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Bible Engagement Blog


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Helping the 95%

Many Christians don’t engage with the Bible because they don’t know how to. According to Dr. Phil Collins, Center for Scripture Engagement, Taylor University, “Ninety-five percent of Christians say they have never been taught how to engage Scripture.”

That’s an alarming statistic. Alarming because it indicates a dramatic failure by teachers and pastors to equip Christians at the most basic level of spiritual formation.

In fairness to teachers and pastors, they usually know a few reading-based approaches to Scripture engagement and sometimes share these approaches with their congregations. Unfortunately, many pastors know very little about non-reading or minimum reading-based approaches. This is significant because most Christians, even in literate societies, need to be taught non-reading or minimum reading-based approaches to Scripture engagement.

Helping the 95% begins with the recognition that everyone is unique and engage with the Bible in diverse ways. That’s because our brains are wired differently. Right-brain dominant thinkers prefer to engage with the Bible in more creative and artistic ways and left-brain dominant thinkers prefer to engage with the Bible in more analytical and methodical ways.

Simply telling the 95% they should engage with the Bible through reading based methods alone is grossly inadequate. Bible engagement is effective when it’s geared to a person’s governing learning style. If the 95% are going to engage Scripture well they must be taught approaches utilizing visual, auditory, reading/writing or kinesthetic styles of learning.

If you know how to do it, the rudimentary principles and practices of how to engage Scripture can be taught in a 3-hour workshop. However, this isn’t happening because most pastors and teachers don’t know how to teach others how to engage Scripture.

To address this problem, Scripture Union published Bible Engagement Basics, a handbook that equips individuals and communities with biblical strategies, approaches, tools, and principles to engage with the Bible. If pastors and teachers read Chapter 2 of Bible Engagement Basics, they will be equipped with enough content to teach the 95% how to become Bible engagers.

Most of the 95% are oral preference learners. Oral preference learners learn by listening, talking, seeing, and doing. Interactive practical workshops are therefore the ideal environment for teaching the 95% how to engage Scripture.

Learning how to engage Scripture isn’t enough in and of itself. Bible engagement needs to be cultivated. This is challenging and requires ongoing individual support and encouragement. If, for example, there are several people in a congregation who thrive in an environment where they can engage with the Bible through dramatizing Scripture, then opportunities for doing this need to be created, resourced and sustained.

Helping the 95% is a massive undertaking and will never be accomplished if we don’t help each other. If someone knows how to engage the Bible through journaling, he/she should teach others. If someone knows how to engage the Bible using the Ignatian Method, he/she should teach others. Every one of us needs to play a part, even a small part, in helping someone else engage Scripture.

Will you help the 95%? The challenge facing the church isn’t Bible accessibility or distribution. The 95% have the Bible in multiple printed and online formats. The challenge is Bible engagement. The 95% need someone to teach them how to engage Scripture in a way that works well for them.

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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The Abide Bible

Finally, a Bible engagement Bible! For years, I’ve wondered why there isn’t a Bible that incorporates suggestions to actively equip people, in a variety of ways, to connect with the Word and the One who is the Word. To say I’m excited is an understatement! I recently received that Bible in a green cloth-bound hardcover. A gift from my friend Phil Collins, the General Editor. It’s called The Abide Bible, and it was beautifully presented along with a journal and pen.

For as long as I can remember, pastors have been urging their congregations, “To study the Bible.” Bible publishers have supported this injunction with a proliferation of study Bibles. Now I love to study the Bible, as we should (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15), but Bible study shouldn’t be the only way Christians interact with the Bible. We should employ more than our intellect to meet with God in and through His Word (e.g. Joshua 1:8, Psalm 119:11, James 1:22). Our heads, hearts and bodies should engage with the Scriptures. Study without reflection or reflection without application results in a Bible engagement malfunction. To connect adequately with the Bible we must read, reflect, and respond to God’s Word.

The practice of reading the Bible is different from what’s required to reflect or respond to the Bible. To engage fully with the Bible we must learn a range of Bible engagement practices. Most Christians say they’ve never been taught how to engage with the Bible. If you’re one of those Christians, then The Abide Bible may be the best Bible for you. That’s because The Abide Bible, as it says on the inside front cover, has “prompts or sidebars designed to help you engage passages and deepen your understanding and experience of God’s Word.”

To assist people in experiencing God’s Word The Abide Bible incorporates five Bible engagement practices: contemplation, journaling, picture it, praying Scripture and engaging through art. To incorporate these five practices in a Bible, in my view, is revolutionary!

A study Bible, by virtue of its name, says, “This is for students.” The Abide Bible, by virtue of its name, says, “This is for people who want to sojourn with the Lord using a variety of senses and connections.”

The Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement contributors who collaborated on the development of the materials for The Abide Bible have, through the prompts and sidebars, made the Bible more accessible to more people. No two people will engage with the Bible in the same way. There are multiple learning styles and multiple intelligences. The Abide Bible makes it easier for spatial and linguistic learners to engage with the Scriptures. If words, feelings, pictures, sanctified imagination, conversations or images help you read/hear the Word and meet with God, then I strongly recommend The Abide Bible for consideration.

Am I a little bit biased when it comes to endorsing The Abide Bible? Yes. I’m unashamedly a Bible engagement guy who has written a book and teaches Bible engagement classes to help people connect with God through contemplating, journaling, picturing, praying, engaging art and other practices as a means to dwell in the Word. I also became a fan of The Abide Bible when I opened the presentation page and saw Psalm 119:105 – it’s the theme text for Scripture Union Canada, the agency where I serve as President. All that to say that you should check it out for yourself at https://www.thomasnelsonbibles.com/abidebible/

The Abide Bible, Thomas Nelson, 2020.

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5