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Bible Engagement Blog


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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


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Connect the Next Generation With Christ

The crying need of the day is to connect the next generation with Christ.

There are young people in Canada who have never heard the Gospel, never read a portion of Scripture, and never known the love of God.

According to a study by the sociologist, James Penner, “Fifteen per cent of young Canadians classify themselves as atheists”. Statistics Canada (2005) found that 33% of Canadians aged 15 to 24 have never been to church, compared with 25% in 1985. A recent assessment on the state of the Anglican Church in Canada indicated that it “may be only a generation away from extinction.” And the Hemorrhaging Faith Report states, “Only one in three Canadian young adults who attended church weekly as a child still do so today.”

Can these trends be reversed? I believe they can! The Lord does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV).

When we think about connecting a disconnected generation with Christ, some may assume that it’s just not possible. Humanly speaking we know it’s an enormous challenge. But God isn’t limited! And, by extension, neither is His church.

So how do we connect the next generation with Christ? From a Bible engagement perspective it begins with mastering the message. All evangelism should be rooted, informed and driven by the Word of God. The message is all important. Methods are secondary.

To master the message the messengers should know how to explain the Story. This requires regular Bible reading and reflection. The aim of every Christian should be to know God’s Word from top to bottom and from beginning to end.

But mastering the message is not enough. The message should master the messenger. “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” 1 John 3:18 (NIV). We must be living epistles! Our passion for the Word should be demonstrated by our compassion for the world. Children need to see how we live and give. To connect the next generation with Christ, our walk must line-up with our talk.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement and Prayer

Bible engagement and prayer go together. We should read the Word with thought given to prayer and pray with thought given to the Word.

Maybe you’ve asked, “How do I pray according to God’s will?” When prayers are informed and fuelled by God’s Word, they will be consistent with His plans and purposes.

Here’s a simple three step method (the 3 R’s) to help you pray according to God’s will:

  • Read Scripture
  • Reflect on Scripture
  • Respond to Scripture (pray)

I’ve used the 3 R’s for decades and it works brilliantly. Once I’ve read a portion of Scripture and spent time digging into the text I take the truths that the Holy Spirit has illuminated and pray them back to God. When I do this I find my prayers come alive. There’s something special about praying God’s Word back to Him. It’s real and relevant – never rote.

When the Scriptures are the content of our prayers they guide the way we pray. Our natural tendency, when our prayers aren’t directly informed by the Scriptures, are to mainly pray “God bless me and my family” or “Please help me” prayers. But when the launch-pad for our prayers are the Word, they incline us to pray all manner of prayers: petition, thanksgiving, adoration, entreaty, praise, intercession, declaration, formation, celebration, spiritual warfare, healing, and more.

That’s not to say that the Bible is a “prayer book”. It isn’t. Nor is it to say that the Psalms or the many prayers in the Bible should be the main source for our prayers (even though they provide tremendous frameworks for prayer). But it is to say that when we read and reflect on the Word it gives us glimpses of God that help us to align our hearts with His heart. Then, when our hearts are aligned with God’s heart, we pray according to His will.

* Recommendation: Inspiring Prayer is a great primer for prayer – a 54 page Scripture booklet from SGM Canada, for less than a dollar!

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement and Evangelism

In Canada in 2002, 34% of 15-29 year olds said religion was important to them. Seven years later it had dropped to 22% and continues to decline (Statistics Canada General Social Survey). This isn’t something new – faith in Canada and the USA has been on a significant downturn since the early seventies. In fact disaffiliation by generation continues to rise exponentially. The painful reality: 29% of Canadians born in 1987-1995 say they have “no religion” compared to 4% of Canadians born in 1946 or earlier (cf. Canada’s Changing Religious Landscape, Pew Research Centre).

I wish the news was different. For decades I’ve prayed for a revival of faith. My heart yearns for the salvation of the lost. But as the years march on the ranks of secularism swell.

So for those of us who long for a resurgence of faith, is there something we can do? Well that depends on when you ask me! On my down days I tell God it’s not my problem, it’s His! He’s sovereign. He’s the only One who can incline people to know and love Him. But there’s more to it than that. There’s the Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). I have a part to play. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:14 (NIV).

“Someone preaching to them”. We rarely do this outside our church buildings and sometimes don’t do it inside! Alarmingly, evangelism seems to have fallen on hard times. Our churches elevate preachers and teachers, but where are the evangelists? We say the Gospel is important, but who are we evangelizing? We have marriage seminars, pot-luck suppers and fun events for youth, but to whom are we proclaiming the Good News of salvation?

Questions are vital precursors to dealing with problems. Why is it that only one in three young people, who attended church as children, still do so today? (cf. Hemorrhaging Faith Report, 2012). Ed Stetzer says, “The young adults who do drop out of church often lack a firsthand faith – a faith of their own – and a relationship with Christ that matters deeply in their own personal life apart from their parents’ pressure.” (cf. The Real Reason Young Adults Drop Out of Church, LifeWay Research)

A “firsthand faith”. While there are other reasons for young adults leaving church, this must surely be the one that demands our immediate attention.

So how do we help children and youth take ownership of a “firsthand faith”? If I understand the essence of Douglas Hall’s theology (cf. Thinking the Faith), faith isn’t faith unless it’s an informed faith. Faith that is Christian must begin in, live with, and be nurtured by the Scriptures. In order for children and youth to take God seriously, to own their faith, they must connect with the Word.

The biblical mandate is explicit: “Impress them (the Scriptures) on your children” Deuteronomy 6:7 (NIV). Or, as Eugene Peterson puts it: “Get them (the Scriptures) inside of you and then get them inside of your children” (Msg).

Whatever way we look at it, Bible engagement is integral to evangelism and evangelism is integral to Bible engagement. To embrace a relationship with Christ that matters deeply requires a deep commitment to the Scriptures. Simply stated, if children and youth are going to develop a faith of their own, we must do everything we can to help them listen to and submit themselves to the Scriptures.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Opening the 4/14 Window

A friend recently introduced me to the 4/14 Global Missions Movement. When I visited the 4/14 website I was struck by the fact that nearly 50% of the world’s population are under 20 years of age – indicating that children are the largest people group in the world yet to be connected with Christ!

In Canada, 65% of Canadian Christian adults came to faith in Christ before they were 12 years old and 80% came to faith in Christ before they were 19 years old (Child Evangelism Fellowship). Worldwide, 71% of Christians commit their lives to Christ before the age of 15 and an additional 10% before the age of 19. Only 19% of Christians come to faith in Christ as adults (Based on a study by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1996).

With these statistics in mind, one would think that the majority of the efforts to connect people with Christ would be child focused. But they’re not. Most of what we do is geared to adults. Look at any local church budget and you’ll see that pastor’s salaries (those who are teaching/preaching adults), buildings (where the largest and “most important” space with the best audio visual system is the place where the adults meet), and adult related programs are the big ticket items.

Our priorities are back to front. A new focus is needed for a new era. How long will it be until we wake up to the fact that each successive generation in the Western world has fewer Christians than the previous generation? And what will it take for us to hear Christ, really hear Him, saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” Matthew 19:14 (NIV).

It’s time to act. For those who would move forward, consideration must be given to how we can “reach, rescue, root, and release children into relationship with Jesus Christ …” (the goal of the Global Missions Movement).

Of course, Bible engagement should be an essential component of any and all missional strategies to connect children and youth with Jesus. If children are going to have a relationship with Christ that matters deeply, then we must do everything we can to help them acquire a deep commitment to the Scriptures. But that’s easier said than done. From the vantage point of a CEO/Executive Director charged with leading an organization that works to connect Canadians with Jesus and His Story, I’m keenly aware that we have a long way to go.

So a question for my colleagues in the Bible agency world. How should the 4/14 Window figure into our plans? Historically, most Bible agencies, translators, publishers and distributors have invested the lion’s share of operating capital into developing resources for adults. Maybe it’s time to take stock. Do we need more English versions of the Bible for adults? Isn’t 800+ versions more than enough! Why, like the Titanic, do we continue full steam ahead with developing new Bible Apps, resources and delivery systems for adults? Especially when we know that “women’s Bibles, men’s Bibles, student Bibles, even software Bibles or the Bible on-line have not increased the numbers of people reading (the Bible).” (cf. Barna).

Opening the 4/14 window. There are 3 billion children and youth. Can we reach them together? Developmentally speaking, children between 8-12 years old are more inclined to matters of faith than at any other stage of life. Imagine what could be done if the budgets of all the entities producing Bibles or Bible related resources were restructured to develop resources that would significantly help “reach, rescue, root, and release children into relationship with Jesus Christ.”

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Looking For A Good Bible Engagement Read?

So it’s 2015 and you’re ready to get your teeth into some good reading. Yes? Here are some recent blog posts and articles on Bible engagement that are informative, interesting, timely, practical, and edifying:

Faith Today Blog – The Silver Lining, Rick Hiemstra –  http://blog.faithtoday.ca/the-silver-lining/#more-337

Converge – The Decline of the Bible, Kyle Stiemsma – http://convergemagazine.com/the-decline-of-the-bible-14940/

Christian Week – Lingering on the Edge of  Forgetfulness, Thomas Froese – http://www.christianweek.org/lingering-edge-forgetfulness/

Faith Today Blog – Reasons to Read the Bible Well, Patricia Paddey – http://blog.faithtoday.ca/reasons-to-read-the-bible-well/#more-365

Re-engaging With the Bible, Rick Reed – http://rickandlindareed.com/2014/11/25/re-engaging-with-the-bible/?utm_content=buffer009bf&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

The Washington Times – A Call to Reengage With the Bible, Geoff Tunnicliffe and C. Rosalee Velloso Ewell – http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/11/the-bibles-influence-a-call-for-the-church-to-reen/

Light Magazine – Reading the Bible Today, Keri Langley – http://lightmagazine.ca/2014/09/481/

So these are the Canadian writers I’m recommending. Who would you recommend for a good article on Bible engagement?

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Top 3 Picks For 2014

Here are the top 3 Bible Engagement Blog picks for 2014:

1. In Love With The Author

International Evangelist, Ken Terhoven, my late father-in-law, used to tell this story . . . Read more at:  https://www.jumpintotheword.com/2014/08/19/in-love-with-the-author/

2. Inviting Non-Bible Readers To Read The Bible

How do we invite non-Bible readers to read the Bible? Here are six important things we need to think about and do . . . Read more at: https://www.jumpintotheword.com/2014/01/15/inviting-non-bible-readers-to-read-the-bible/

3. Bible Reading in Canada

According to the Canadian Bible Engagement Study (May 2014), 55% of Canadians never read the Bible, 28% seldom read the Bible, 7% read it a few times a year, and 11% read it once a week or more frequently. How do these statistics compare with Bible reading in the past? . . . Read more at: https://www.jumpintotheword.com/2014/05/14/bible-reading-in-canada/

© Scripture Union Canada 2014

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Receive the Word of God

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. James 1:19-21 .

The Word of God can’t work in our lives unless we take delivery of it in the right way. According to James 1:19-21 here’s how we should receive the Word:

Be swift to hear (v.19a)

God gave us two ears and one mouth – probably because He wants us to spend twice as much time listening over talking! Basic to receiving the Word is paying attention to what God says. “He who has ears, let him hear” Matthew 13:9. “Consider carefully how you listen” Luke 8:18. Listening is vital because “faith comes from hearing the message . . .” Romans 10:17.

Be slow to speak (v.19b)

We should know when it’s appropriate to speak or not to speak. “He who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19) and “a man of knowledge uses words with restraint” Proverbs 17:27. For the Word of God to work in our lives we must be careful to say only those things that both edify those who hear, and honours the Lord on whose behalf we speak.

Be slow to anger (v.19c-20)

Anger impedes the righteous life God wants us to pursue. “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly” Proverbs 14:29 . If we have a hostile outlook to the Word or resent it when it exposes an ungodly lifestyle, reveals sin, upsets comfort zones, or challenges opinions and false ideas, we will not be able to grow in spiritual maturity.

Be submissive in spirit (v.21)

A selfless, willing, humble and teachable disposition is the final requirement for receiving the Word as God intended. “We might wonder why the ever-practical James does not proceed to outline schemes of daily Bible reading or the like, for surely these are the ways in which we offer a willing ear to the voice of God. But he does not help us in this way. Rather, he goes deeper, for there is little point in schemes and times if we have not got an attentive spirit. It is possible to be unfailingly regular in Bible reading, but to achieve no more than to have moved the bookmark forward: this is reading unrelated to an attentive spirit. The word is read but not heard. On the other hand, if we can develop an attentive spirit, this will spur us to create those conditions – a proper method in Bible reading, a discipline of time, and so on – by which the spirit will find itself satisfied in hearing the Word of God” J. A. Motyer.

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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4/14 Bible Engagement

“Connecting children with Jesus and His Story should be the priority of the church today!” This, according to the keynote message at the December 2014 Forum of Bible Agencies- North America meeting in Niagara Falls.

“God’s Word for a Young World”, the theme of the FOBA-NA meeting, centered attention on the importance of reaching children and youth. “A new focus is needed for a new era . . . what we’ve done in the past will not cut it in the future . . . each successive generation (in the Western world) has fewer Christians than the previous generation . . . we must do all we can to share the Scriptures with our children and grand-children while we still can!”

These impassioned comments were fuelled by the injunction in God’s Word to “Impress them (the Scriptures) on your childrenDeuteronomy 6:7 (NIV). Or, as Eugene Peterson paraphrased this verse in The Message, the task is to first “Get them (the Scriptures) inside of you and then get them inside your children.”

The call to connect children and youth with the Bible is amplified by research. According to the Pew Research Centre, the religious unaffiliated in Canada has gone from 4% in 1970 to 24% in 2011 and in the USA from 5% in 1970 to 20% in 2011. Couple the rise of the “Nones” with the growth of other religions in North America and the need to impress the Scriptures on our children is more urgent than ever before.

So how do we do Bible engagement with a special concern for children? Forum members were encouraged to review, revise and restructure their operational budgets. Finances could then be used to envision and develop new resources. The work should not be done in isolation. Collaboration and working partnerships with children’s/youth agencies should be integral to the efforts as well as the creation of innovative marketing/promotions that invite and encourage children and youth to engage with the Bible.

But the challenge to connect children with the Bible involves much more than the creation of, distribution or marketing of resources. Stress was placed on the fact that “Belief matters! When people love Christ, they will love His Word.” A correlation of findings from Bible engagement studies revealed that most people who intentionally engage with the Bible are people who embrace Christ by faith. Bible engagement paradigms must therefore include evangelism, specifically child evangelism, as a core component of a 4/14 Bible engagement strategy.

With the above in mind, the concluding comment of the opening address was, “The decline in Bible engagement is primarily a relational problem – people aren’t getting connected to Jesus . . . we need more than a Bible reading revival – we need a Jesus revival!”

© Scripture Union Canada 2014