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Bible Engagement Blog


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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


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The Theme Of The Bible

The theme of the Bible is not a principle, concept, set of values, ethics to be learned, spiritual sayings, collection of doctrines, snapshots of God, or a storehouse of propositions. The theme of the Bible is a person to be known. While there are many sub-themes in the Bible – like justice, peace, redemption, salvation or restoration – there’s a grand theme that begins in Genesis and weaves its way through the sixty-six books. The theme of the Bible, about which everything else revolves, is the One who was, who is, and who is to come. From beginning to end, the theme of the Bible is Jesus Christ.

Some people say they don’t understand the Bible. They may not understand it because the theme of the Bible may be a mystery to them. Only when the theme is known, do the contents become clear. To understand the Bible we must know that “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 sslide_2ubstantially everywhere” J. C. Ryle.

Christ Himself taught that He is the central theme of the Bible. He is the message and mediator of its meaning, the link between the Testaments, the content of the canon, and the unity of every book. This is plainly revealed in the Gospel. Walking to Emmaus with two disciples, he began with Moses and the Prophets to explain to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (cf. Luke 24:27).

When the religious leaders didn’t identify Christ as the main reason for God’s revelation He confronted them saying, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” John 5:39-40. “Life is not in the book … only in the Man of the book” Robert D. Brinsmead. There was no wiggle-room for the religious leaders and there’s no wiggle-room for us; the Scriptures are all about Christ – and if we fail to see that, we miss the forest for the trees.

Martin Luther, the champion of sola scriptura (by Scripture alone) and solo Christo (Christ alone), said, “In the whole Scripture, there is nothing but Christ, either in plain words or involved words … The whole Scripture is about Christ alone everywhere, if we look to its inner meaning, though superficially it may sound different … It is beyond question that all Scriptures point to Christ alone.” Simply stated, John Stott affirms, “Jesus is the focus of Scripture.” Similarly, Edmund Clowney says, “The Bible is the greatest storybook, not just because it is full of wonderful stories but because it tells one great story, the story of Jesus.”

To reduce the theme of the Bible to anything less than Christ is to miss the point of the Bible. Christ is more than a starting point for reading, reflecting, remembering and responding to God’s Word; He’s the central point for the way we interpret and apply the Scriptures. This is true for both the Old Testament where Christ is veiled, and the New Testament where Christ is clearly seen.

All the sub-themes of the Bible flow from Christ and fit together because of Him. Every literary form in the Bible (e.g. narrative, prophecy, poetry, teaching) unfolds a story that’s ultimately about Christ. Christ brings unity and coherence to Bible engagement. He’s the life-blood, the very pulse of the Bible. He’s the lens that brings Scripture into focus, the key that unlocks truth, the thread that secures, and the One who knits together the unity of the storyline from promise to fulfillment.

If Jesus made Himself the central theme of the Bible, then to know the Bible we must know Him. Knowing Christ is the prerequisite to effective Bible engagement. To know Him we must align our hearts, minds and wills with Him. The aligning of our hearts, minds and wills with Christ begins with confession of sin, contrition, repentance, and faith in Christ alone to save and sanctify us.

Not knowing Christ results in a Bible engagement malfunction. If we do not immerse ourselves in Christ by becoming what Scott McKnight calls “a People of the Story” we cannot engage with the Bible. In fact any misrepresentation or misunderstanding about Christ ends in a contortion or collapse in our understanding of the Bible.

G. C. Berkouwer asserted, “Every word about the God-breathed character of Scripture is meaningless if Holy Scripture is not understood as the witness concerning Christ.” So when we engage with the Scriptures, let’s do so with Christ as the center, inner reason, and end.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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How To Help Seniors Get Into The Word

Every age and stage of life uniquely impacts how we connect with the Bible. Here’s how to help seniors get into the Word:

Use versions of the Bible thoughtfully. When someone’s been reading a version of the Bible for many years, an affinity develops, much like a long-time friendship. If you’re working one on one with a senior and s/he loves a particular version, then use that version. If you’re working with a small group of seniors it may be wise to ask, “What version of the Bible do you like reading?” If there’s consensus, use the version they want to use.

Discuss pertinent topics. Seniors have interests and needs that are specific to their stage of life. They’re trying to figure out how to age gracefully, thrive in the empty nest, make retirement meaningful, enjoy the joys or cope with the trials of grand parenting, deal with health problems, face death, and look forward to Heaven. While Bible reading/reflection of the whole Bible should be encouraged, opportunities to explore texts that are relevant to seniors should also be facilitated.

Listen and learn. Some seniors are veteran Bible readers who have been feasting on the Bible for a lifetime. Their love for the Word, insights and understanding can help younger Christians grow in faith. Facilitate mentoring relationships and opportunities for seniors to interact with younger Christians (cf. Titus 2:3).

Deal with competing priorities. Some seniors have very active lifestyles and may need help cultivating Bible engagement disciplines. Invite them to be part of a seniors Bible study group. Introduce and teach different Bible reading methodologies.

Be aware of fatigue. As a person ages, they tire more easily. When attention span diminishes, times of Bible reading/reflecting may need to be shorter.

Be cognisant of physical challenges. Failing eyesight can make it hard for seniors to read the Bible, and hardness of hearing can make it difficult to hear audio Bibles. Some medications have side-effects that may restrict a person’s capacity to adequately read/reflect the Bible.

Use large print resources. There are large print Bibles and guides that make it easier for seniors to read/reflect on the Scriptures. Some seniors who use laptops or tablets to read the Bible may need to be shown how the font size can be enlarged.

Equip seniors with tools/resources. Encourage seniors to share/give/teach the Scriptures to their children, grandchildren and others. Children aged 4-8, for example, enjoy reading Scripture Union’s Rhyming Books with their grandparents.

Use specialized resources. Bible reading/reflecting curriculum has been written for people with dementia, Alzheimer’s and similar health issues, e.g., Scripture Union’s Being With God series.

Be respectful. Seniors have a lifetime of experience and knowledge behind them. Maybe that’s why the Scriptures say we should, “stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God” Leviticus 19:32. When we help seniors get into the Word we must do it in a way that honours them for who they are.

Have your say. How do you help seniors get into the Word?

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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How to help youth get into the Word

I believe the great priority for Christian parents and the church is to impress the Scriptures on our children (cf. Deuteronomy 6:7). Here are some formative suggestions on how to help youth/teens get into the Word:

Help youth value Christ as Lord and Saviour. It’s a matter of first priorities. Before we teach youth the Word, we must connect them with the One who is the Word. Let’s not get the cart before the horse. When youth love the Lord, it follows that they’ll love His Word.

Teach youth that Bible reading is relational. When youth are told that they should read the Bible to know what’s right/wrong, we’re leading them up the garden path! The foremost reason why youth should read the Bible shouldn’t be to inform their morality, it should be to meet with God.

Acknowledge the difficulties. Youth need to know that Bible reading/reflecting can be challenging. Teach them how to press into a text, pray the Scriptures, and rely on the Holy Spirit.

Facilitate informational (analytical, critical, synthetic, inductive) and devotional (meditative, contemplative, creative) Bible reading methods. There’s no single method that’s ideal for every youth. Expose youth to a broad range of methodologies and encourage them to use the Bible reading methods they like the most.

Cut teaching time for reading time. Help youth discover how to rely on the Holy Spirit to teach them truth. Prompt them to ask questions. Speak less. The more opportunities youth are given to grapple with the Word and figure it out, the more they’ll grow in their capacity to learn and live out the Word.

Push youth to interact dynamically with the Bible. Bible times are only quiet times (literally) for some personality types. Engage all their senses and their imagination. Encourage youth to pray the psalms, act out Acts, grapple with Galatians, and wrestle with the Word. Help them get involved with the Scriptures both energetically and passionately.

Encourage routine and variety in their Bible reading. Youth need help developing realistic and regular patterns of behaviour. They also need to change up what they’re reading in the Bible (i.e., they should read from every literary genre and from both Testaments) in order to develop breadth and depth to their spirituality.

Connect their passions and interests to the Bible. Help them understand how their personal stories fit into God’s Story. One way of doing this is to invite them to bring their unrefined questions and struggles to the Bible – then show them how the Scriptures provide relevant answers and guidance for their lives.

Encourage youth to read/reflect on the Scriptures with their peers and with younger children. Confidence in the Word often grows when they’re given the responsibility to help someone else read/reflect the Bible.

Build accountability. Be a mentor. Personally help youth develop their capacity to read, reflect and respond to God’s Word. Check in regularly with them. Ask, “So what are you reading this week?” and “What are you hearing God say to you?” “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17.

Make sure the youth are reading from a version of the Bible that’s easy to read and age appropriate. The New Living Translation and the New International Version are eminently suitable for youth.

Help youth connect with the Bible in ways that don’t require a lot of reading. For example – Manga Bible, audio versions, video/film, comic strip, Kingstone Bible.

Equip youth with essential hermeneutical tools so that they can do basic interpretation and application.

Introduce challenges and competitions. Youth love to pit themselves against one another, e.g., Bible Jeopardy – http://www.christianity.com/trivia/jeopardy/

Have your say. What would you add?

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Discovering Lectio Divina: Bringing Scripture into Ordinary Life

Are you looking for a more devotional approach to Scripture – one that focuses on contemplation and spiritual formation. Here’s a shout-out for Discovering Lectio Divina: Bringing Scripture into Ordinary Life by James C. Wilhoit and Evan B. Howard … 

Discovering Lectio Divina is a great read if you’re looking for a fresh engagement with the Word, to grow in faith, and experience more of God. To titillate your curiosity, here are some selected quotes:

The practice of the devotional reading of Scripture … is to employ the Scriptures as a doorway into transforming intimacy.

Lectio divina … engages the human dimension with the Word and the Spirit of God. We bring ourselves to the text: eyes, questions, circumstances, heart – all of us. We watch as we read, noticing how the reading process is shaped by the Spirit. We allow the Scripture to soak into us and reprogram our heart, changing the very concerns and ideas that control our beliefs and feelings.

Lectio divina is the reading of a lover: the relaxed waiting that is as attentive to the relationship as it is to the text.

The emphasis in Scripture is on satisfying our thirst rather than trying to satiate it or deny it.

The Bible is not all sweetness … it offers both a sweet and bitter word.

With regard to the reading of Scripture, we long to have our association with “sacred text” lead to a more “sacred life.”

Biblical meditation is a path to wisdom, to flourishing, to enlightening, and it is the central piece of lectio divina.

The Scriptures are not just a place where we read about God … they are a place where we receive from God.

Rather than living on in mindless autopilot, where our pace of life or our addictions to media and distractions pull us from the reality of the moment, we choose in lectio, to focus on our being present to the present – being present with this text right here, in my life right here.

The very act of choosing to read Scripture is an act of redirecting our thoughts to the things of God.

Lectio divina … is where reading and prayer are bound together. It is a reading that comes out of a life with God and leads into life with God.

We must employ means of reading the text that are publicly shared and adjudicated. Still, we all have our own gift to offer to the church’s comprehension of Scripture, and we have our own ways of receiving from the text.

We are not infallible readers, and we must come to the text with a deep awareness of our weaknesses. We come to the text in humility when … we are open to hear the challenge of the divine Other.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5