JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


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On the Emmaus Road

There are two striking moments in the Luke 24:13-35 story about the two disciples on the Emmaus road: They didn’t recognize Jesus when He first joined them and they recognized Him after “he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning him” Luke 24:27.

Lots of people want to see Jesus. Yet few do. Maybe we don’t encounter Jesus because we don’t engage with His Word.

I love it when the Emmaus Road story gets to Luke 24:31-32. “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him …” Note the phrase, “their eyes were opened.” After Jesus had gone through the Old Testament explaining to Cleopas and friend what was said about Him, they saw Jesus.

They saw Jesus! When the Scriptures were opened up to them, it opened them up to Jesus! No wonder they said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32.

God’s Word is unlike any other word! When we open the Scriptures, we open a window to see Jesus.

In the context of our existence there are two windows through which we can look – the window to the world and the window to Jesus.

If we look closely through the window to the world, like really look beyond everything we see in the foreground, we’ll see nothing but worthlessness and pointlessness. The world’s best things at best are painted nothings and false joys. “Everything,” in the world, as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 1:2, is “utterly meaningless!”

But when we look through the window of Scripture, like really look, we see the extraordinary, glorious, unbridled, beautiful, astonishing, magnificent Jesus. As the 19th century Anglican clergyman J. C. Ryle says, “In every part of both Testaments, Christ is to be found – dimly and indistinctly at the beginning – more clearly and plainly in the middle – fully and completely at the end – but really and substantially everywhere.”

Do you want to see Jesus? To see Him you’ve got to open the Word and give it your full attention.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Teaching Bible Engagement

I’ve attended many local churches in the course of my Christian life, yet I’ve never attended a church where the members of the congregation are taught how to read, reflect, remember and respond to God’s Word. That’s alarming, isn’t it? Especially when comprehensive research reveals that reading and reflecting on God’s Word is the primary factor in our personal and congregational spiritual health and growth.

One would think that teaching Bible engagement would be something that every pastor would regularly do with his/her congregation. But they usually don’t. The average Christian in the average church has never been practically coached in how to contemplate, pray, synthesize, analyze, meditate, study, interpret, imagine, listen, memorize, journal, sing, or apply God’s Word.

Looking back to when I used to be a pastor, I confess that I didn’t teach Bible engagement. Why? Because I didn’t identified it as a priority, and because my focus was generally on preaching, counselling, and organizing the ministry of the church.

Hindsight is 20/20. If I ever pastor a congregation again, I’d do a lot of things differently. One thing I’d definitely do would be to teach everyone how to engage with the Bible. This not because my existing ministry involves advocating for Bible engagement, but because I’m convinced that the single most helpful thing a pastor can do for a congregation is to facilitate encounters with Jesus in and through His Word.

One of the things pastors need to guard against is good things becoming the enemy of what’s best. Yes, it’s good to preach and teach God’s Word. But when preaching and teaching cultivates spiritual dependence on a pastor, and not a reliance on God’s Word, then the good’s become the enemy of what’s best.

American preacher Francis Chan says, “Church is the way it is because we led them here.” Pastors, maybe it’s time to change up what you’re doing. How can you help your congregation develop the skills to correctly handle the word of truth (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15)? And what would it take for you to enable every person in your congregation (young and old) to connect regularly and effectively with God’s Word?

Most pastors would probably agree that a large group of people in their church are spiritual infants. Mature believers are sometimes few and far between. Even though solid biblical teaching may exist in a church, a congregation often reaches a spiritual plateau beyond which they don’t grow. So to help people grow spiritually, we often invite them to join a mid-week small group.

Mid-week small groups play a part in helping people engage with the Bible. But mid-week small groups aren’t enough. People can attend a small group and still lack the personal skills required for effective reading, reflecting, remembering and responding to God’s Word. That’s because studying God’s Word with others isn’t the same as developing an individual’s capacity to meet with God daily in the Word.

All this to suggest that pastors should never assume, as I did, that if people in a congregation simply know how to read (or listen) and are given a Bible reading plan or guide, then that’s all they need to get into God’s Word. Bible engagement, the type that builds mature believers, requires much more than an ability to read/listen.

So pastors, if you’re serious about your calling “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12), please make teaching Bible engagement one of your top priorities.

[Recommended resource for teaching Bible engagement – Bible Engagement Basics]

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5