Bible Engagement Blog: JumpIntoTheWord

Read, Reflect, Respond


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Get in the Game

If I read about football, listen to what people say about it, watch it on TV, remember the plays, learn the rules, spend hours on end thinking about the tactics, and share my views on football with others, I’m nothing more than a spectator. But if I’m sprinting downfield to receive a pass, I’m in the game.

Similarly, I can read the Word, hear the Word, study the Word, remember the Word, meditate on the Word, talk about it with others, and do it all as a spectator! Bible intake, in and of itself, is not the objective. I should read, hear, study, remember, meditate, and discuss the Scriptures for one end – to be in the game!

God wants us to be doers of the Word. The ultimate goal of Bible reading and reflection isn’t to learn the history of the Bible, to understand doctrine, to enjoy the stories, get our theology straight, or know everything there is to know. Bible engagement must include application. God gave us His Word to give us life and to change lives! “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” James 1:22 (NIV).

God’s Word has been and always will be a call to action. To profit from it we must apply it. This requires faith. We have to trust God to give us the insight and means to practically relate it to our daily lives. Thankfully the Holy Spirit is not limited. He can and will show us what our practical response should be when we read/hear the Word with expectancy.

Some say it’s hard to apply the Word because it’s difficult to understand. But most of the time understanding isn’t the problem. The majority of the Scriptures are clear and straightforward. The problem’s internal – the sinful nature. As the Apostle Paul says, “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing” Romans 7:19 (NIV).

When evil is right there with us how do we stop doing the sinful things we don’t want to do and start doing what God wants us to do? By learning to think right. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Romans 12:2 (NIV).

Get in the game. Right thinking leads to right actions. To think and act right we must do the following:

  • Ask God for help. We can’t engage with the Word in our own strength. We need the Holy Spirit to open our minds and hearts – to enable us to understand, digest and apply truth.  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV).
  • Think deeply about the Word (cf. Psalm 119:15). There are no short-cuts. To be in the game we must be in strict training (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:25). Meditating on the Word is the key to putting it into practice. When God told Joshua to “meditate on it day and night” it was “so that you may be careful to do everything written in it”. The promise, “then you will be prosperous and successful” would then be fulfilled (cf. Joshua 1:8).

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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Inviting Non-Bible Readers to Read the Bible

How do we invite non-Bible readers to read the Bible? Here are six important things we need to think about and do:

Nurture trust. Some people are innately suspicious of the Bible but may consider reading it if they trust the person who shares the Story with them. Dan Kimball, in a discourse on speaking to emerging generations, says, “So our first big challenge . . . is to regain our voice by earning the trust of our hearers . . . teach the trustworthiness of Scripture” and not “by talking just one-way”.

Serve others. Jesus came among us as one who serves (cf. Luke 22:27). Coupled with the issue of trust is the problem of power and control. Christians should be servants of the world rather than its masters (cf. Luke 22:26). Actions speak louder than words. When Bible readers live the Story, non-Bible readers will be enticed to read the Story. In particular, Christian leaders should be seen to be compelled, not to build big churches or make names for themselves, but to look out for the poor, show compassion (cf. Isaiah 58:10) act justly, and walk humbly (cf. Micah 6:8).

Cultivate interaction. Due to the electronic culture and the awareness that all communication is interactive, a two-way flow of information is encrypted into people’s brains. In what Leonard Sweet describes as “the Age of Participation” it is unlikely that non-Bible readers will read the Bible if we do not cultivate ways for them to interact with it. People need to be helped to connect with the Story in relationally interdependent frameworks where there is a participatory flow of imaginative reason and metaphor.

Communicate contextually. Our language has to be right. Non-Bible readers are unlikely to read the Bible if our syntax doesn’t fit with the culture. Communities of faith must share the Story in ways that address real issues in real time with appropriate symbols and prophetic metaphor delivered in a multisensory and user-friendly manner.

Build community. Reading, learning, and living out the Bible within the relational networks and presence of a Christian community is essential because people need the strength of friendships and the practices of a faith community to adequately overcome sin and lead transformed lives.

Use new media or technology. In addition to face to face interactive communities, screen to screen connexity is a vital component in cultivating Bible engagement. For effective Bible reading and reflection to occur, community has to be developed both in church gatherings and through the internet. Flexible use of time and space is required. We must harness media and technology to reach anyone, anywhere, anytime, and in every possible way.

Have your say. What would you add or subtract from the comments above?

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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Looking Ahead

This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change. American singer-songwriter, Taylor Swift.

How will cultural and technological changes impact the way people connect with the Bible in the coming year? Here are three “big picture” things to consider:

  • Visualacy – In a ‘visualholic’ culture the strategies or approaches to invite connections with the Bible must deal with the fact that people think mainly in images, not words. Postmoderns need to see in order to know. Dan Kimball says, “Propositions are lost on postmodern ears, but metaphor they will hear; images they will see and understand.” This means that in order to engage this generation with the Bible the informational methodology of modernity (an emphasis on facts and knowledge) should be yoked with incarnational approaches that emphasise interactional, experiential and integrational responses to truth.
  • Relevance – People are more likely to read the Bible if they believe it has application or significance for their lives. In a culture of individualism, consumerism and hedonism people ask, “What’s in it for me?” It’s not enough to simply invite someone to read the Bible – we must extol the benefits of Bible engagement by letting people know that the Scriptures give guidance for daily living, provide a moral/ethical framework for life, set us free from the grip and oppression of sin, and converge our stories with God’s Story.
  • Mediated Communications – Skype, GoToMeeting, Facebook, Linkedin, telephone, e-mail, and such all serve as go-betweens helping connect us with each other. Embodied communications (i.e., in the flesh) happen less frequently than they used to. While mediated communications are extremely helpful, they are limited. The challenge moving forward is finding ways to use mediated communications to full benefit without compromising the importance of embodied communications. That is, every opportunity should be taken to encourage and facilitate connections with the Scriptures via both mediated and embodied communications.

Things are changing and will continue to change. But some things never change: “Your word, O Lord is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” Psalm 119:89 (NIV).

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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Top Five Picks

Have you read the best of the 2013 jumpintotheword Bible Engagement Blog posts? Here are the top five picks:

1. Why Christians Don’t Read the Bible – Yes, you read the title correctly. Research indicates that most Christians don’t read the Bible regularly. Here are their reasons . . . http://jumpintotheword.com/2013/08/01/why-christians-dont-read-the-bible/

2. Bible Engagement in a Digital Age – Technology writer, Richard Carr, suggests that books and book reading are in their “cultural twilight.” Some may disagree with Carr, but we can’t ignore the fact that innovation and change brought about by the digital revolution are reshaping the way people read . . . http://jumpintotheword.com/2013/11/08/bible-engagement-in-a-digital-age/

3. Pensees and Questions – What will the shape of Bible engagement be in the years to come? Here are some pensees and questions for consideration . . . http://jumpintotheword.com/2013/05/13/pensees-and-questions/

4. Why Pastors Should Make Bible Engagement Their Priority – The single most beneficial thing pastors can do for their congregations is help them read and reflect on the Scriptures. Bible engagement is critical for spiritual health and growth. The primary catalyst for developing mature Christians is Bible reading coupled with reflection. In fact Scripture reflection has twice the power of any other spiritual discipline to advance people in their love for God and others . . . http://jumpintotheword.com/2013/03/04/why-pastors-should-make-bible-engagement-their-priority/

5. How Do You Read the Bible? – People read the Bible differently. Some read it flippantly, fancifully, dismissively, selfishly or subjectively. Others read it academically or ardently. How do you read it? . . . http://jumpintotheword.com/2013/04/25/how-do-you-read-the-bible/

© Scripture Union Canada 2014

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BG2

In December 2013 the jumpintotheword Bible engagement blog became part of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid. The Bible Gateway Blogger Grid (BG²) is “an international network of independent bloggers” who are devoted to the Bible and committed “to spreading its message on the Internet”.

bg-blogger-badge-150x150Bible Gateway is an online site that provides users with free easy access to different versions and translations of the Bible. According to Jonathan Petersen, Bible Gateway Marketing Manager, Bible Gateway provides “information about the Bible and inspiration from the Bible” aiming “to help people worldwide engage the Bible (read it and live by its precepts and principles)”.

Check out the bloggers at #bgbg2

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