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Bible Engagement Blog


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Revival

Revival is intimately linked to Bible engagement. The 19th Century Swiss Protestant theologian and church historian, Philip Schaff, wrote: “Every true progress in church history is conditioned by a new and deeper study of the Scriptures.” That is to say, every spiritual awakening has sprung from and been fuelled by God’s Word.

Revival is a breath of Heaven – a divine visitation bringing deep repentance, renewal and righteousness. Individuals, churches, communities and nations are in desperate need of revival. In a time of plenty we have so little. There’s no shortage of food and water, but spiritual emptiness, shallow enticements and energy sapping pursuits are robbing us of fullness of life.

We’re falling away from God. Someone once said, “As the church goes, so goes the nation.” Performance and program driven churches are generally the order of the day. Consumer motivated values inform what we do and why we do what we do. The majority of people attend church wanting to socialize and enjoy the entertainment. Prayer meetings are usually the poorest attended meetings in the church. Many Christians don’t read the Bible regularly and few live lives informed by a biblical worldview. As God said thousands of years ago: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me . . .” Isaiah 29:13 (NIV).

Revival is the need of the hour. The psalmist cries, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” Psalm 85:6 (NIV).  If we share the heart cry of the psalmist we need to know that one of the preparatory conditions for revival is “a new and deeper study of the Scriptures”. The Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the puritan revivals in the 17th century, the revival ministry of Whitefield, Wesley, Edwards and others in the 18th century, and the extraordinary awakenings in the 19th and 20th centuries were all marked by a return to the Word.

Revival changes everything. May a generation of Bible studying, Bible believing, Bible living men and women be raised up for the 21st century.

© Scripture Union Canada 2012


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Tailor Made

Bible study has to be tailor made. There’s no one size fits all.

When I was an undergraduate student in the seventies we gathered in small groups on the campus lawns, read a book of the Bible together, then marked up the text with our pencils – writing insights and questions in the margins. We used the insights and questions to share findings and fuel our discussions. We didn’t know it at the time, but Paul Byer of IVCF started developing a Bible study method along these lines in 1954. Paul’s method was later called the Manuscript Bible Study (MBS) and is extensively used by IVCF on college and university campuses today.

What works intuitively for university students may not work for children. Andy Deane, in his book, Learn To Study The Bible: Forty Different Step By Step Methods To Help You Discover, Apply And Enjoy God’s Word recommends the “Heart Monitor”, “Funnel It”, “Weather Report”, “Climb the Ladder”, or “Cross Thoughts” Bible study methods for children.

Andy’s methods are great, but there may be better Bible study methods for children geared to sports. Children at SU Canada’s sport camps or leagues receive God’s Game Plan (a sports themed Bible) and the Camper Playbook (a Bible Reading Guide). God’s Game Plan and the Camper Playbook have matching cover designs to visually remind children to use a reading guide when studying the Bible. The Bible study method recently developed for SU Canada’s sports ministry utilises a simple inductive five step approach built around sports terminology. The Sports Bible Study Method™ is:

  1. Warm Up – speak to God and invite Him to meet with you
  2. Jump In – carefully read the Bible text
  3. Dig Deep – think about what you’ve read and ask questions
  4. Do It! – apply what you’ve learned
  5. Huddle – chat to God and others

 

The Sports Bible Study Method™ works really well for sports ministry. Other methods like Lectio Divina, 4-K Method, Swedish Method, 5 Ps of Hearing God through the Bible, S.O.A.P Method and the E100 Challenge™ work really well for the contexts and people they’re designed for. Maybe you’ve used one or more of these methods. What’s ultimately important isn’t the Bible study method; it’s whether or not we’re engaging, internalising and incarnating the Word of God.

© Scripture Union Canada, 2012


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Breathe Scripture

I wonder what 16th Century Protestants would think of today’s church if they could drop in for a visit. Sola Scriptura was the rallying cry during the Reformation and many fought and died for the Bible to be pre-eminent over church traditions or practices that were un-biblical or extra-biblical. In varying degrees it seems like something of the Sola Scriptura focus has been lost in the 21st Century Church. While the Church generally uses the Bible to provide an underpinning for teaching and life instruction, the Scriptures aren’t always the primary authority in directing all we say and do.                                                                              

So why should the Scriptures be interwoven into everything we say and do in the local church? The REVEAL study, conducted by Willow Creek Community Church (USA), suggests one exceptionally good reason – to nurture spiritual maturity.

In the REVEAL study book, MOVE: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth, Hawkins and Parkinson say that embedding the Bible in everything is one of the top four practices of disciple-making churches. In fact the top five percent of churches in the REVEAL study who successfully nurtured spiritual maturity were churches who “breathed Scripture”. When churches breathe Scripture they’re asking, “What does the Bible have to say about that?” The answers to this question inform and direct every activity of the church.

Breathing Scripture . . . how many churches apply the Bible to everything they say and do? Looking at some of the things done, or not done in our churches, I wonder . . .

Is your church breathing Scripture? If not, maybe it’s time to take up the ancient rally cry of Sola Scriptura. David’s oft repeated proclamation was, “I have chosen your precepts” Psalm 119:173 (NIV). Pray that the church in our day will come to be known for its total allegiance to the Scriptures.

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2012


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Why Read the Bible?

Why should we read the Bible? Google “Bible Reading” and there are dozens of Bible agencies, ministries, churches and individuals inviting people to read or listen to the Bible. To help us read the Bible they offer a huge range of plans, charts, guides, schedules, approaches, programs, challenges and resources. The information on the sites offering Bible reading plans say we should regularly read or listen to the Bible to develop our faith as Christians, for inspiration, to see what wonders God works, for the sake of learning, for guidance, to study, to know truth, for adventure, for a steady diet of God’s Word, for a rewarding experience, and so on.

While there is value in reading the Bible for the reasons mentioned above, the main reason why we read the Bible should be to connect with the Person of whom the Bible speaks – the triune God. This is paramount; if we read the Bible to know the Word of God, yet don’t read it to know the God of the Word, we miss the mark!

Love the God of the Word and we’ll love the Word of God! When we read the Bible for any reason other than because we love God, it may be a difficult, confusing or boring read. But when we read the Bible relationally, as God’s love letter to us, our reading becomes a living, experiential, intimate, interactive, functional, communal, and transformational journey with Him . . .

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2012


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Transmediatization

Transmediatization is the presentation of the Bible in electronic formats. Since the 15thCentury, with the advent of the Gutenberg Press, the primary means of distributing and reading the Bible was through the medium of print. Since the development of computers in the 1950’s and the commercialization of the Internet in the 1990’s the print medium has been eclipsed by the digital medium. A new era has dawned in the way we think, speak, see and correspond. Quickly and dramatically, the digital wave has crested.

The implications of transmediatization are far reaching. Printed Scriptures, while yet important, have to make room for hypertext (the digital form of highly interconnected and multidimensional narrative). This generation are seeing with different eyes and hearing with different ears. Change is happening faster than ever before. Over the past twelve months the percentage of Canadians reading books in an electronic format has grown from 5% to about 50% of the population.

Adapting* the Bible to the digital medium is not an option, it’s a necessity. The church (Bible agencies included) requires a fresh understanding and response to how we invite and encourage connections with the Bible. New territory must be explored and settled. This will entail the use of a new creativity, new language, new words, and new ways of using and illustrating words.

The way we provide access and interaction with the Bible may determine whether or not facilitating encounters with God and progressive transformation of people will meaningfully occur in the years ahead. By 2015 it is estimated that 1.4 billion people will own smart phones – making phones the most common devices for accessing the Internet. With this in mind Scripture Union recently developed the SU Canada App for Android and Apple phones. The SU Canada App helps connect people with Jesus and His Story. The key feature of the App is the eDaily Prayers. The eDaily Prayers, uploaded from Monday to Friday, provide reflections on Scripture and ‘scaffolding for meditation’. The App also features the Bible Engagement Blog, Twitter, Facebook, and the opportunity to sign up to receive SU’s free eDaily Devotions (sent through email).

*Adaption does not imply, in any way, the changing of the content or canon of the Scriptures. Adaption refers to the change or modification to the way we provide access to the Bible. That is, adaptation is making the Bible available in ways that are suitable for a new and different purpose.

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2012


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Measuring Bible Engagement

So how is Bible engagement measured? Those who define Bible engagement as something cognitive or transactional find it relatively easy to quantitatively measure the activity because the variables can be isolated and studied. For example, one of the tools developed by this writer as a simple gauge of Bible literacy is the Measure of reading/connecting with the Bible in the table below.

Measure of reading/connecting with the Bible

-4 Is unaware of the Bible
-3 Is aware of the Bible
-2 Has access to a portion of the Bible
-1 Has access to the Bible
0 Owns a Bible or a portion of the Bible
+1 Never or rarely reads/connects with the Bible
+2 Reads/connects with the Bible once a month or more
+3 Reads/connects with the Bible once a week or more
+4 Reads/connects with the Bible once a day or more

Quantitative measures of Bible engagement, while useful, have limitations because they do not and cannot measure the more complex nature of Bible engagement, elements like ‘meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ’ and lives being ‘progressively transformed in Him.’

So how are the more qualitative elements of Bible engagement measured? By definition such qualities are difficult to determine, but clearly confirmation of Bible engagement is seen in people’s lives when they are connected with, coming alive to, are tied to, are investing in, being submitted to, are reliant on, are receiving from, and acting in line with the One of whom the Bible speaks, Jesus Christ.

Measuring Bible engagement. Ultimately, meaningful connections with the Bible are occurring when:

–          people are seen to be imitating Christ’s humility (cf. Philippians 2:2)

–          when our stories are interwoven and subject to His Story (cf. Micah 6:8)

–          when we are producing a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown (cf. Matthew 13:8), i.e., receiving, hearing and understanding God’s word (cf. Matthew 13:23).

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2012


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Read the Bible For What It Truly Is

In 1992, I attended a two week graduate course on Relief and Development at EasternMennonite Seminary in the USA. During the opening session the professor asked the group of fifty or so students to describe how they pictured God. With few exceptions, God was portrayed as a middle aged white suburban male (the primary demographic of the students). I learnt that most of us think God is like us.

What we do with God, we do with the Bible. Our tendency is to project onto the Bible what we want to see or hear. Instead of being caught up in the Bible’s story, we harness the Bible to our story. It’s a predisposition; our natural inclination is ego-centric and our bent is to manipulate the Bible to our own ends. Simply stated, we read the Bible to get what we want out of it.

So how do we read the Bible for what it truly is and not for what we want to make it? By bringing three “friends” to the table:

  • The Holy Spirit . . . ask Him to help you understand what you’re reading
  • Bible commentaries and guides . . . use them to mine the collected wisdom of the church
  • Mature Christians . . . learn from pastors, teachers and people who are wise in the Word

Scott McKnight in his excellent book, The Blue Parakeet, would add that if we are to read the Bible in a way that is renewing and ever renewing, then we should also read the Bible as story, learn to listen to and for God in the Bible (cf. Matthew 7:24-27), and discern how best to live out the Gospel (cf. Colossians 1:9-10).

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2012


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Information, Formation, Transformation and Revelation

Information is defined as acquiring knowledge through experience or study.

People who read the Bible for information are focused on facts. Awareness, familiarity, and developing biblical comprehension and understanding are the primary objectives. Reading for information concentrates on collecting data, learning about Christianity, understanding the stories and teachings, investigating Christ, reading Judeo-Christian history, or becoming acquainted with God.

Take away the prefix ‘in’ from information and the stem word is formation. Formation is defined as the act of giving or taking form, constructing or developing, coming or bringing into existence. Reading the Bible for formation opens a person to an interaction and exchange with God. Formation reading is creative in nature; involving growth and shaping that potentially leads to change. When people read the Bible for formation they’re interested in learning right from wrong, seeking direction and purpose for their lives, wanting to be ‘fed’ and grow in faith, looking for help or hope, in search of inspiration, or trying to build a relationship with God.

Adding the prefix ‘trans’ to the stem word formation introduces yet another level of connecting with the Bible – reading for transformation. Transformation is defined as a radical change or alteration – a conversion to another form. In biblical parlance it’s when a person stops conforming to the pattern of the world and is inwardly altered by the renewing of their mind (cf. Romans 12:2). Transformational reading involves a deep-rooted modification of the heart so that a person’s intentions, inclinations and spiritual instincts are directed to Christ and His glory.

Revelation is the act or process of disclosing something that was previously hidden or obscure. In the Parable of the Sower the climax of the story comes when people “hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop” (Mark 4:20). When reading the Bible results in people becoming living epistles, i.e., being public life words, then reading for revelation has occurred.  Producing a crop is the ultimate goal. It’s not enough to hear and accept the Word; the inward must become outward – the concealed must be revealed.

Related Articles

Sola Scripture or Solo Scriptura?

Bible Engagement is Trinity Engagement

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2012


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A Crisis

The Bible is a closed book for most people in Canada. According to national research* conducted in 2009 in 18 cities in 9 provinces in Canada, 58.8% of Canadians say they do not read the Bible. Of the 1259 people polled, 21.5% said they didn’t know why they don’t read the Bible, 20.9% said they’re too busy, and 19% said they’re not interested. Only 3.2% of Canadians who don’t read the Bible said they didn’t have a Bible. Among church goers, many have never read the Bible from cover to cover and only a small number read the Bible daily. Simply stated – there’s a crisis!

Most Christians believe the Bible plays an essential, indispensable, and crucial role in directing Christian faith, life and practice.  Many people, regardless of whether or not they’re Christians, recognise that the Bible has significantly informed and shaped Western culture. So why aren’t people reading the Bible? This question is difficult to answer because the reasons are complex. There are cultural factors like the demise of Christendom, the impact of postmodernity, secularism, and religious pluralism. And there are other factors like declining church attendance, people not feeling the need, changing priorities, scepticism and doubt.

SU Canada’s response to the decline in Bible engagement is to issue a fresh invitation to read the Story in an exciting new way – called the Essential 100 Challenge. The E100™ is based on carefully selected short Bible passages – 50 from the Old Testament and 50 from the New Testament – that helps people grasp the essence of the Story and get into a Bible reading habit. Check out the E100 Challenge here.

Hear more about the crisis by clicking on the YouTube link.

* Research conducted by Scripture Gift Mission Canada

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2012


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Defining Bible Engagement

Building on biblical, theological, historical, and cultural insights, and utilising relational and interactional language, here’s a working definition of Bible engagement: The process whereby people are connected with the Bible such that they have meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ and their lives are progressively transformed in Him.                                                   

To elaborate; Bible engagement is the process (that which occurs in and through the stages and courses that mark the journey of our lives) whereby people are connected with the Bible (reciprocating with the Story) such that they have meaningful encounters (significant meetings that involve coming together with and developing a vital relationship) with Jesus Christ (the One who by grace and through faith saves us from sin and sanctifies us by the Spirit) and their lives are progressively transformed in Him (marked by evident ongoing obedience and life-change that takes place individually and in community).

One word in the above definition of Bible engagement requires illumination – the word ‘transformed’. It refers to the process of change whereby a person becomes progressively more Christ like (cf. Galatians 6:15). That is not to say that transformation is something that people can do to themselves. Transformation does not happen naturally and it does not come easily. The prophet asks, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” (Jeremiah 13:23). There is no outside force that can change people to become more like Christ. Something internal is required. Transformation begins when a person realizes that “the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint” (Isaiah 1:5) and proceeds when forgiveness for sin is sought and received (the heart is changed, Psalm 13:5), and by faith in Christ being “the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2), a right relationship with Christ is formed (the heart believes and is justified, cf. Romans 10:10) and love for Christ ensues (cf. Mark 12:30). This is not of a person’s own doing but comes from the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:8-9), that is, transformation cannot happen apart from Christ. Thus transformation is being shaped by Christ and living out lives that imitate His life. It is refusing to “be conformed to this world” and is the change that comes “by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

© SU Canada 2011

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