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Bible Engagement Blog


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In your mouth …

Some of my friends and family call me Mr. Bible Engagement. I’m not sure how I feel about that because even though I’m an advocate for Bible engagement in my daily work, I’m still maturing in my personal reading, reflecting, remembering and responding to God’s Word.

My knowledge about God’s Word is a case in point. I had never noticed (in the sense that something really “jumps” out at you), until recently, that the scriptures prioritize the importance of God’s Word being “in your mouth” and not departing “from your mouth” (cf. Isaiah 59:21).

Maybe it’s because we’re inclined to compartmentalize what we do and say, but I don’t usually hear Christians mentioning God’s Word in their everyday conversations. Is God’s Word in your mouth? When we speak the Word it’s an affirmation that God’s Word is true and real in our lives. It’s also an indication that we’re Spirit filled Christians and God’s covenant people.

Faith can never be a private affair. If you have faith in your heart it should also be in your mouth. “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” Romans 10:10 (NIV). Plainly stated, the evidence of your faith is the verbal confession of your salvation. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” Luke 6:45 (NIV).

Taking another tack: The emphasis with some preaching and teaching, is to encourage Christians to diligently meditate on God’s Word and memorize it. What’s considered important is renewing the mind through daily Bible reading and reflection. But renewing the mind, while essential, isn’t the desired end. God commanded Joshua to meditate on the Word day and night so that it would always be on his lips (cf. Joshua 1:8).

So what does it look like for God’s Word to be in your mouth? A friend recently told me that every day as part of her reading and reflecting on God’s Word, she searches for a verse in the text that she writes on a serviette. At some point during the day she verbally shares this Scripture (why it’s meaningful or how it’s impacted her life) with someone, and then gives them the serviette.

Is my friends methodology unusual? Maybe. But what she does models the importance of having God’s Word in your mouth. So keep a serviette handy, or do whatever helps you to engage with the Bible in order to intentionally “speak words of wisdom” Psalm 49:3 (NIV).

© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Renewal

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, a German professor of moral theology at the University of Wittenberg, started a schism in the Catholic Church when he sent a Theses (also nailed to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg) enclosed with a letter to Albert of Brandenburg, the Archbishop of Mainz. The Theses propositions disputed the power of indulgences and effectively started the Reformation and the branch of Christianity known as ProtestanBruenig_Lucas_Cranach_imgtism.

Luther’s dispute with the Catholic Church included a belief in the Bible alone (rather than with sacred tradition) as the highest authority in matters of faith and practice (sola scriptura). So for most Protestants, and a Bible engagement advocate like myself, the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation is hugely significant.

While much could be said about the doctrines of sola scriptura, prima scriptura (Anglican, Methodist, Wesleyan), or the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (Catholic), the purpose of this article is rather about how we desperately need a Bible engagement renewal.

Despite all that’s been accomplished down through the centuries to stress the primacy of God’s Word in the faith and practice of the Church, there’s a significant lack of emphasis on Bible engagement in many churches. Something’s lost that needs to be found. And to find what’s been lost we must begin with lamenting the weak state of Bible reading, reflecting, receiving, remembering and responding.

Someone once said that we “need to let the Bible accuse us.” The trouble is we’re not connecting with it in a way that opens the door for the Bible to show us where we’ve gone astray, and we don’t give it room to help us return to the place where it gets to have its way with us (because Bible engagement is essentially Jesus engagement, this statement should also be understood as Jesus getting to have His way with us through His Word ).

Through the course of history God breaks into the affairs of humanity to renew and restore us to Himself. Five-hundred years on from the last great renewal in Bible engagement we need the Lord to bring us alive to His Word again. There are no shortcuts to a Bible engagement renewal (unless God chooses otherwise). The process of renewal usually requires the following:

  • Recognize the need for a Bible engagement renewal. “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” Psalm 85:6.
  • Pursue a Bible engagement renewal personally. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions” Psalm 51:1.
  • Seek forgiveness for personal and communal sin. “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” Psalm 51:10.
  • Promise to follow the Lord and engage His Word with all your heart and soul and mind (cf. 2 Kings 23:3).
  • Act on the Word. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” James 1:22.

Now pray for a Bible engagement renewal; trusting God to usher in a much needed season of long term growth that will be marked by the strengthening of individuals and communities of faith as they connect with Jesus and His Story.

© 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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Shaped By The Word

In Shaped by the Word, Robert Mulholland presents a new way to read Scripture that helps us better listen for the voice of God, move from informational to formational reading, and give up our control over the text so that God directs our reading and reflection. Shaped by the Word is one of my top ten must read Bible Engagement books. Here are some taster quotes:

The Word of God is the action of the presence, the purpose, and the power of God in the midst of human life.

Not only is there the dynamic of God’s inspiration in the writing of the scripture; there is also the dynamic of God’s inspiration in our reading of the scripture.

Scripture is not only a place where we find ourselves encountered by God, but a place where God probes the nature of our relationships with one another.

We must open ourselves before Scripture receptively. We must listen. We must be ready to respond. When we approach the scripture in this manner, we find ourselves drawn into that life where our “word” begins to resonate with the Word.

Not only does Scripture liberate us from the bondage of our perceptual frameworks, but at the same time it develops and nurtures within us a transformed and ever-expanding perceptual dynamic of wholeness wherein we find fullness of life in the three primal relationships with God, with self, with others.

If the scripture functions iconographically in our lives, if it can become a window through which we find ourselves drawn into God’s new order of being in Christ, then this insight may call for the deepest perceptual shift of all.

In a profound sense, the Word of God is a living and productive scalpel in the loving hands of One who penetrates to the core of our being in order to cleanse and heal our garbled, distorted, debased word and transform it into the word God speaks us forth to be in the world.

When we come to the scripture, part of our perplexity comes from the fact that we encounter something that takes us beyond ourselves, beyond the prevailing values and perspectives of our culture, even beyond the religious structures and practices of our faith.

Transformation occurs when scripture is viewed as a place of encounter with God that is approached by yielding the false self and its agenda, by opening one’s self unconditionally to God, and by a hunger to respond in love to whatever God desires.

The informational, functional, doing modes of approaching scripture inherently insulate us and protect us from the kind of awareness and disclosure the Word brings to us.

We must offer our discipline of spiritual reading to God with no strings attached, no demands, no limits, no expectations. We must offer it to God for God’s purposes, allowing it to become a means of God’s grace to transform our being.

Our encounter with the Word, our address by God, must be carried into the details of our daily lives.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Eat This Book

Eugene Peterson, author of The Message (an idiomatic translation of the Bible in contemporary language) has, as would be expected, much to say about how we read the Bible. In Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading, he challenges us to read the Scriptures on God’s terms and to live them as we read them. Here are some extracts from Eat This Book that will hopefully entice you to read the Bible like dogs gnawing on a bone:

The challenge – never negligible – regarding the Christian Scriptures is getting them read, but read on their own terms, as God’s revelation.

What is neglected is reading the Scriptures formatively, reading in order to live.

In order to read the Scriptures adequately and accurately, it is necessary at the same time to live them … not to live them in consequence of reading them, but to live them as we read them.

The Bible reveals the self-revealing God and along with that the way the world is, the way life is, the way we are.

The Bible is basically and overall a narrative – an immense, sprawling, capacious narrative.

The biblical story invites us in as participants in something larger than our sin-defined needs, into something truer than our culture-stunted ambitions.

When we submit our lives to what we read in Scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s.

Scripture is the revelation of a world that is vast, far larger than the sin-stunted, self-constricted world that we construct for ourselves out of a garage-sale assemblage of texts.

Scripture draws us out of ourselves, out of our fiercely guarded individualities, into the world of responsibility and community and salvation – God’s sovereignty.

It takes the whole Bible to read any part of the Bible.

One of the most urgent tasks facing the Christian community today is to counter self-sovereignty by reasserting what it means to live these Holy Scriptures from the inside out, instead of using them for our sincere and devout but still self-sovereign purposes.

We are fond of saying that the Bible has all the answers … But the Bible also has all the questions, many of them that we would just as soon were never asked of us, and some of which we will spend the rest of our lives doing our best to dodge.

Our imaginations have to be revamped to take in this large, immense world of God’s revelation in contrast to the small, cramped, world of human “figuring out.”

A simple act of obedience will open up our lives to the text far more quickly than any number of Bible studies and dictionaries and concordances.

The biblical story pulls the holy community – not just you, not just me – into the story in a participating way.

If we are to get the full force of the word, God’s word, we need to recover its atmosphere of spokenness.

The primary organ for receiving God’s revelation is not the eye that sees but the ear that hears – which means that all of our reading of Scripture must develop into a hearing of the word of God.

The Scriptures are our listening post for learning the language of the soul, the ways God speaks to us; they also provide the vocabulary and grammar that are appropriate for us as we in turn speak to God.

Contemplation simply must be reclaimed as essential in all reading and living of Scripture. It is not an option; it is necessary.

The words of Scripture are not primarily words, however impressive, that label or define or prove, but words that mean, that reveal, that shape the soul, that generate saved lives, that form believing and obedient lives.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


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How Not To Read The Bible

“Reading the Bible, if we do not do it rightly, can get us into a lot of trouble” Eugene Peterson.

We’ve all been taught how to read (though my daughter insists that she taught herself!) and we all read with similar preconditioned dynamics that are deeply ingrained in the way we read. Here’s how it plays out:

“We come to a text with our own agenda firmly in place, perhaps not always consciously but usually unconsciously. If what we start to read does not fairly quickly begin to adapt itself to our agenda, we usually lay it aside and look for something that does. When what we are reading does adapt itself to our agenda, we then exercise control over it by grasping it with our mind. The rational, cognitive, intellectual dynamics of our being go into full operation to analyze, critique, dissect, reorganize, synthesize, and digest the material we find appropriate to our agenda. Thus our general mode of reading is to perceive the text as an object ‘out there’ over which we have control. We control our approach to the text; we control our interaction with the text; we control the impact of the text upon our lives.” M. Robert Mulholland Jr.

To summarize, the way we read is based on three ingrained assumptions:

  • we are the masters of what we read
  • texts/content are subordinated to our intellect
  • we have the right to choose what to do or not do with what we read

When it comes to Bible reading, these assumptions create tremendous obstacles. Here’s why:

The author of the Bible, God, is all knowing, all wise, and all powerful. “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.” As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” Isaiah 55:8-9. That places God in control, not us.

Because God is in control, we must therefore come under the authority of His Word. In other words, when we read the Word we cannot be the masters of what we read. Nor can we stand to one side exercising our cognition and intellect to evaluate the text in the light of our own best interests. Rather, the Bible must read us!

So how does that happen? How do we read the Bible without controlling the text, our interaction with the text, and the impact of the text on our lives? Here are four suggestions:

1. Humble yourself. Because God is omniscient, because His Word is holy, and because He’s God (and we’re not), being humble is the only acceptable way for us to read His Word. Humility is a bankruptcy of spirit (cf. Matthew 5:3). It’s depending solely on God’s righteousness (cf. Luke 18:9-14). It’s receiving something from God like a little child (cf. Luke 18:15-17). And it’s tied-up with fearing the Lord (cf. Psalm 25:9-12; Proverbs 15:33). Now here’s the kicker. We need humility to read the Bible because without it we lack wisdom (cf. Proverbs 11:2). When we don’t have wisdom the Bible is confusing, i.e. we don’t know how to hear or understand God’s Word (cf. Matthew 13:13).

2. Learn to listen. There’s listening, the every-day kind of listening, and there’s the listening that happens (when we are patient and still – cf. Psalm 37:7) in the depths of our being. We need to learn to listen from the inner reaches of who we are – to pay attention not just with our minds, but with our hearts and spirits. For this kind of listening to take place, we must focus all our faculties on God. We must hear/see beyond the words on the page to find and know the God who “speaks” the words. And when we find Him, we must open our ears to receive instruction, comfort, renewal, grace, rebuke, correction, or whatever He wants to share with us.

3. Incline your heart. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5. Biblically speaking, the heart is the center of our emotional, intellectual and moral activity. It’s the inner sanctum where the experiences of joy, sorrow, love, fear and the whole range of emotions occur. The emotional state of the heart impacts our whole being (cf. Proverbs 15:13; 17:22). It’s also the wellspring of our hopes and desires. Most importantly, when we look for God with all our heart, that’s when we find Him (cf. Deuteronomy 4:28-29).

4. Be soul-aware. When we read the Scriptures rationally and critically there’s a tendency (and danger) to manipulate the text to validate the pervasive make-up of our self-referenced being. To counteract this tendency we need to be soul-aware. The road to being soul-aware begins with dying to self and not gratifying “the desires of the sinful nature” Galatians 5:16. It’s also letting our response to God’s Word percolate into the core of our volitional nature. This is done, in part, through asking questions like, “What am I feeling?” or “What is God stirring up in me?” or “How is the Spirit moving my spirit?”

Thomas à Kempis said, “A humble knowledge of ourselves is a surer way to God than is the search for depth of learning.” So let’s not read the Bible the way we’ve been taught to read. We cannot and should not take control of the text as if it’s powerless without our intervention. That’s a sure-fire way to filter out God’s voice! Let’s read it in a new way. Let’s read it without “reading” it. And let’s read it with vulnerability – with a desire to hear and be transformed by it!

Recommended:

Eat this Book, Eugene H. Peterson

Shaped By The Word, M. Robert Mulholland Jr.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Blog Milestone

This is a Bible Engagement Blog milestone – it’s the 100th post. The Blog was birthed out of a sense of calling to advocate for Bible engagement. I don’t think it’s a cause I would naturally have chosen. It sort of chose me. Yes, I have a deep love and appreciation for the Word and the One of whom it speaks, Jesus Christ; but what prompted me to start writing was a growing concern about the decline in Bible engagement in the Western world.

When I started writing the Bible Engagement Blog in October 2011 I didn’t know what Bible engagement themes I’d be writing on or how the journey would unfold. In fact there have been several times when I thought I’d come to the end of the line – with no creative thoughts about what to write next. But I’ve learnt that those whom God calls, He equips. Time and time again, He’s brought a topic into focus and directed my critique or reflection.

That’s not to say that it’s always been easy to write a post. Sometimes it’s felt like I’m straining gnats and swallowing camels (cf. Matthew 23:24)! But through thick and thin, I still seem to be writing. And I’ll keep doing so until it’s time to stop.

The content of the posts have ranged across the gamut of Bible engagement related subject matter. Some posts have been more scholarly, some of general interest, and others more technical and research oriented. There have been posts reporting on the work of Bible agencies, the Canadian Bible Forum, and the Forum of Bible Agencies. Articles on the latest statistics from Barna, LifeWay Research, Reveal, Canadian Bible Engagement Study, and a number of researchers have been featured. Biblical passages have been unpacked, definitions considered, Bible reading methods and ways to improve our connections with the Word have been suggested, and a theology of Bible engagement interwoven through the articles. The interplay between the Bible and culture, the church and the individual, has also been discussed.

Whenever I write I try to envision who I’m writing to. While I know there are many colleagues, pastors and Christian leaders who read the posts, I’m very much aware of the thousands of Christians around the world who appreciate the articles. All told, I know that I don’t write in a vacuum, and try to say things that resonate with the spirit of sola-scriptura and reflect the views and opinions of other Christians who hold a high view of Scripture.

While I’m a serious minded person, I have to say the writing’s been fun! There’s something about writing that’s very pleasurable and satisfying. And it’s enjoyable knowing that when we exercise our gifts and talents, God uses them to advance His kingdom and bring honour and glory to His name.

So here’s to the next post, and however more may follow!

And here’s hoping that God’s people will be encouraged to live their lives inspired, informed and in-line with God’s Word.

For the fame of His name!

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5

 


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Heart Language

For Bible engagement to be effective, people need to connect with the Bible in their heart language. The Apostle Paul alludes to this when he says, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” Ephesians 1:18-19 (NIV).

So what is heart language? In essence, it’s something more than language. It’s what unites us at the deepest level and includes our integrated value systems, beliefs, experiences, and the reality of who we are. But that’s not all. Heart language is transactional. It’s something that transcends who we are; it’s about God revealing and communicating His love for us, so that we hear and believe. “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified …” Romans 10:10 (NIV).

In the Christian context, heart language is therefore about the human heart and God’s heart coming together. It’s us interacting with the triune God; an intimate relationship between One heart and another.

Which raises a question: What does heart language look like for different people, i.e. for every tribe and tongue and nation? Obviously, very different. In fact, while there may be a similar heart language within a specific culture, it may also be true to say that every individual has a unique heart language. That’s why God joins Himself with groups/communities of faith as well as allying Himself intimately with the thoughts and feelings He’s created in every individual.

But getting back to the opening sentence, and the association between heart language and Bible engagement …

God’s Word changes hearts. It is in and through the transference of God’s Word that our hearts are touched and transformed. When we rely on the power of the Spirit to help us interact with the Word (personally and communally), God speaks into our hearts in ways that nurture us to live only all for Him.

Thus to engage with the Bible we need to enter into the Word – to become part of the grand drama of salvation. This requires humbling and inclining our hearts. We must develop new postures of authenticity and vulnerability. For it is only when we open our hearts fully, that God will fully apply His Word and make us new creations with the capacity to worship Him and do good works.

All told, it is through the deeper work God does in our hearts, as His Word courses through us, that we are eventually redeemed, restored and reconciled to Him.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Working Definitions of Bible Engagement

In ongoing efforts to understand the nature and scope of Bible engagement, researchers and practitioners at the recent Bible Research Summit drafted the following three working definitions:

1. Bible engagement is encountering God/Jesus through a process/lifestyle of quality interaction in/with the Story as part of a lifestyle of living in and living out of the Story so that individuals and communities are transformed. [This is a cyclical process. That is, individuals and communities continuously reengage/encounter God/Jesus through a process/lifestyle of quality interaction in/with the Story as part of a lifestyle of living in and out of the Story].

2. Bible engagement occurs when the big Story of God/Jesus/humanity, motivated by its authority or its potential relevance (passion vs. scepticism), occasionally or through some habitual practice, which includes various media (e.g. reading, audio, groups, etc.) that contain Scripture content and an application of/resulting in a response to the Word which cultivates transformation in individuals and communities.

3. Bible engagement occurs when circumstances or posture inspired by the Holy Spirit combine to create desire to discover/explore the story of how God engages humanity through habitual seeking of the Word through various mediums (individual, group, audio, visual, written) resulting in transformation that is Christocentric/Christ-like.

Taken together, and simply stated, the three definitions identify Bible engagement as:

An encounter with God/Jesus

that is a motivated/inspired interaction with God’s Story

that includes various media

that involves an individual or communal activity/response/application

that cultivates/results in transformation

 

* The Bible Research Summit was hosted by the American Bible Society

* The goal of the Summit was to discuss the history, current practices and future needs of measuring Bible engagement

* The researchers and practitioners were:

Chris Armas – Code for the Kingdom

Lizette Beard – LifeWay Research

Steven Bird – Taylor University

Chad Causey – OneHope

Mark Forshaw – Global Scripture Impact

David Kinnaman – Barna Group

Nancy Lewis – REVEAL

Jason Malec – American Bible Society

Lawson Murray – Scripture Union

Pam Ovwigo – Center for Bible Engagement

Glenn Paauw – Biblica

Tyler Prieb – OneHope

Angela Rogers – Connection Media

 

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Twenty Quotes From the Bible Engagement Blog

Anything I’ve written that may be deemed insightful or informative is solely due to the insight and understanding that comes from God. In fact when my writing seems to be flowing well, those are the times when I’m most conscious of being empowered by God. Conversely, when being a word-smith is a strain, that’s when I’m usually striving in the flesh.

So with thanks to God for the gift of writing, here are my favourite twenty quotes from the Bible Engagement Blog:

Bible engagement is first and foremost about letting the Bible have its way with us.

To know God and be godly, we must know God’s Word intimately. To know God’s Word intimately, we must grow in intimacy with God’s Word.

The Scriptures are best digested if we “eat them” slowly. Take your time. Masticate on each word. Listen for what God is saying. Enjoy the moment. Open your heart. Pause to pray.

We should read the Word with thought given to prayer and pray with thought given to the Word.

God wants us to be doers of the Word. The ultimate goal of Bible reading and reflection isn’t to learn the history of the Bible, to understand doctrine, to enjoy the stories, get our theology straight, or know everything there is to know. Bible engagement must include application. God gave us His Word to give us life and to change lives!

Always remember that God’s Word is far more important than anything we can ever say about it. The primary aim of all preaching and teaching should be to equip others to actively indwell, engage and get caught up in receiving and reenacting the Word.

The message should master the messenger. Christians should be living epistles!

To embrace a relationship with Christ that matters deeply requires a deep commitment to the Scriptures.

Belief matters! When people love Christ, they will love His Word.

The Bible desires to be known, dares us to chase after it, invites us to connect with it, and challenges us to be immersed in it.

We don’t need a Bible reading revival, we need a Jesus revival! For when people start falling in love with Christ, they can’t help themselves from falling in love with His Word.

If we read the Bible to know the Word of God, yet don’t read it to know the God of the Word, we miss the mark!

What’s ultimately important isn’t the Bible study method; it’s whether or not we’re engaging, internalising and incarnating the Word of God.

When the Bible is reduced to a handbook for church dogma, a moral rule book, a depository of propositional truth, or a collection of wise sayings to guide people through life; it is easy to take it or leave it. But when the Bible is shared, in the power of the Spirit, as the Story which runs deeper than the world’s stories, it invites us to enter into a different world and see ourselves in a different light, that is, to share God’s view of the world.

So what is the best English version of the Bible? The one that gets read!

In what Leonard Sweet describes as “the Age of Participation” it is unlikely that non-Bible readers will read the Bible if we do not cultivate ways for them to interact with it. People need to be helped to connect with the Story in relationally interdependent frameworks where there is a participatory flow of imaginative reason and metaphor.

Let the Bible read you. The Bible is more than a book – it’s alive and active (cf. Hebrews 4:12). Given permission, the Bible will weigh and measure you, and then, finding you wanting, will proceed to fill your heart with faith, hope and love.

As Bible engagement goes, so goes the nation. When our Bibles start falling apart, society will stop falling apart! If we want to see renewal and revival we must read the Word for all it’s worth and live it out for all to see.

God’s Word must lodge inside us and burst out through us! It should whisper in our spirit and trumpet through everything we say and do. It should be in our hearts, but also in our hands. In our minds, but also on our lips. In the privacy of our homes, but also in the public square.

So read the Bible, but not as an end in itself. Read it as a means to an end. Read it to find life and fullness of life in Christ (cf. John 10:10). Read it to see and know the Person behind the text. And read it to be like-minded, have the same love, to be one in spirit and of one mind with Christ (cf. Philippians 2:1-4).

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5