JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


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One Big Story

The Bible is one big Story of redemption, restoration and renewal through Christ Jesus. Yet regrettably, the Bible isn’t always read, heard, shared, taught or engaged as one big Story. Many people limit the Bible to being lessons in good behaviour, an arrangement of doctrines, a source book for wisdom, words or succour, interesting literature, something to be studied, or a guide for decision making.

The one big Story is full of stories. Seventy-five percent of the Bible is narrative and the remaining twenty-five percent is composed of poetic or didactic material. The narrative composition of the Bible should direct our engagement. Rather than majoring on the directives of the Bible, as many do, we should engage with the Bible in ways that ignite our hearts and minds to the one big Story. That is, we should chiefly interact with the Bible as the Story of God’s love for us; how Christ Jesus came to rescue us from sin and give us fullness of life.

Engaging with the Bible as one big Story about Christ Jesus and His love for us shouldn’t be one approach among many. It should be the only approach. Why? Because from the beginning to the end of the Bible, according to the Bible, Christ Jesus is the focus of the Story (cf. Luke 24:27). That’s not to say that He’s mentioned directly in every sub-story. He’s not. In many instances He’s “hidden.” But it is to say that all the stories, taken together, are one big Story about Christ Jesus and how He wants us to enter into and become a part of His Story.Gods-Story4-copy

So what is the storyline of the big Story that Christ Jesus wants us to enter into and become a part of? The Story begins with our creation and shortly thereafter our separation from God because of sin. What follows concerns God’s grace as He seeks to restore humanity to Himself. It’s the Story of brokenness and how we can be whole through faith in Christ Jesus.

At the heart of the Story is the incarnation and life of Christ Jesus. The Story reaches its climax when a great reversal occurs. Amazingly, humanity is given the opportunity to be reconciled to God through the sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection of Christ Jesus.

The Story is good news second to none! It’s about the greatest rescue plan in history – about God in the person of Christ Jesus who enters our world to save – about the Redeemer who ultimately makes everything right. And more. What makes it good news is that it’s a living Story concerning you and me. In Christ, all things are made new (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17). The Story reveals how, through confession, repentance and belief in Christ Jesus, we can know salvation from the penalty of sin, fullness of life now, and the hope of eternal life to come.

The grand ending of the one big Story depicts creation renewed. The ending is really a fresh beginning; a magnificent turn-around. Everything will be new – a new heaven and a new earth in which there is no more pain, sorrow or death. And Christ Jesus will live with His people forever.

While the one big Story has a beginning and an end, it’s also a never ending Story. The paradox of the Story is that as we enter into it we discover that we’re living in the tension between the already and the not yet. That’s why we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10 (NIV). And as we pray this prayer we’re reminded that we owe allegiance, not to ourselves, but to the King. The purpose of our lives is to do what the King wants us to do: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” Micah 6:8 (NIV). This is our kingdom work until the new heaven and the new earth are realized.

Unlike the story of those in the world without Christ Jesus, the one big Story transforms us so that we can do kingdom work, not in our own strength, but with the strength that comes from Christ Jesus. When we enter into the Story we are in fact committing ourselves, at His invitation and direction, to share and live-out the Story through the course of our lives.

So engage with the Bible as one big Story of redemption, restoration and renewal through Christ Jesus. And in so doing aim for your story to become His Story. For as Glenn Paauw from the Institute for Bible Reading says, “the Bible wants us to see our own lives as little parts of its own bigger, grander story.”

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5


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How are you reading the Bible?

How are you reading the Bible? Bible engagement isn’t about reading the Bible exclusively to gather facts, get guidance or learn how to be good. Satan loves it when people read the Bible for these reasons because as long as we’re reading the Bible to simply grow in knowledge, figure out what to do, or develop our morality, we’re not engaging with the Bible as we should.

God wants us to taste and see that He is good (Psalm 34:8a). The goal of Bible reading should be to encounter Christ Jesus and to engage with Him in ways that lead us to become increasingly more like Him.taste-and-see-that-the-lord_t_nv

John Piper, the pastor and theologian, says, “Bible reading that only collects facts, or relieves a guilty conscience, or gathers doctrinal arguments, or titillates aesthetic literary tastes, or feeds historical curiosities – this kind of Bible reading Satan is perfectly happy to leave alone. He has already won the battle.”

How are you reading the Bible? Do you read it focusing on the fact that it’s ultimately the Story about Christ Jesus and how he sacrificed His life in order to atone for your sin and reconcile you to God? If not, you’re not reading the Bible as God intended.

Here’s what Satan tries to hide from us: The overall Bible story centres on Jesus. It’s about His astronomical, unconditional, sacrificial, incomparable, transformational, and eternal love for us. A love that made the world right again by making it possible, through trust in Him, for our sin to be acquitted and our death sentence revoked. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” 1 John 4:10.

Christ’s love for us is why the Word we read has to be the Word we know. For this to happen we cannot rely on pastors, professors or prophets, but from spending time in the Word in order to encounter the presence of the living Word. Then, when we encounter the living Word we should ask Him to renew us through His written Word. For it’s only through encountering Christ Jesus personally and openly that our minds and hearts will be convicted and changed to live a life of love emulating Christ’s love.

So how are you reading the Bible? There are only two ways to read God’s Word. The right way and the wrong way. And the right way is to read the Word as the Word we know.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Communal Bible Engagement

Most Christians in the Western world engage with the Bible mainly by themselves. We read it privately during a “quiet time,” interpret it alone, and experience it personally in the sanctity of our home.

Which is good and fine. Or is it?

Private engagement with the Bible isn’t the biblical norm. In most instances when the Bible mentions engagement with God’s Word it’s in the context of community. God’s people experienced the Bible as “we,” more so than “me.” People would gather together, often in someone’s home, and the Bible would be read aloud while everyone listened. Then, having listened to the Word they interacted with it, processing, digesting and acting on it together.

Hearing with others, rather than reading independently, was the biblical reality because it was an oral culture with very few copies of the Scriptures available.

So how did we get to where the plural focus of Bible engagement became more singular?

With the advent of the printing press in the 15th Century, engagement with the Bible became book focused. Books facilitated the shift from the Bible mainly being heard in community to mainly being read individually.

While some things are gained through the process of change, some things are also lost. The printing press shifted Bible engagement from something that was about communal formation to something that was, according to the author Glenn Paauw, more about a “private me-and-God book.”

So why is the privatization of Bible engagement an issue?

Privatized Bible engagement is problematic because self-directed connections with the Bible often lead to self-oriented responses to the Bible. And mostly serving personal needs is the antithesis of biblical faith.

All that to simply say that communal Bible engagement needs to be renewed. So how do we do that?

Renewal begins when we recognize that the Bible is primarily addressed to the community of faith, speaks to our shared actions and beliefs, and invites the people of God to work together to make disciples of all people. Then, with this understanding as our foundation; we imagine, explore and experience the Bible together. Experiencing the Bible together can take countless forms. It may be small groups of students gathering together on campus lawns to read the Bible, or a family discussing the Scriptures during supper. Regardless of the form, the way we experience the Bible together should include listening, learning and living out the Bible as “us.” This requires humility, grace, and an openness to hear from God through what others say.

Shifting from private to communal Bible engagement isn’t easy. New postures of thinking and acting aren’t formed overnight. For communal Bible engagement to thrive, we must intentionally make it happen. And this takes fortitude, prayer, wisdom, unity and hard work.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5


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The Enemy of Bible Engagement

“This will be the year I read the Bible,” you say to yourself. And so you begin, with the best of intentions, but before long you’re taking strain. Then you get to Numbers and your days are numbered!

Why do so many of us struggle to read the Bible? Even when we really want to do it, we somehow fall short. Are we feeble, or what? Why can’t we muster the discipline? Why do competing priorities take precedence? Why do we struggle to focus on the text? Why?Reading-Bible

There are many practical reasons why we don’t read the Bible, but there’s one big spiritual reason that trivializes all other reasons: Bible reading takes great effort because Satan’s the enemy of Bible engagement.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Satan does everything in his power to undermine our engagement with God’s Word because he’s hell-bent on doing everything he can to destabilize, demoralize, damage or destroy our relationship with Jesus.

Here’s why: Satan hates truth because Jesus is the Truth (cf. John 14:6). And he hates the Word of God because God’s “word is truth” John 17:17.

Satan’s been the enemy of Bible engagement since the beginning of humanity. The first thing he did to undermine God’s relationship with the first man and woman in the Garden of Eden, was to twist God’s word (cf. Genesis 3:1).

Satan’s also been the enemy of Bible engagement since the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. The first thing he did to try and demolish Christ’s work to redeem and reconcile the world to the Father, was to twist God’s word (cf. Matthew 4:1-11).

Satan has been and always will be (until he’s thrown into “the lake of burning sulphur” Revelation 20:10) “that ancient serpent … who leads the whole world astray” Revelation 12:9. And one of the main ways he leads humanity astray is by blinding our minds to the value of the Word or obscuring the Gospel message that connects us with the One who is the Word. Satan uses smoke and mirrors to divert us away from God. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” 2 Corinthians 4:4.

Let’s not forget that Satan’s called the “prince of this world” (John 12:31) because the whole world is under his control (cf. 1 John 5:19). That’s why it’s naive to think we can connect with the Bible in our own strength. We need supernatural power, a power greater than Satan’s power, in order to successfully read, reflect, remember and respond to God’s Word.

So don’t try to go it alone. Don’t think that a New Year resolution or your personal discipline will be enough for a Bible reading victory. And don’t be so arrogant to think that you can do anything you set your mind and will to do. For it takes One greater than the enemy of Bible engagement to help you get into, and stay in the Word. It takes “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,” whom God sends to “teach you all things” and remind you of everything He has “said to you” John 14:26.

There you have it. To grow stronger in Bible engagement you need to depend on the Holy Spirit. So remember to ask God daily to fill you with His Spirit (cf. Ephesians 5:18) and then open the Book and trust Him to “make everything plain to you” (John 14:26 MSG).

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5


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The Friend of Bible Engagement

There are enemies and friends of Bible engagement. But the Friend of Bible engagement who surpasses all others, is the Holy Spirit.

Bible engagement isn’t a solo activity. None of us can go it alone. Bible engagement is always a joint affair. As a bare minimum, Bible engagement requires a relationship in order to exist – a friendship between a person and the Holy Spirit.

Because God is unique, as well as being the creator and ruler of all humanity, the friendship between a person and the Holy Spirit can’t be like a human relationship. When a person, together with the Holy Spirit, engages with the Scriptures, it’s not as equals. The friendship is more like a student- teacher relationship with the person being the student and the Holy Spirit the Teacher (cf. Nehemiah 9:20a, John 14:26).

For a friendship to grow and flourish, friends must know and understand their roles. If a person tries to take charge of the process of reading, reflecting, remembering and responding to God’s Word, the process will fail. It’s disastrous in human affairs when a student tries to usurp the teachers role, and even more so when a person takes charge of the biblical text in a way that takes over or negates the role of the Teacher. “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”1 Corinthians 2:16.94cd33c91ac46570f18e54ba0b3a5969

Gods Spirit and our spirits need to be in open communion in order for Bible engagement to thrive (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:12-16). Yet remarkably, many people try to engage with the Bible unaccompanied by the Holy Spirit. In our ignorance we do what we were taught to do in school; we take charge of the text – subjecting it to our scrutiny and critique – deciding whether or not we’ll accept or reject what we’re reading. We’re the master of the text – period! But that’s not the way to engage with the Bible. The Bible must read us. And this only happens when we humbly open our hearts and minds to be shaped and moulded by the Teacher.

“No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” 1 Corinthians 2:11. It’s imprudent to try and understand the Bible without the Holy Spirit. Spiritual matters need to be spiritually discerned. Biblical comprehension requires the insight and wisdom that comes from God (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14). Only the Spirit of truth can guide us into all truth (cf. John 16:13). Or, stated differently, we require “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16) in order to understand God’s Word.

So how do we adopt the role of the student with the right environment for the Teacher to teach us?

To begin, we must recognize that we are powerless. “The flesh counts for nothing” John 6:63. “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” Isaiah 64:8.

Next, to receive God’s wisdom we must empty ourselves entirely of any worldly wisdom. We must become “fools” in order to become wise (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:18). Why? Because God frustrates the intelligence of the intelligent and “turns conventional wisdom on its head” 1 Corinthians 1:19 (MSG).

Then, as we prayerfully and expectantly ask the Holy Spirit to teach us we must remember that his anointing is in us (every believer) to teach us “about all things” 1 John 2:27. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we can’t learn from others who are taught by the Holy Spirit. It’s a matter of first priorities. We should look first and foremost to the Teacher to help us engage with the Word.

Finally, we must give the Teacher time and space in our lives if we want Him to instruct us in the Word. Basically, we must read the Word as a prerequisite for the Teacher to teach us the Word. That’s what friends do – they spend time together. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly …” Colossians 3:16.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Why We Should Read The Bible

The story is told about a youngster who found a Bible on the bookshelf. “What’s this dusty book Mom?” he asked. “That’s God’s book,” said his Mom. “Well why don’t we send it back to God? We don’t use it here, do we?” asked the boy.

The story raises an important question, why read the Bible? Of all the great books that we could read, why should we read God’s book? Here are 5 reasons why:

The first and most important reason why we should read the Bible is because it’s a God-given window through which we get the best view of Jesus (cf. Luke 24:27). And why is it important to check out Jesus? Because He claims He’s “the way and the truth and the life” John 14:6. That’s a mind staggering and potentially life altering declaration. If it’s true that no one comes to God except through Him, that Jesus personifies truth and is the source of our existence, then it’s a claim that has to be reckoned with. What Jesus said cannot be ignored or dismissed out of hand. So we should read the Bible to consider His claim on our lives.

Hands of a person raised together in prayer with bibleThe second reason why we should read the Bible is to see how God sees us. Most Westerners, due to Existentialism, view life as meaningless, apart from the meaning they choose to give it. But that’s not how God views us. The Bible indicates how God places a high value on every life of every person. We are loved by God and created for a purpose. When we read the Bible it soon becomes clear that it’s a love letter from the Creator to His creation. As God says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11.

The third reason why we should read the Bible is for our deepest needs to be met. Most of us (Nihilists are the exception) want to know why we exist. Is there meaning and a reason for my life? The Bible, by virtue of its content, is the book of life. It reveals God’s meaning and reason for our lives and how we can possess and enjoy fullness of life (cf. John 10:10). Jesus says, “The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life” John 6:63. Did you hear that? The Bible is “full of … life.” Even if the other reasons for reading the Bible didn’t exist, this should be reason enough to read it.

The fourth reason why we should read the Bible is for our health and growth. As I look back over the course of my life I can see how I’ve matured. Do you want to grow in wisdom? I’m thankful that I no longer think and act like a child or youth. And I’m thankful that since I started reading the Bible, the Scriptures have made me “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” 2 Timothy 3:15. My reality can be anyone’s reality. “For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” Psalm 107:9. So read the Bible because we were not meant to “live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

The final reason why we should read the Bible is so that we can learn how to love and accept love. The sad litany of many people’s lives is that they don’t find, receive or love others adequately. Or worse. Many people never encounter the love that surpasses knowledge and fills us with the fullness of God (cf. Ephesians 3:19). The Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). To know love, the real thing, we must be Bible engagers. That’s because the primary way to know Love is in and through reading His Word.

There are many more reasons why we should read the Bible. But we’re not going to consider them now because good reasons need to be coupled with right actions. So let me ask, “Are you reading the Bible? I mean really reading it?” How you answer this question can make or break you. I don’t say that lightly. It would take a book to spell out all the benefits of Bible reading. So please understand why I close by urging you to truly get into God’s Word and discover the joy that comes from having the message of Christ dwell in you richly (cf. Colossians 3:16).

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Opening the Scriptures to Open Eyes

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Luke 24:45 (NIV).

They were trudging down the road, shoulders slumped and faces drawn, their distress evident for all to see. From their animated and heated discussion it was clear that they were trying to make sense of a recent tragedy. And then a man drew alongside them. Matching their pace he asked what they were talking about. They stopped walking … the burden of his question seemingly too much to bear. Unfazed by their unhappiness the man asked a question, and moving on they began to chat about the things that were heavy on their hearts.

The conversation that unfolded between the men on the road was about Jesus of Nazareth and the Old Testament prophecies that spoke of Him. What the men on the road didn’t realise was that the man who’d joined them and was now talking to them was Jesus Christ – the one who’d been crucified three days previously and the very one about whom they were speaking!

“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

The encounter on the road to Emmaus is revealing: It points to the tremendous value Jesus placed on the Scriptures and how, because they were central in His life, He wove them into His daily dialogue with people. The encounter also shows us that people need a fresh understanding of the Story in order to make sense of the issues they’re facing. Jesus opened the Scriptures and in so doing opened the eyes of the disciples.

Which raises a pertinent question: How will people come to know and understand the Story if we don’t share it with them? Conversations are needed … conversations seasoned with life words … conversations that explain what the Scriptures say about Jesus Christ … conversations that Jesus can use to open eyes to see Him.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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A Bible Engagement Church

While there are many church congregations that believe the Bible informs our faith and practice, there are very few Bible engagement churches. That’s not to say that the Bible isn’t read or preached in most churches, it usually is. But it is to say that Bible engagement hasn’t permeated every facet of local church ministry.

So what are the earmarks of a Bible engagement church? Here are ten suggestions:

  1. A Bible engagement church is a church where everything is aligned with Scripture, submitted to Scripture, and seen to be subservient to Scripture; in as much as when the Bible speaks, God speaks.
  2. A Bible engagement church models the priority of Bible engagement. The Bible is opened in the business meetings to inform the decision-making process, finances are disbursed according to the principles in God’s Word, weekly small groups study the Scriptures, and the church website, social media, bulletins, newsletters and PowerPoint announcements advocate for Bible engagement.
  3. A Bible engagement church is evidenced by the fact that everyone in the congregation knows that Bible engagement is a high priority. Ask an individual in a church what’s special about their church and if one of their top three answers is, “We value God’s Word,” then it’s possibly a Bible engagement church.
  4. A Bible engagement church fosters meaningful congregational participation and interaction with the Scriptures. It’s a disaster when, functionally speaking, a congregation thinks or acts as if Bible engagement is something reserved for the pastor, experts or professionals.
  5. A Bible engagement church is a community of faith where people line up their lives with the Word. In other words, they’re living epistles. On a 24/7 basis they’re striving (as the Holy Spirit empowers) to say and do what the Scriptures say they should say and do.
  6. A Bible engagement church intentionally integrates God’s Word into every aspect of the Sunday service. The Scriptures are read regularly and well, the content of the songs/hymns are biblically and theologically sound, the prayers are fueled by the Word, and the sermons consistently remind and reinforce the importance of connecting with the Word in order to connect with the One who is the Word.
  7. A Bible engagement church equips and teaches children, youth, adults and seniors how to engage with the Bible. Every person (all age groups) in the church has a Bible and a daily Bible reading guide. Bible engagement resources, curriculum and tools are incorporated and injected into every ministry, program or event in the church.
  8. A Bible engagement church incorporates the Scriptures fully into the discipleship and evangelism strategy of the church. Members of the congregation are taught how to personally listen, read, pray, interpret, contemplate, study, imagine, memorize, journal, apply and share God’s Word.
  9. A Bible engagement church has a pastor who preaches sermons that are Word-soaked, Spirit-inspired, and Christ-centred. The pastor finds ways to demonstrate that the Scripture text(s) for the sermon are more important than what will be said about the text(s). The preaching also takes seriously the oral and narrative nature of the Bible and incorporates sizeable readings of the Scripture.
  10. All told, a Bible engagement church makes Bible engagement central to the life of the church so that people live it out as part and parcel of everything they do together. A Bible engagement church is therefore one where the congregation have learnt how to let the Bible move; to be our voice in all the discussions we engage in, to be the main point in our preaching and teaching, to be the truth that we build our lives on, and to be the window through which we see Jesus.

Have your say. Is there something you’d add or subtract?

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement in Small Groups

Getting together with a micro-community of believers to read/hear God’s Word is an effective way to get to know God and understand how to live in a vibrant relationship with Him. Here are ten ways to strengthen Bible engagement in small groups:

Bathe everything in prayer. Pray before, after and during the time spent together. When you begin, pray something like, “God we’re going to be reading your Word. Help us to engage it actively, but also to listen attentively. You are the Teacher and we’re your students. Please convict, guide and transform us. Amen.” For the duration of the gathering be prepared to stop the dialogue to pray the Scriptures into personal needs or situations. When you close, pray something like, “Thank you Lord for the way we’ve met you in and through your Word. Help us apply your Word in everything we say and do. For your honour and glory. Amen.

Get to know each other. Create time and space for building relationships. Strong relationships are needed for heartfelt/meaningful dialogue. Foster an environment that’s friendly, respectful, and builds trust. Look for practical ways to love, encourage, and celebrate life together.

Read the Bible in multi-sensory ways. Be creative and three-dimensional, i.e., move beyond the printed page. For example, when reading about the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist/Communion in 1 Corinthians 11, have a fresh loaf baking in a bread maker so that the smell pervades the air. When you finish reading the passage, eat the bread while discussing the text.

Teach public reading of Scripture. When we read the Bible together we should aim to read it well. Some basic instruction will help people read more confidently and meaningfully. For more information check out the Bible Engagement Blog post, Reading the Bible Publicly.

Don’t reduce the Bible to a sourcebook for finding the right answers. The purpose of a small group Bible study should never be ‘knowledge about the Bible’. Bible knowledge isn’t an end in itself, nor is it a means to an end. The aim isn’t right answers, it’s knowing the One who is the answer. Interact with God’s Story in ways that our stories (as individuals and as a group) are formed and transformed by His Story.

Use open-ended questions. Allowing the formulation of any answer, rather than a selection from a set of predetermined possible answers, will help people press into God’s Word. Ask questions like, “What stood out for you?”, “Did it raise any questions for you?”, “Do you see the Father, Son or Holy Spirit in the text?”, or “Why is this in the Bible?” As a discussion progresses, direct people back into the Word. Ask, “Where do you see that in Scripture?”, or “Is there something in the text that informed your perspective?”

Make the main thing the main thing. Spend more time reading the Bible than reading books, commentaries, curriculum, or study guides about the Bible. It’s not a Bible study if the main thing is reading someone’s book about the Bible, listening to someone preach/teach on a topic from the Bible, or watching a video series about the Bible! God’s Word, read/heard, should be the primary text/content, and the Holy Spirit should be the ultimate teacher.

Discuss the uncomfortable/difficult passages. Be prepared to struggle with the ‘hard’ Scriptures, even when you don’t find satisfactory explanations. Wrestle with different points of view in a respectful and mature way.

Aim to read/hear the Scripture through the voices/ears of the whole group. Recognise how your own view of Scripture is limited, and that the fullness of Bible reading comes into its own when God speaks through different people.

Listen beyond your traditional theological grid. Allow God’s Word to challenge your presuppositions. Be humble. Be aware of the limitations of your insight and understanding. Be open to how God works mysteriously and powerfully, in and through His Word, to redeem and restore your life, and the lives of everyone in the group.

Using different methodologies may also be helpful. Try implementing one of these strategies:

The “Book Club” approach. Ask group members to read a whole book of the Bible prior to getting together, or read a big chunk when you are together (an entire story). Then open it up for dialogue. Discuss the writers intent, themes, plot, characters, what people liked or didn’t like, and so on.

The “Visual Arts” approach. Read a portion of Scripture, then view art forms (from different cultures and centuries) such as ceramics, drawings, paintings, sculptures, stained glass, wood carvings, and such, that illustrate the text. Discuss the artists context, how s/he interprets the biblical narrative/event, and how it may or may not be true to the text.

What would you add? Share your tips for strengthening Bible engagement in small groups.

© 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