JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


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Professionalism and Bible Engagement

Why are there so many people sitting in church services Sunday after Sunday who never, or rarely, read (hear, listen, connect), reflect, remember and respond to God’s Word?

In a previous article, Unleashing the Bible in the Church, three obstacles to Bible engagement were identified – pastors that don’t get it, people who don’t want it, and principalities that oppose it. Since writing that article I’ve been thinking about another significant obstacle to Bible engagement …

I used to be a pastor in a local church. Despite my best efforts I simply couldn’t get everyone into God’s Word. With the advantage of hindsight I now realize I was part of the problem. What made me part of the problem was that I did most of the preaching and teaching. When the pastor is the main person interpreting and commenting on the Word, it communicates the idea that the Word should be handled by professionals.

When someone knows better, or is more competent with something, we tend to let them get on with it. It’s not surprising then that so many people hand off the responsibility for reading/listening and interpreting the Bible to the people who have seminary degrees or denominational ordination.

Here’s the problem. When one person talks about the Bible nearly every week, instead of everyone talking about it, it subtly conditions people not to read the Bible for themselves.

To address this stumbling block we’ve got to change the paradigm. A more organic form of church meetings is required. The preaching and teaching of the Word shouldn’t be mainly tied to a pulpit. Every Christian should be invited and encouraged to participate in the services of the church. Every Christian should function as a priest (cf. 1 Peter 2:9). And for this to happen adequately we need to be liberated from a largely clergy dominated and professionally oriented system that in part, has taken the Word captive.

Francis Chan, an ex megachurch pastor who re-evaluated his theology and practice of church gatherings, and started We Are Church, says, “For us, we want to devote ourselves to thinking deeply not about the pastor’s words but the inspired Word of God – that is how we devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching. We don’t want to draw people to how we explain Scripture. Rather, we double down on the belief that if you have the Spirit of God in you, you are able to read Scripture yourself, and as a body we can wrestle with Scripture together.”

“Wrestle with Scripture together.” That’s brilliant! Imagine what might happen to the spiritual temperature in your local church if everyone got to grapple with the Word.

Everyone grapple with the Word?

For those committed to the program-driven routine of “churchianity” the thought of everyone grappling with the Word is sacrilegious. They’re right. The idea that every Christian can “wrestle with Scripture together” isn’t religious, BUT it is biblical! (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:26, 29-32, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 10:24-25).

Nowhere in the New Testament is there a precedent for a church meeting to be exclusively controlled by a pastor. Nor is there any biblical support for the modern day pulpit and pulpiteers who dominate many churches today. Instead, congregational participation should be the norm. In fact the major thrust in the Scriptures centers on every person in the church being actively involved in reading and reflecting on God’s Word (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:26).

Mennonite theologian and ethicist John Howard Yoder says, “There are few more reliable constants running through all human society than the special place every human community makes for the professional religionist … But if we were to ask whether any of the N. T. literature makes the assumption listed … then the answer from the biblical material is a resounding negation …”

Forgive me for stepping on sacred corns. But if right practice is going to emerge from error, we must be honest enough to confront the truth. If the Bible is the sole rule for our faith and practice, surely we must ask whether or not the Scriptures have been manipulated to support clerical professionalism in its present form (mainly one person interpreting the Bible and preaching to a passive audience). And if the Scriptures have been manipulated, then as author Frank Viola suggests, “The brittle wineskin of church practice and the tattered garment of ecclesiastical forms needs to be changed, not just modified.”

Do you agree or disagree? From the preponderance of biblical evidence it seems to me that if Bible engagement is going to take off, one of the things we need to do is desacralize the preaching and teaching of God’s Word in the local church by inviting and including a broader segment of God’s people (those gifted in preaching, teaching, sharing words of wisdom/knowledge, or prophecy) to share a word from the Word when we meet together.

Your thoughts?

Recommended Reading:

Mark Frees – Is the One-Pastor System Scriptural, Truth According to Scripture.

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bad News – Good News

According to Stephen Bullivant, a professor of theology and the sociology of religion at St Mary’s University in London, “Christianity as a default, as a norm, is gone, and probably gone for good – or at least for the next 100 years.” [The Guardian, March 2018].

Is Christianity in Europe as a default, as a norm, gone? Research seems to support Bullivant’s conclusion. Data from the European Social Survey 2014-16 indicates that “the new default setting is ‘no religion’, and the few who are religious see themselves as swimming against the tide.”

German theologian, Evi Rodemann, seems to concur. In response to a Pew Research survey she says, “German Protestants have to a huge degree lost their Christian identity and Christian history is often just a cultural decoration.” Church planting expert Dietrich Schindler adds, “German Protestantism is anaemic at best, irrelevant at least.” [Joel Forster, Evangelical Focus, February 28, 2019]

From the mountain-top to the valley. In the 19th Century the church in the UK was the hub for the greatest missionary advance the world has ever seen. Now, according to statistician Peter Brierley, 95% of UK children and young people don’t go to church [UK Church Statistics 2, 2010-2020, Tonbridge: ADBC Publishers, 2014]. It’s a similar story in Germany. Five-hundred years after the reformation, Christian faith has been pushed to the margins (Evangelicals account for 2% of Christians in Germany).

Christian faith in North America is also in free-fall. According to the Pew Research Center, the growth of the religiously unaffiliated in Canada and the USA has gone from about 4% in the 1970’s to more than 20% in 2010. In Canada, religious disaffiliation for those born in 1987-1995 is 30%. The trends reveal that every successive generation of North Americans are more secular than the previous generation.

What’s collapsed in the UK and Germany, and is collapsing in North America, is cultural historic Protestantism. Cultural historic Protestantism is religion focused on hard work, thrift and efficiency, i.e. it places an emphasis on religious duty and using God-given resources at each individual’s disposal. Rodemann describes it as “reason (not Christ) alone, my work (not grace) alone, my self-reliance (not faith) alone, and my philosophy of life (not Scripture) alone.”

That’s the bad news.

But the bad news may be good news.

The purpose for writing the jumpintotheword blog is tied to sola scriptura. The collapse of cultural historic Protestantism is therefore good news because religion (institutional traditional systems) is the enemy of Bible engagement (see my previous article The Scourge of Bible Engagement). And it’s good news because the disintegration of cultural historic Protestantism means the Christian slate is being wiped clean.

With the Christian slate being wiped clean, cultural historic Protestantism can be replaced with something new. The million dollar question is, “What will be the nature and purpose of the church that replaces cultural historic Protestantism?”

Biblical scholar Richard Halverson says, “When the Greeks got the Gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a government; when the Europeans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business.”

Missional culture guru JR Woodward says, “We are called to incarnate the Good News, not to overcontextualize it.”

Incarnating the Gospel: With the decline of cultural historic Protestantism there are unprecedented opportunities to get back to God’s Word – back to reimagining the church – back to the church as a spiritual organism – back to embodying and proclaiming Jesus Christ.

Yes, the bad news may be good news. With the spiritual vacuum that now exists in Europe and is growing in North America, opportunities to re-imagine and reform the church abound. But as we take advantage of the opportunities, we must make sure we don’t overcontextualize the Gospel.

To guard against overcontextualizing the Gospel, we must safeguard the way in which we connect with the Bible. We must make sure we don’t read God’s Word in ways that adapt it to our culture. We must be careful not to read God’s Word in ways that interpret our existing church practices back into the text. And we must get back to reading its essence – back to understanding the Gospel, not in the milieu of the shifting sands of post modernity, but in the framework of the life, death, resurrection and return of Jesus Christ.

All this to say that a new season of Bible engagement is needed for the changing times. A season where we break free from the subtle entrapment of deeply entrenched unbiblical traditions. A season where we biblically re-evaluate what the meetings of the church should look like in order to express Jesus Christ in all His fullness. And a season where we practically, and not just intellectually, believe that the Word of God shows us how to truly worship and live for Jesus Christ alone.

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Strengthening Bible Engagement

For the Christian, God’s Word is our life-blood. Yet, even though it’s indispensable for our health and vitality, many of us find it difficult to engage with the Bible.

Strengthening Bible engagement. Why do so many of us struggle to connect with God’s Word? Why do we not do what we know we should do? We know the Scriptures are words of life. We know we find direction and comfort in its pages. And we know it’s potent and trans-formative. Yet we sometimes don’t engage with it and don’t always do what’s best for us.

Are you in a Bible engagement slump? Is the Spirit nudging you to engage more effectively? Here are five uncomplicated ways to strengthen your connections with the Bible:

Confession

Being in right-standing with God is crucial for Bible engagement. To connect with God’s Word you’ve got to remove hindrances. Possibly the biggest obstacle to engagement with God’s Word is un-confessed sin. Are you living your own way and denying God the right to rule your life? This is sin. To receive God’s Word you’ve got to “throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage” so that “our gardener, God,” can “landscape you with the Word” James 1:21 (MSG).

Accountability

Who do you answer to? One of the reasons why our Bible engagement sometimes comes to a grinding halt is because we’re not accountable to others. Bible engagement is always better when we do it together. We need Bible engagement buddies. “Two are better than one” Ecclesiastes 4:9. So find someone who will journey with you, and at least weekly, chat with you about your Bible reading and reflections. I find this happens best when we both use the same reading guide. No matter how you navigate the details of who and when, the goal is having a friend to help you up if you fall down (cf. Ecclesiastes 4:10).

Journaling

Effective Bible engagement requires note taking. When we put pen to paper it often jogs our hearts and minds in ways that form and transform us. Journaling doesn’t have to be all-embracing. Aim to capture the essence of your daily encounters with Jesus in His Word. How much or how little you journal isn’t important. Most of the time I jot down only one or two sentences. So it doesn’t  have to be a detailed diary of everything you hear God saying to you. What is essential is that you do it.

Praying

Praying the Scriptures will revolutionise your engagement with God’s Word.  Pray as you read and read as you pray. The two go together. Prayer comes alive when it’s infused with the Word and the Word comes alive when it’s accompanied by prayer. Are you prayers dry, lacking content, or the same old things you’ve always prayed? The Bible, while not a prayer book per se, provides the content for our prayers. As you read God’s Word use the words, phrases or themes of the passage to guide, shape, and give language to your conversations with God. This is done by praying a Scripture text word for word as your own prayer, by personalising a text, or by turning your thoughts and feelings about a topic or theme of a Scripture passage into prayer.

Obeying

Obeying God’s Word may seem like a foregone conclusion, but most of the time we don’t act on what we know. Transformation, not information, is the aim of Bible engagement. When we obey God’s Word it comes alive to us and we come alive to it! Bible engagement is more than talking, it’s acting. But, we often get sidetracked from doing it, don’t we? So every time we read God’s Word we must intentionally ask ourselves, “What does God want me to do with His Word today?” And then, we must ask Him to help us do what He’s directing us to do.

There you have it. Don’t be backward in coming forward! Implement these five simple tweaks, trust the Lord, do nothing in your own strength, and see your Bible engagement reach new heights.

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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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


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You can’t worship Jesus if you don’t read the Bible!

You can’t worship Jesus if you don’t read the Bible! Now hear me out …

If you don’t read (i.e., hear, connect, engage, study, contemplate, reflect, act on) the Bible, you don’t know who Jesus is. If you don’t know who Jesus is, you can’t worship Him. If you can’t worship Jesus, then how can you call yourself a Christian?

I meet a lot of people who tell me they’re Christians. When I ask them if they read the Bible and they say “No,” or “Not really,” then I ask, “So what makes you a Christian?” They usually say, “Because I love God/Jesus.” Now here’s my dilemma. If someone says they love Jesus, but don’t read the Bible, then what “Jesus” are they loving? That’s a crucial question. For if we don’t love the Jesus of the Bible, then there’s a problem.jesus-in-bible

Forgive me if I’m blunt, but surely it stands to reason that if someone doesn’t worship the Jesus of the Bible, then that person’s worshipping a different “Jesus.” And who is this other “Jesus” that millions of non-Bible reading “Christians” are worshipping? Probably a “Jesus” they’ve created in their own minds. One who can be shaped and moulded to be whatever a person wants Him to be.

There’s a chilling verse in the Gospel where Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” Matthew 7:21. Every time I read this verse I wonder, “Who are the people who call Jesus ‘Lord’ yet don’t get into Heaven?” Well maybe they’re the people who’ve created an alternative “Jesus” who values what they value, tolerates what they tolerate, and cares about what they care about.

Here’s the rub: If you’re worshipping a “Jesus” who you can control, then you’re worshipping an idol. Jesus said, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” John 4:23. To worship Jesus in “spirit and truth” our worship must be informed, not by the non-biblical things we think we know about Jesus, but by the Word of God.

Now I know, the Jesus of the Bible isn’t a tame Jesus. He disrupts our lives, opposes our personal opinions and preferences, demands holiness, gets in the way of the pursuit of happiness, and expects us to do uncomfortable things. Let’s be honest, the Jesus of the Bible doesn’t line up with our preferred version of Him.

Little wonder that people say, “I respect Jesus, but don’t agree with everything in the Bible.” For in their heart of hearts they know they can’t do things their way if they love the Jesus of the Bible.

So which Jesus do you worship. Is it a “Jesus” shaped by your imagination or is it the Jesus of the Bible? If it’s the latter, then that’s only true if you’re reading the Bible. There is no other way. You can’t worship Jesus if you don’t read the Bible!

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Teaching Principles

The way we learn varies from person to person. There are 7 styles of learning: visual (spatial, using pictures and colour), aural (auditory, musical), verbal (linguistic, word-based techniques), physical (kinesthetic, using sensations or role playing), logical (mathematical, using reasoning), social (interpersonal, in groups), and solitary (intrapersonal, working alone, self study). Most of us incorporate a mix of these learning styles and rarely fit in only one category. My predominate learning style is intrapersonal, but I sometimes need an interpersonal learning strategy to help me reflect on and critique my understanding. I’m also very dependent on logical systematic thinking and word based techniques.

Because we’re all different in the way we learn it stands to reason that when we teach the Bible we should do so in ways that facilitate different learning styles. So with this in mind here are 12 creative Bible teaching principles:

  1. The Paul and Timothy principle. Learning is strengthened when it’s under the guidance of a Christian mentor (cf. Philippians 4:9). Some biblical examples include Jethro guiding Moses (cf. Exodus 18), Priscilla and Aquila explained the way of God more adequately to Apollos (cf. Acts 18:26), Paul teaching Timothy sound doctrine and practical faith (cf. 2 Timothy 1:13, 2:2, 3;10, 14), older women training younger women (cf. Titus 2:4), and the ultimate example of Jesus investing 3 years into the spiritual development of the disciples.
  2. The yacking principle. Some people love to chat. Bible teaching is strengthened when people are given occasions to verbalize their thoughts and discuss what they’re learning.
  3. The theme park principle. Memorable learning experiences help to etch God’s Word on our hearts and minds. Working in a soup kitchen is a more powerful learning experience than reading about the poor. According to Edgar Dale the least to most effective teaching methods are: verbal activities, visual symbols, simulated experiences and direct experiences.
  4. The Sherlock Holmes principle. Some people are more motivated to learn when the answers aren’t obvious. Simplistic yes/no questions should be avoided. Jesus, the master teacher, used parables with hidden meanings. When we teach the Scriptures we should interact with the mystery and suspense that’s ingrained in the Story.
  5. The sticky principle. The only Bible learning that really sticks is that which is Spirit informed (cf. John 14:26). Human teaching must be subject to and guided by the Teacher (the Holy Spirit) because only He can ultimately inform, transform and conform the learner to His Word.
  6. The Sandals Beach Resort principle. An environment that’s comfortable is usually more conducive for learning than one that isn’t. On a purely practical level the Bible is best taught in settings where there are suitable lights, furnishings, an ideal temperature and the distractions are eliminated.
  7. The action-attitude principle. We believe what we do more than do what we believe. Christibible-teaching-button-300x169an education professor John Westerhoff says, “If we want people to be able to accept or reject the Christian faith, we have to turn our attention and emphasis from teaching about Christianity to offering within the church experiences which demonstrate our faith.”
  8. The concrete principle. Organized, rationale, logical thinking should be the underlying foundation for all teaching. Learning that requires abstract, hypothetical, or philosophical thinking should be built on concrete foundations.
  9. The show and tell principle. My wife, when she was a full-time kindergarten teacher, scheduled a weekly show and tell. It gave each child an opportunity to show and tell the other children about something that was special or important. Show and tell shouldn’t be restricted to children. Facilitating creative space for all age groups enhances the learning experience.
  10. The Google principle. The ability to search the internet for facts, answers, opinions and such enables us to take ownership of what we learn and when we learn it. Bible study is strengthened when there’s shared ownership of the process.
  11. The travelling supper principle. A variety of settings enriches the learning experience. I’ll never forget studying Acts 17:16-34 while sitting on the Acropolis rocks where the Areopagus would have been situated. And I’ll never forget Psalm 30:5 after singing it over and over again with a congregation of poor believers on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent.
  12. The iTranslate principle. We learn new things better when we’re given a chance to put what we’re learning into our own words (e.g. Matthew 16:13-20).

 

Have your say. Share your Bible teaching principles.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Create a Banquet

Writing experts say that half the struggle is getting people to read what you write. They also say that a good title is everything. This may be true. When I saw The Hottest Thing at Church is Not Your Pastor or Worship Leader, the title of a Christianity Today (April 2017) article, I was enticed to read it.

It’s a good read. It highlights the fact that the number 1 explanation for why Americans go to church is for “Sermons that teach about Scripture.”

That’s music to my ears! I firmly believe that reading, preaching and appreciating the Word (which is to appreciate the One of whom the Word speaks) should rank above every other reason for why we go to church.

Which reminds me of something a veteran Bible teacher and preacher recently said to me, “We should lay out a banquet for people to feast from when they come to church.” He’s absolutely right. The preaching and teaching of God’s Word should be spiritually tasty and filling.

Unfortunately pastors don’t always provide their congregations with a weekly banquet on God’s Word. Sometimes it’s only a snack and sometimes it’s just a morsel – certainly not enough to sustain or nourish a congregation.

Pastors, “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). That’s literal language. It’s not a suggestion. It’s not figurative. With every ounce of strength and passion, prayerfully and humbly, carefully and patiently, in the power of the Spirit – preach the Word! Exegete the text. Do everything possible to invite every person to enter into the Scriptures, engage the Scriptures, encounter the One of whom the Scriptures speak, and emulate the Scriptures in everything they say and do.

I still remember, about 30 years later, how one pastor told me that it only took him 3-4 hours to prepare his Sunday message. He was proud of this because it gave him more time to spend with his family … the implication being that it was good and right for him to make his family his highest priority. I’m still flabbergasted! A good message takes days of preparation, hours and hours of wrestling with the text, and even sleepless nights as the preacher seeks to reconcile himself with the text because he knows he can’t preach if the Scriptures don’t have ascendency in his own life.

In fact sermon preparation is somewhat similar to cooking. When my wife and I want to prepare a really nice meal for friends or family it takes us about two full days to do the planning, shopping, cooking, table setting, vacuuming and dusting (our house must first be clean before we can serve up a banquet), dish washing and drying. Similarly, when I prepare a sermon I know it requires planning, getting all the ingredients together, arranging and organizing, making sure my own house is in order before I tell others how to get their house in order, serving something sumptuous, and doing what needs to be done so that others will say, “Thanks, that was great!”

One more thing: I’m a nobody when it comes to cooking and I’m a nobody when it comes to preaching. But that’s okay. The Christianity Today article mentions how the Gallup poll also discovered that “people in the pews care far more about what’s being preached than who’s preaching it.” That’s good news for every ordinary pastor who is diligently feeding the congregation a Sunday banquet week in and week out.

It’s also a reminder that the preacher plays the supportive, not the main role. When I go to a restaurant and eat a good meal, the food itself, not the chef, is the focus of my gastronomic experience. Similarly, the texture, flavour and aroma of the Scriptures should be the focus of the preaching, not the preacher. And for this to happens the preacher’s main aim should be to preach the Word so that everyone can “taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Basics

I’m excited to announce that Bible Engagement Basics will be published in June 2017 by Scripture Union and Principes d’interaction avec la Bible will be published in the Fall by Ligue pour la lecture de la Bible.

Bible Engagement Basics was fermenting in my mind for several years, though I didn’t know it. It was only when my colleague Donald Tardif directeur Ligue pour la lecture de la Bible suggested that I write a book on Bible engagement that I realised it was destined to be and prayerfully started the research, planning and writing.

My motivation for writing Bible Engagement Basics was to help people connect with the Bible to connect with Jesus. That’s what this book’s about – connecting us with God’s Story in ways that lead to meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ and our lives being progressively transformed in Him.

The target audience for Bible Engagement Basics is Christian leaders, pastors, teachers, congregations, and believers who identify that Bible reading alone is not enough. In other words, it’s for people who want to know the “how to” of practically improving and enhancing their engagement with the Bible.

The book is presently being reviewed by researchers, writers, theologians, pastors and ministry leaders. Here are some of the recommendations:

This is such an important and timely book. I appreciate that from the opening pages, Bible Engagement Basics presents Scripture as Gods Story: a Story that we are a part of, and as we engage with it we discover we are not bystanders or passive observers, we in fact are participants in this big Story. The importance of engaging with this Story is outlined clearly, but to then present a huge variety of models and practical ideas for engaging with it is outstanding and places this book as a must-read for those of us with a passion for Scripture. Adrian Blenkinsop, Youth Bible engagement specialist, Author of “The Bible According To Gen Z.”

I’m very “into” Bible engagement. I believe in its spiritual importance, practice it, teach on it, research it and have read everything I can get my hands on about it. Bible Engagement Basics is the book I’ve been looking for over the past 7 years but couldn’t find. Thank you Lawson Murray for providing us with this excellent resource! Bible Engagement Basics gives us a biblical, theological and practical foundation as to why Scripture is the key to our relationship with God, and then takes the all-important next step (often skipped) to give us a broad selection of engagement practices to help us all learn how to actually reflect on the Bible with depth. Just as there are many ways to exercise and get in shape, Lawson shows us a number of ways that we can come to the Bible to meet and know God. The book is full of clear and practical suggestions, encouragement and resources that can help any and all Bible engagers meet God in His Word. One of my favorite sections of the book suggests thoughtful and creative ways people in different age groups can best engage the Bible. I highly recommend this book as the “go to” book about how to engage Scripture to engage God. Phil Collins, Professor of Christian Educational Ministries, Taylor University, Executive Director (Training and Content) Taylor Center for Scripture Engagement.

Lawson Murray’s book on Bible engagement is filled with wisdom. It is a rallying call to get God’s words inside of us so that we are lit up with life, so that the Word might become flesh again and again, read and known by everyone we meet (2 Cor. 3:2). But Murray’s book is not just a rallying cry; it is filled with insight as to how to make this happen. A major part of the solution is to realize that Scripture is one amazing Love Story from beginning to end, a Story in which every human being who ever lived is included, and that the Author has entered His own Story to communicate the most radical love possible for each person. Read this book and be changed! Stephen G. Dempster, Professor of Religious Studies, Crandall  University.

Whether you are finding for the first time the riches found within the Bible, or you are a seasoned teacher of the Bible, Lawson’s book offers guideposts to going deeper. These guideposts are practical, encouraging and grounded in the experience of one who loves God and His living Word. Mark Forshaw, Chair, Forum of Bible Agencies – North America.

Bible Engagement Basics gives the gift of perspective. It examines the Bible as a relevant tool with timely, applicable advice about navigating through life’s challenges. This book gives readers practical coaching on how to engage with God’s Word that will be meaningful to those who are new to the Bible or have been studying it for years. Bobby Gruenewald, Founder of YouVersion and Innovation Leader at LifeChurch.tv

Lawson Murray’s excellent book “Bible Engagement Basics” offers a very readable overview of how we can connect with God in His Word. In so doing he’s done what John Stott’s “Understanding the Bible” did for a past generation; he’s expressed the heartbeat of the global Scripture Union movement in a fresh new way. Whitney T. Kuniholm, President Emeritus, Scripture Union USA.

Whatever you know about Bible engagement, you’re sure to discover another approach in Dr. Lawson Murray’s book, Bible Engagement Basics. Dr. Murray explores many approaches to Bible engagement, like the basics of reading, teaching and preaching God’s Word. But he also encourages readers to use their imagination to enhance the experience. The common denominator to all of his approaches? They set us up for meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ so our lives are transformed in Him. Roy L. Peterson, President & CEO, American Bible Society.

There is nothing more critical to Christian growth than learning to engage with the Bible. I wholeheartedly recommend this book as a comprehensive approach to doing just that. May God use this book to point many to The Book. Janet Pope, speaker, blogger and author of “God’s Word in My Heart.”

In our LifeWay Research study, we found that Bible engagement had the highest correlation with every other area of spiritual growth. We’ve all seen it – engaging the Bible is essential to spiritual growth. Now, you can be encouraged through Bible Engagement Basics to help you engage well! Ed Stetzer, Billy Graham Distinguished Chair, Wheaton College.

In a culture that speaks in story and image, here is an invaluable resource for moving the minds and hearts of your people from the Bible as The Word in words to the Bible as The Word in story, from the greatest story never told, or half told, or partially told, to The Greatest Story EVER Told. Leonard Sweet, best-selling author, professor (Tabor College, Portland Seminary, Drew University), and founder and chief contributor to preachthestory.com

We call ourselves “People of the Book,” but many find the slow meditative reading that lets it sink into our hearts hard to do. This book is  filled with suggestions to help you find approaches to taking in the Scriptures. Pastors and leaders will find in it a rich and thoughtful biblical theology of Bible engagement. James C. Wilhoit, Professor of Core Studies and Scripture Press Professor of Christian Education, Wheaton College.

Bible Engagement Basics Author: Lawson W. Murray | ISBN: 978-0-9951694-1-8 | Publication Date: June 2017 | Publisher: Scripture Union |

Media Contact: Amy Csoke Scripture Union 905.427-4947 or amy@scriptureunion.ca

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Reading the Bible Publicly

If you sit in an average church service on an average Sunday you’ll probably hear an average reading of God’s Word. That’s heartbreaking. Lacklustre public reading of the Scriptures is a discredit to God’s people and a slight to God! An average reading of God’s Word isn’t good enough. When we read the Bible publicly we should read it well – very well! It is, after all, God’s Word. And God’s Word, invested with the life giving power of His Spirit; is dynamic, transformational, and alive. So let’s read it like we believe it. Let’s read it energetically, passionately, thoughtfully, dramatically, inspirationally, and motivationally. Let’s read it like it’s coursing through our veins and pounding in our hearts. And let’s make sure that we never ever read it in a boring, nondescript, half-baked way.

From its inception the Bible was given to us to be read aloud and heard. So how do we devote ourselves to the public reading of Scripture? (cf. 1 Timothy 4:13). Here are some pointers for reading the Bible publicly:

  • Prepare, practice and pray
  • Use a script and identify who is speaking
  • Become the character
  • Help the listener hear it for the first time
  • Read from your heart and then from your lips
  • Convey the meaning of the words (not just the sounds)
  • Use pauses and break up the text so that it’s easy to hear
  • Highlight the meaning of a text through tone, modulation and emphasis
  • Read with dynamism (the Bible is not a telephone directory!)
  • Bring freshness and vitality
  • Let the text inform how you read it

And here are some common mistakes that should be avoided:

  • Inadequate preparation
  • Reading too slow or too fast
  • Using a sing-song or preacher voice
  • Speaking too loud or too soft
  • Reading in a monotone
  • No feeling or too much feeling
  • Trailing off with words or sentences
  • Not looking up (use a music stand to get the right height)
  • Not reading like a town-crier or with passion

There’s awesome power in God’s spoken Word. When we’re reading the Bible publicly let’s read every passage like we’re hearing it for the first time. Let’s read the Scriptures believing that they’ll bring salvation, comfort, understanding, discomfort, remorse, joy and all manner of life-changing encounters with the living God. And let’s be done with the humdrum reading of the Word. Yes, we’re inadequate for the task, but God’s grace is sufficient for everything we do. So let’s go for it! Let’s ask God to empower us in our weakness. Then let’s read God’s Word with stirring voices and enthusiasm – expecting God to engage people’s hearts, minds, wills and souls.

Recommended books:

Max McLean and Warren Bird, Unleashing the Word: Rediscovering the Public Reading of Scripture, Zondervan, 2009.

Clayton J. Schmit, Public Reading of Scripture: A Handbook, Abingdon Press, 2002.

Jeffery D. Arthurs, Devote Yourself to the Public Reading of Scripture: Encountering the Transforming Power of the Well-Spoken Word, Kregel Publications, 2012.

Recommended articles and apps:

Glen J. Clary, The Public Reading of Scripture in Worship: A Biblical Model for the Lord’s Day

Scott Newling, Devoted to the Public Reading of Scripture

Bible Audio Pronunciations – Confidently Read any Bible Verse Aloud

Stefano Russello, Biblical Pronunciations

BibleSpeak

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5