gaining information and growing in knowledge about the Bible is the desired end.

An informational approach to the Bible is largely borne out of the fact that we’ve been wired by educational institutions to gather facts, interpret events, and understand our world. But the Bible is not a text book and God never intended for us to treat it as one. That’s because the goal of Bible engagement is something far greater than elevating our knowledge or trying to understand the Word.

So what is the goal of Bible engagement?

Our primary motive for engaging the Bible should always be relationship. Specifically, the main reason for connecting with the Bible should be to elevate our worship, communion and love for God. Why? Because Bible engagement, while it involves us, is not ultimately about us. I’m guessing Rick Warren would agree. His mantra in The Purpose Driven Life is, “It’s not about you!”

Maybe one of the reasons why we approach the Bible informationally rather than relationally is because we’re inclined to look out for our own wellbeing. We study the Bible because we want help, healing, hope and so much more. And yes, God gives us these things, but only within the context of a reciprocating relationship. The trouble is, we sometimes get the cart before the horse, we major on the benefits of the relationship when we should be majoring on the fact that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father …” James 1:17.

That’s not to say that engaging the Bible relationally is easy. It’s not. Bible engagement requires personal discipline and intentionality as well as wisdom and strength from God. In fact when we try to engage the Bible relationally, without the help of the Holy Spirit, we usually fail.

Here’s the rub: Knowledge about the Bible is important, but knowledge without an intimate and dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ, is hazardous. This is the point that Jesus was trying to make to the Pharisees (Mark 7:1-13). It’s a matter of first principles. We can’t find truth or know truth if we’re disconnected from the truth-giver.

Years ago, when I was a full-time pastor, I remember hearing a story about a dinner gathering that was attended by a well known orator. During the course of the meal he was asked to recite the 23rd Psalm. He eloquently recited the psalm and everyone was impressed. Then someone turned to the old pastor who was also there that night and asked him if he would recite the 23rd Psalm. As he recited the psalm it was obvious that his words came more from his heart than his lips. Instead of the people being impressed, they were moved. Of course we know what made the difference, the orator knew the words but the pastor knew the One who is the Word.

Do we know the One who is the Word? Effective healthy transformational Bible engagement fails or succeeds based on how we answer this question.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Basics Review

Bible Engagement Basics is hot off the press! Here’s a review:

If I am honest, sometimes … actually, maybe MOST times, the Bible is hard work. Its hard work getting the motivation to read it, to bridge the gap between the world of the original writers and recipients and mine, and to try and make sense of it through my 21st century worldview.

Any support, encouragement and practical ideas are welcome, and Bible Engagement Basics ticks all 3 boxes.

It’s an ambitious book by any standard. It attempts to engage a global audience, whilst laying out a clear theological premise for the importance of Scripture, as well as providing practical suggestions for those wanting to explore different models and ideas for Scripture engagement. I think it does it well.

When I speak to groups of young Christians, I sometimes pose the question “What IS the Bible?” Responses offer an immediate understanding of not just how, but why they read (or don’t read) the Bible. “God’s love letter to me,” or “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth,” and “A manual for how to live” are some of the common responses. I appreciate that from the opening pages, Bible Engagement Basics explores Scripture as Gods Story, and that Story – as Lawson so eloquently writes “is a spacious realm that we are invited into with imagination and faith, and once we have entered, to see ourselves as participants.”

Throughout history, the Bible has at times been used to contain, control and condemn people. It has been seen as a weapon of oppression, not a source of liberation and life as it is intended. To gather in community and be transformed by Gods Word, it requires “new postures of authenticity, vulnerability and consecration” as Lawson articulates well. Reading in community, where we bring our stories, questions and revelations, and together prayerfully allow God to speak to us is highlighted in this book. I cheer on this approach, mindful that Scripture was written (or spoken) for communities – not individuals, and is most powerfully entered into within community.

Let me warmly commend this important and timely resource to you.

Adrian Blenkinsop, Youth Bible engagement specialist, Author of “The Bible According To Gen Z.”

Bible Engagement Basics

Author: Lawson W. Murray | ISBN: 978-0-9951694-1-8 | Publication Date: July 2017 |

Order: http://scriptureunion.ca/bookstore-1/books-adults/bible-engagement-basics

Order (French): http://boutique.llbquebec.ca/products/principes-dinteraction-avec-la-bible

More Information: http://www.scriptureunion.ca/beb

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Repent

Maybe I’m not listening too well, but it seems to me that even from our pulpits there are some key biblical words that are barely mentioned today. One of those words is “repent.”

I’m not surprised that I rarely hear the word “repent.” We live in an era of tolerance, entitlement, the pursuit of happiness and political correctness. So telling someone they should feel regret, sorrow or contrition for something they’ve done wrong, isn’t considered appropriate.

Just because a word may no longer be culturally appropriate doesn’t mean we should stop using it. True Bible engagement is often counter-cultural. Bible engagers can’t pick and choose what they like or dislike in God’s Word. We must interact fully and proclaim (with grace) every word and verse in the whole Bible. That’s not easy. Especially when it may offend others or place us at odds with society.

So what are we to do with difficult biblical themes and words like “repent”? Press into them! Let’s not forget that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” 2 Timothy 3:16 .

Interestingly, when we embrace all of God’s Word, we will be blessed. This is certainly true of the word “repent.” Here are the benefits of repentance according to 2 Corinthians 7:9-11:

  • It leads to sorrow for our sin (v.9)
  • Which leads to salvation and the removal of all regrets (v.10)
  • Which leads to a desire for justice and restitution (v.11)

Isn’t that great? The good things that God is willing and longing to give us are released into our lives when we repent. So don’t shy away from engaging with every word in the Word. For when we do, it will ultimately take us to a better place with others and a better place with God.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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How to Understand and Apply the Bible

In order for the Bible to apply to our lives it must be understandable. To understand the Bible we need to know how to study it. To study the Bible we need a tried and tested methodology. Here’s a thumbnail sketch on how to understand and apply the Bible.

Pray fervently. The Holy Spirit is the One who reveals and illuminates truth. We need Him to interpret His Word. Without Him we lack understanding (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14). As we seek to understand and apply the Bible, prayer should be interlaced throughout the process.

Use several translations. English Bibles are translations from Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek documents. Different translation philosophies (formal equivalence/word for word, dynamic equivalence/thought for thought) result in slightly different renderings of a text. To glean from a variety of translations, consider using the NIV, NLT, NRSV, ESV, GNB, and the MSG.

Check out the writer. Who wrote the book? Where was he? When did he write it? Why did he write it? To whom did he write it?

Examine the setting. To discern how the original audience understood what was written to them requires a basic knowledge of their geographical location, history, politics, customs and culture.capture

Look at the immediate context. Read what precedes and follows the text under consideration. See how the content of what went before the text and what came after the text, relates to the text.

Investigate the book context. The meaning of a text flows out of its broader context. Understand the purpose, theme(s), section/divisions and flow of thought in the whole book. Ask, “Why did the human author write this book?” and “How should the text be understood in the light of the purpose and theme of the book?”

Give thought to the whole-Bible context. The long term plan should be to read the Bible repeatedly. Aim to compare scripture with scripture. Look for cross-references (other texts that relate to the text being studied). In due course the Bible should exposit itself.

Be aware of the literary genre. The different literary genres of Scripture have different characteristics that require different interpretive techniques. For example, Hebrew poetry doesn’t use rhyme but uses parallelism (the use of synonyms and antonyms to build ideas around other ideas).

Identify figurative language. The Bible uses both literal (words/phrases used according to their proper meaning or precise definition) and figurative (words/phrases that are not literal) language. There are more than a dozen different types of figurative language used in the Bible (e.g. allegory, hyperbole, anthropomorphism, metaphor, personification, paronomasia). To interpret figurative language literally, or literal language figuratively, will corrupt the meaning of the text.

Do word studies. Words are the basic building blocks of the Scriptures. Because the Holy Spirit inspired the words we must carefully unpack the meaning and intent of the words. Use an expository dictionary/lexicon to understand how words are used in a particular context.

Read footnotes and commentaries. Profit from the scholars, theologians and experts. Use multiple sources to avoid theological bias. Take advantage of study Bibles. Consult Bible dictionaries, almanacs, handbooks and commentaries.

Search for Christ. Is the theme of Christ implicit or explicit in the text. Ask, “How should this text be understood as a witness concerning Christ?”

Apply, Apply, Apply! God is more interested in how we act on His Word than in what we know about the Word. The goal is to interpret Scripture in order to apply it. When we fail to apply and obey the Word, we fail in our interpretation of the Word.

A final thought. Understanding the Bible begins with the reality that there is one Author, with one message, and one meaning. That’s not say that the message isn’t multi-faceted, because it is. And it’s not to say that the meaning isn’t nuanced, because it is. But it is to say that our understanding and application of the Bible must be consistent with God’s intended message and meaning.

Recommended Resources:

R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture, Inter Varsity Press, 2009.

Robertson McQuilkin, Understanding and Applying the Bible, Moody Publishers, 2009.

Stephen H. Wheeler, Fish the Bible! Understand Scripture and Apply it to Life, 2012.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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State of the Bible 2017

Since 2011 the Barna Group has conducted an annual survey concerning the state of the Bible in the USA. The survey is commissioned by the American Bible Society and aims to gather insights into the multifaceted relationship that Americans have with God’s Word.

This year’s findings revealed the following:

  • Two-thirds of Americans read, listen to or pray with the Bible (16% daily, 21% once a week or more, 7% once a month, 6% a few times a year).
  • Bible usage is highest among Black American practicing Protestants who live in the South.
  • The average Bible user reads the Bible for 30 minutes during each sitting.
  • Lower income people (less than $50K annually) read the Bible more frequently than higher income people (more than $100K annually).
  • While the KJV is the most popular version it’s usage is declining (down 14% since 2011).
  • The NIV is the second most popular version followed by the ESV.
  • The primary reason why two-thirds of Bible readers connect with the Bible is because it “brings them closer to God.”
  • Nearly 60% of adults indicate that they want to read the Bible more frequently.
  • Bible reading increases when it is seen to be an important part of a person’s faith journey.
  • Bible reading declines when people are too busy with the responsibilities of life, start doubting their faith, face trauma, or leave the church.
  • There is a decline in Bible reading among Millennials.
  • Favourable emotions when reading the Bible included feelings of peace (49%), hope (45%), happiness (29%), and intrigue (19%).
  • Unfavourable emotions when reading the Bible included feelings of being overwhelmed (13%) or confused (12%).
  • Nearly half of the Bible readers give a lot of thought to how the Bible applies to their lives.
  • Most people prefer to use a printed Bible (91%) for reading the Scriptures yet they also use non-print formats (smart phone, apps, podcasts, internet, audio) for reading the Bible (92%).

For more information click here to download the whole report.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5