Jump Into The Word

Bible Engagement Blog

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Knocking on a non-Christian’s door and asking him or her to read the Bible will, in many cases, probably be as effective as asking me to bungee jump – it’s just not going to happen!

So how do we invite non-Christians to connect with the Bible? Incrementally and creatively!

Jeremiah, my grandson, recently celebrated his first birthday. It was a big moment. His parents decided he’d get to eat sugar for the first time. After the presents were opened he was presented with a cupcake. It was a sight to behold! Jamming fistfuls of icing smothered cake into his mouth he devoured it in less time than you could say, “Release the hounds!”

Newborn babies drink milk. Cupcakes aren’t on the menu for the first few months of life. Learning to eat is incremental – we start a baby on liquids and gradually introduce solids. So here’s a Bible engagement maxim: sip milk before you eat cupcakes.

Jeremiah eats cupcakes, but he’s iffy on beans. The fact that he doesn’t like beans hasn’t deterred his mum. She’s found cre8tve ways to make them palatable by mixing them together with other foods.

Huw Tyler, Ali Johnson, Katherine Cook and Andy Kind of the Share Creative project know something about making Bible engagement incremental and cre8tve. They developed the Natwivity: daily Christmas tweets of 140 characters with a thought or comment from Mary, Joseph, Wise Men and Shepherds, with further entries from Herod, an Inn Keeper and his wife, and friends of Mary and Joseph. Social media is a great tool for inviting engagement with the Bible. Check out the Natwivity here and while you’re at it check out The Digital Story of the Nativity on You Tube.

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2011

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The Stakes are High

The stakes are high. Every year since 2008 nearly 6,000 American elementary and high school children have pitted themselves against each other in a spelling-bee-style competition known as the National Bible Bee. For several months students participate in online tests and exams in the hope of being selected as one of 300 children and youth to compete in the Nashville, Tennessee, November finals. The hugely popular Scripps National Spelling Bee awards the national spelling champion $35,000. Prize money at the National Bible Bee outstrips this award. Top place in the senior category of the National Bible Bee is $100,000 and total prize money at the event is $260,000.

Imagine being a ten year old contestant: You walk up to the microphone and look at the moderator who asks you to recite 1 Timothy 2:9-11. You have more than 2,000 memorized verses buzzing through your mind, but you can’t stall. You know if you pause for longer than ten seconds, you’ll be eliminated. One wrong word when you recite the text – eliminated. So you recite the text slowly and clearly, take a deep breath, and wait for the judges to nod. If you get the nod you’ll return to your seat with the other finalists and prepare yourself for the next round . . .

Many are asking why the organizers of the National Bible Bee are doing what they’re doing. Phil Vischer, a Bible Bee presenter and co-creator of the Veggie Tales cartoons says, “These kids are learning the Bible so they can live Christianity well.”

Some of my Christian peers can recite, from memory, several texts from the Bible. Many Christians I know can only recite a verse or two. Nine year old Olivia Davis, winner of the 2011 primary division says, “If young people all did Bible Bee, we could change the country forever!” Can memorizing the Word of God lead to cultural change from sea to sea? Maybe! The Bible teaches us that when our hearts and minds are full of good things, then our words and actions will be good (cf. Luke 6:45). So I’m with Olivia; dreaming about what could happen if people, both young and old, started memorizing Scripture.

[Source for information on the National Bible Bee: The Globe and Mail. Monday, November 21, 2011]

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2011

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Open the Book

After several years investigating the connections Canadians do or do not have with the Bible, we’ve discovered the Bible is the most popular least read book! Tragically, while there are three Bibles in the average Canadian home, they’re usually found on a dust covered shelf. Despite the availability and advanced marketing of the Bible, fewer and fewer Canadians are reading the Bible, knowing what it says, and living according to its principles.                                                                                                                       

Even among churched Christians, many never read the Bible from cover to cover. A Bible literacy poll in an Evangelical Toronto church in March 2010 revealed that eighteen percent of the congregation reported reading the Bible once a day, thirty-eight percent read the Bible once a week, twenty-one percent read the Bible once a month, and twenty-three percent said they seldom or never read the Bible.

The fact that the Bible is being treated lightly, ignored, or dismissed, isn’t due to limited selection or accessibility. Among the more than eight-hundred English versions of the Bible there are hundreds of reader friendly formats and more than one-thousand different Bibles that can be purchased online from Amazon.com. There’s even a waterproof version for those who like reading in the shower!

At Scripture Union Canada we’re deeply concerned about the growing disconnection with the Bible. Yet while we’re concerned, we’re optimistic. The decline in Bible engagement means there are more opportunities than before to bring fresh invitations for people to connect with the Bible. So we’re praying for a Bible reading revival – praying that Canadians will open the Book.

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2011

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A missionary working on Bible translation in Africa had difficulty findinga word in the local dialect for “obedience”.                                                                                                                                                                        One day, while walking through a village, his dog took off in pursuit of a chicken. The missionary whistled  and called the dog back to his side. An elderly local man sitting by the roadside, impressed by the instant obedience of the dog, exclaimed, “Mui adem delegau ge!” which literally translated means, “Dog yours, ear is only”. In other words, “Your dog is all ear”. This gave the missionary the descriptor he needed for obedience – “to be all ear”.

The fact that the dog heard and acted on the missionary’s call is what made it obedient. When we hear a good sermon, attend a Bible study, or read a Christian blog we may be inclined to think we’ve done enough. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hearing must lead to doing. Obedience is the desired outcome of Bible engagement. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word and does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does” James 1:22-25 (NIV).

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2011

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Letting the Bible Have Its Way with Us

Most of us think of Bible engagement as giving people a Bible,reading or studying the Bible, giving our loyalty to the Bible, or the work associated with Bible translation, linguistics and publishing. At Scripture Union Canada we believe Bible engagement should go beyond these transactional and cognitive elements to embrace and emphasise encounter, relationship, interaction, and transformation. That is, Bible engagement is 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.     

Bible engagement is about people meeting the One of whom the Bible speaks and being changed by His Story. For Bible engagement to occur, transformation, not information, should be the desired end. When transformation is the desired end then Bible engagement is first and foremost about letting the Bible have its way with us.

Roy Harrisville in “The Loss of Biblical Authority and Its Recovery”, in Reclaiming the Bible for the Church, eloquently makes the point that the Bible “will have a man’s or woman’s heart and soul, and if not, it will work despair . . . whoever you are, if you do not repent and believe the testimony laid down in this book concerning God and his Christ, it will judge you to inconsequence, render your reading of it, your interpretation of it, your preaching on it a comic spectacle to the world to which you believed you had to adjust it.”

The point is this: Bible engagement should be more than connecting with a book (even when it is described or thought of as the Book of books). Bible engagement should be a connection with the triune God’s Story in a way in which a person’s or communities’ story intersects with, is changed by, and finds its place in the Story.

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2011

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