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Bible Engagement Blog


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Bible Engagement Workshop

I wear two hats! My day job is serving as the President of Scripture Union Canada, and on the side, I also serve as the National Director of SGM Canada.

Me wearing two hats is a benefit to both ministries. Both SU and SGM are Bible agencies, so there are synergies that can be harnessed for mutual benefit. One area of collaboration is Bible engagement advocacy. We know, and we’ve seen, how we’re stronger together when we work together to promote connections with Jesus and His Story.

SGM’s latest initiative is a vlog called the Bible Engagement Workshop. The Bible Engagement Workshop is a free eLearning hub where people anywhere and everywhere are trained in Bible engagement. The video blogs take the form of PowerPoint presentations that are ±13 minutes long. Their meaty content cuts the fat and chews the fact!

The Bible Engagement Workshop was developed because 95% of Christians say they’ve never been taught how to engage with the Bible. When SGM heard this alarming statistic, they wondered what they could do to help. The result, a new virtual workshop every month where participants are equipped to receive, reflect, remember and respond to the Bible.

SGM Canada is hoping and praying that the workshops will help cultivate change. They want to see closed Bibles open. They want Christians to pick up their Bibles and apply the principles and practices that are taught in the workshops. And they’re dreaming about the day when most Christians will meet with God every day in and through dynamic encounters with the Word.

The Bible Engagement Workshop launches today! So, joining together for combined effect, with simulated balloons and fireworks, the Bible Engagement Blog is announcing the inauguration of the Bible Engagement Workshop!

Take some time to check it out. This is a tremendous resource for individuals, families, small groups, local churches, and schools. You can access the workshops directly through Loom, or at www.bibleengagementworkshop.com

Listen to a featured video:

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Gospel of Matthew: Word for Word Bible Comic

Wishes do come true! For years I’ve longed to see the unadulterated and unabridged Scriptures in a comic form. Now, word for word according to the New International Version, what I yearned for is finally here!

When I received a pre-publication copy of the Gospel of Matthew: Word for Word Bible Comic from Simon Amadeus Pillario, I wondered if it would live up to my expectations. Would it accurately depict the historical, geographical and social realities of what the German form critics refer to as the sitz im leben (life setting)? Would it incorporate what’s been gleaned from archeological discoveries? Would it invite, rather than stifle, sanctified imagination? Would the style of the illustrations be among the best in the world and appeal to all age groups and different cultures? And, would the format highlight the narrative nature of the Scriptures?

Delightfully, the Gospel of Matthew: Word for Word Bible Comic does most of the things I’d hoped it would do. The exception is that it’s not deemed suitable for children. Each book has age advisory ratings, most of them 12+. While I appreciate the fact that it stays graphically true to the sin, corruption and depravity that is part of the Story, it sadly means that 26% of the world’s population (those under 15 years of age) don’t get to benefit from this tremendous publication.

Forgive me for this brief side-note concerning children, but I’m both a Bible engagement and a children’s ministry guy who is hoping that the fabulous creativity that’s been invested into this Bible comic will be harnessed to help children engage with the Bible. Maybe suitable extracts could be compiled with children in mind. On the other hand, maybe ways could be devised to cut and paste the comic so that parents, educators and those who minister to children could select age-appropriate sections in much the same way as we select age-appropriate readings from text-only Bibles.

Moving on. When I read the Gospel of Matthew: Word for Word Bible Comic I was totally captivated. I’m a veteran Bible reader, yet the visuals triggered reflections and insights that opened my heart and mind in ways that enabled the Word to impact me in fresh ways. And more, it made it easier for me to enter into the drama, find my part in it, and see myself doing what God wants me to do.

In a nutshell, the Gospel of Matthew: Word for Word Bible Comic is the Bible in 2D! Do you need to see in order to remember and learn? This Bible comic book brings imagination into focus!

Available at:

https://www.wordforwordbiblecomic.com/buy

Visit Simon’s Blog:

https://www.wordforwordbiblecomic.com/blog

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Basics Audio-book

NEW RELEASE!

The practical handbook Bible Engagement Basics is now available as a FREE audio-book.

Bible Engagement Basics is a practical, accessible introduction to the Bible that’s full of creative ideas and suggestions for connecting and growing in one’s interaction with the Word. This go-to book helps and encourages thousands of people around the world to meet with Jesus and live in harmony with His Story.

While many people are benefitting from Bible Engagement Basics, many aren’t because even though they may love books, finding the opportunity to read can be a challenge. That’s why we’ve recorded Bible Engagement Basics as an audio-book. It provides a convenient alternative to old-fashioned reading.

Another reason why Bible Engagement Basics is made available as an audio-book is because around 30 percent of the population is made up of auditory learners. With Bible Engagement Basics available as an audio-book, it makes the book more accessible to more people.

Printed book http://scriptureunion.ca/bookstore-1/books-adults/bible-engagement-basics

E-book https://www.amazon.ca/Bible-Engagement-Basics-Lawson-Murray-ebook/dp/B079B77Y72 

Audio-book https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kc05awL7Onk&feature=youtu.be

Click on the link below to listen to the audio version of the chapter about engaging children with the Bible.

Bible Engagement Basics

Lawson W. Murray

© 2017 by Scripture Union

ISBN 978-0-9951694-1-8


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Reboot

The coronavirus has shut down the system. Everything has been disrupted, upended or unsettled. Isolated from one another, we’re uncertain, disorientated, anxious, overwhelmed, or sorrowful. As the storm surges, we’re scrambling to adjust. As we struggle to understand, we’re trying to figure out what to do.

COVID-19 is one of the most dangerous diseases that we’ll face in our lifetime. Things are going to be different for some time. Yet it’s not all bad news. While a vaccine is being developed, it’s a chance to reboot.

Reboot is a computer term. When a computer malfunctions, the operating system is shut down, fixed, then restarted to get it back up and running.

Opportunities to recalibrate are usually rare. The limitations imposed by COVID-19, while devastating, open the door to new prospects and possibilities. Now that we have some time on our hands, what will we do with it?

To begin, we shouldn’t waste time trying to explain the unexplainable. Asking why God has allowed this pandemic to happen won’t make much of a difference. Instead of looking for reasons, we should recover the biblical practice of lament. As the Anglican theologian, N. T. Wright reminds us, “it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead.”

We should also recognize that along with the world, we’re all broken. When the Israelites returned to Judah after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, they detected, despite the fact that they had rebuilt Jerusalem, that something was still broken – themselves. This pandemic has brought us face to face with a harsh reality, despite everything humanity has built over the centuries, something is still broken – ourselves.

We are in exile because of COVID-19, and we need healing – physically and spiritually. Spiritual healing doesn’t come from a needle. An anti-viral injection can’t give us immunity from the darkness that plagues our souls. Resurrection comes through crucifixion. The healing we need in our inner being comes from embracing the Healer, Jesus Christ.

With our usual routines and hectic pace interrupted, the coronavirus enables us to ask, “What is God saying to me/us at this time?” Asking and answering this question could become a turning point for individuals, the Church, and the nation.

If there’s going to be a turning point, there needs to be a starting point. The starting point is to engage and reengage with Jesus. “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty” Zechariah 1:3 (NIV).

To return to the Lord we must return to the Bible. In these days of uncertainty and disorientation, we need certainty and orientation. God’s Word is sufficient for all our needs. As the pandemic surges, the Scriptures are the anchor in the squall. Those who abide in the Word will ride out the squall.

When the post-Babylonian Israelites realized their brokenness “they told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book … and He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law” Nehemiah 8:1-2 (NIV).

Note the phrase “listened attentively.” The beginning of something new will begin when we open our ears to hear the Word of the Lord.

Finally, we should pray. A new normal will emerge when the pandemic is over. The new normal will be an outcome of how we do or do not pray. COVID-19 is an invitation to pray. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV).

Reboot. When we engage and reengage with Jesus there is “a future and a hope” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV). Bad news will become good news. Life will blossom from death. What’s broken will be made whole again.

Resource:

Praying When You Don’t Have All The Answershttps://www.facebook.com/kensymes7/videos/2976801189041940/

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Random Thoughts

I’m often thinking about Bible engagement, and while some of the things I’m thinking about become the basis of the articles I write, there are random thoughts that make it no further than a comment on a sticky note, musings jotted down on a used envelope, or as recently happened on a flight home from Calgary, several sentences scribbled on a napkin.

So mainly because I’m reluctant to throw out the napkin and waste some thinking, here are some random thoughts about Bible engagement:

God’s Word wasn’t given to us so we could master it. It was given to us so we would be mastered by it!

Read many good books, but major on one book – the Bible.

If you deviate from the Word, you drift away from God.

The only book where the author truly loves the reader is the Bible!

Rejection of Christ and His Story results in intellectual and moral anarchy. Without Christ people are left trying to find meaning in racial, ethnic, or sexual identities – or in living lives immersed in the moment. Sadly and tragically, in searching for a personal soul, people are forgetting the desperate need we all have for transcendence. And transcendence is only found in Christ and His Story.

It isn’t the reading of many books that make us learned or holy. It’s the frequent reading of one book, the Book of books, that develops wisdom and righteousness.

The psalmist says, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” Psalm 119:130. Note how it’s the “unfolding” (opening to reveal what is disclosed) of God’s Word that gives light. There are no two ways around this. To dispel darkness, unnerving encounters with the Word are required.

As a Westerner reading the Bible (as it’s geographically, historically, socially and culturally linked to this world) I must remember that it’s not a European book – it’s a Middle Eastern book.

Education devoid of God’s Word leads to arrogant occultism or secular bigotry. So if Christ is to have the ultimate authority over hearts and minds then His Word must be at the centre of education.

God’s Word should be the foundation on which every ministry is built. Every ministry value, principle, practice, and expected outcome should be scripturally sound. If there’s no biblical support or precedent for a ministry activity, program, or approach, it shouldn’t be part of what we say or do.

The starting point for marinating children in Jesus’ Story is a deep and progressive study of the biographies of Jesus. Children should know the Gospels from back to front and from front to back. And for this to happen we’ve got to expose children to the Gospels in ways that unveil them to the extraordinary, glorious, unbridled, beautiful, astonishing love of Jesus.

A moral quagmire isn’t a random occurrence. When the Bible becomes a closed book; ignorance, corruption, avarice, depravity, infidelity, and savagery will take root and flourish.

One can never be a mature Christian or adequately fulfill God’s purpose for one’s life without extensive reading and reflection on God’s Word.

When our activities are in conflict with God’s Word, we tend to correct our behaviour or find a new god.

Do you have any random thoughts on Bible engagement that you’d like to add? Feel free to comment. And if you want to use or share any of the random thoughts above, please do so.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5


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State of the Bible 2018

Since 2011 the Barna Group has conducted an annual survey concerning the state of the Bible in the USA. The survey is commissioned by the American Bible Society and conducted by the Barna Group. It aims to gather insights into the multifaceted relationship that Americans have with God’s Word and includes findings on Bible engagement, Bible impact, perceptions of the Bible, Bible penetration, Bible literacy, the Bible and technology, moral perceptions and social impact, fearfulness and hope for the future, experiences with trauma and charitable giving.

In essence this year’s findings in the State of the Bible 2018 Report revealed that the majority of Americans (57%) aspire to using the Bible more than they currently do. For information on the other findings, click here to download the whole report.

Here are some thoughts concerning the Bible Engagement component (Section 1) of the report:

The term “use the Bible” is common in the report. It’s a term that’s wrongly applied to Bible engagement. When we engage with the Bible we should never do so as if it’s a commodity/product that can be exploited. True Bible engagement isn’t something that we can control/manage. Nor is Bible engagement something that’s subordinated to our intellect. God is the master of what we read/hear, not us. “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” Hebrews 4:12 (NIV). That is, the Bible reads us! So our approach, when reading/reflecting on the Word, should be one of humble listening.

Comparing the necessity of the Bible “in daily life” with “coffee, something sweet” and “social media” is off-base. It reduces Bible engagement to a popularity contest. And why would we do that? Bible engagement isn’t about how trendy or well-liked the Bible may or may not be. Our reading, drinking and eating preferences are a non-issue. The necessity in Bible engagement is whether people are, or are not, cultivating an intimate reciprocating relationship with Jesus Christ.

“The level of Bible use and desire for use” also seems to be an emphasis in the report that’s barking up the wrong tree. Reducing Bible engagement to how frequently we read/listen to the Bible is legalism. Legalism should never be the basis for measuring Bible engagement. The real measure of Bible engagement is an increase in compassion, patience, justice, forgiveness, reconciliation, goodness, hope, peace, healing, faithfulness, worship, growth in Christ likeness, and love – not wishing we’d “used the Bible more often.”

Finally, it was a relief to see in the “Bible Curiosity” chapter that curiosity was aligned with both the Bible and Jesus. Unfortunately, the importance of “Bible curiosity” was reduced to simply knowing more about the Bible and Jesus. Satan knows an awful lot about the Bible and Jesus, but all his knowing hasn’t changed the fact that he’s the enemy of God. Bible engagement is much more than knowledge about God and His Word. The emphasis in Bible engagement shouldn’t be Bible knowledge. The stress in Bible engagement should be on severing our loyalties to the world and giving our total allegiance to Christ. Fergus Macdonald, Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement, eloquently says, “Scripture engagement is interaction with the biblical text in a way that provides sufficient opportunity for the text to speak for itself by the power of the Holy Spirit, enabling readers and listeners to hear the voice of God and discover for themselves the unique claim Jesus Christ is making upon them.”

© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5


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About Jesus and For Jesus

Jesus taught that He’s the central theme of the Old Testament. This is plainly revealed on the road to Emmaus when He began with Moses and the Prophets and explained to the disciples what the Old Testament said about Him (cf. Luke 24:27).

While it’s obvious from Luke 24:27 that the Old Testament is about Jesus, it should also be noted that Jesus (when He was physically living in Palestine) had to read and reflect on the Old Testament in order to grow and develop (e.g. Luke 2:40, 52).

How can this be? How can the Old Testament be both about Jesus and for Jesus?

The answer to this question is informed by the fact that Jesus has both a divine and human nature – is fully God and fully man. This is a mystery that’s difficult to understand. Jesus is simultaneously the Son of God and the Son of Man. Which is to say that He is One person with two distinct yet inseparable natures – what theologians call the hypostatic union.

Remarkably, the eternally existent omniscient Son of God is the One who gives us the Old Testament and He’s also the finite Son of Man who had to listen and learn (cf. Luke 2:46) in order to grow in His understanding of the Old Testament.

Most Christians are comfortable with the fact that the Old Testament is about Jesus, yet some are a tad uncomfortable with the fact that the Old Testament is for Jesus. That’s not uncommon. The tendency is to think of Jesus as God and mainly relate to Him as the Almighty who is “alive for ever and ever!” Revelation 1:18. But let’s not forget that Jesus was born of a woman (cf. Galatians 4:4-5), was taught the Old Testament by His parents, and grew up hearing the Old Testament being read and discussed in the synagogue (cf. Luke 4:16).

So just like Jesus is fully God and fully man, the Old Testament is fully about Jesus and fully for Jesus.

One more thought: While the theology about Jesus’ divine and human nature is intellectually fascinating, it’s nonetheless practical. Because the Old Testament is about Jesus, it should elevate the way we receive, read (or hear) and reflect on it. And because the Old Testament is for Jesus, it should elevate the way we respond to it. That is, because the Old Testament is for Jesus, it reminds us that Jesus became one of us so that we would model our lives on Him.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Basics Comments

Since Bible Engagement Basics was published in July 2017 I’ve been gathering comments connected with the distribution of the book. The comments have been made during face to face conversations, usually during church visits at the conclusion of a Bible Engagement Sunday service where I’ve preached a Bible advocacy message and made the book available for people to purchase. The comments have also been made by people who have read the book and then connected with me because they wanted to tell me their stories.

I would not have thought about blogging these comments if it hadn’t been suggested by a friend. He asked me about the impact of the book, and while telling him, he stopped me and said, “You should blog these stories. They’re encouraging and could be helpful.”

So here are some comments about Bible Engagement Basics:

“Thank you for your message this morning and for your book. You said things I can’t say … good things that the congregation needed to hear … just recently the Sunday School teacher asked me, ‘Who came first, Moses or Jesus?’ … Your book will help!” – Rector of an Anglican church.

“When I bought the book I thought I’d only read one or two chapters, but I ended up reading all of it. Which is unusual because I don’t usually read non-fiction books.” – Young man in his twenties.

“Thank you so much for the practical coaching and instructions through your book on how to engage with the Word of God. I have greatly benefited! I wish everyone of my staff can get to read it. It is very informative and sBEB-Front-Coverimplifies the aspects of Bible engagement so well.” – National Director of SU Uganda.

“If you can’t afford a copy of Lawson’s book, I’ll personally buy one for you. Everyone needs this book!” – Pentecostal pastor at the conclusion of a Bible Engagement Sunday service.

“I’ve never read the Bible but after hearing your message today (it was on 2 Kings 22-23) I’ve promised God that I’m going to start reading it and hope that your book helps me do this.” – Gentleman in his eighties who has worshipped in an Anglican church all his life.

After preaching a Bible engagement message at a seminary chapel service I asked one of the professors why the school, at the conclusion of the service, was giving copies of Bible Engagement Basics to their students. “Students are usually expected to buy their books. This is unusual,” I said. He smiled as he replied, “We believe this book expresses the core values that are important to us.” – Toronto Baptist Seminary Professor.

“Since reading your book I felt compelled to read the Old Testament. I’ve never read the Old Testament before and started reading Isaiah. It’s amazing. It’s like Isaiah is describing our world today!” – United Church member.

“I agree with what you said about reading the Bible. I’m a pastor from Jamaica and have been visiting family in Toronto. I go back home tomorrow. I’m taking copies of your book for some people in my congregation. It will help them.” – Baptist pastor at a Bible engagement Sunday service.

“Recently at our International Leadership Team conference in Colorado, I passed along copies of your book ‘Bible Engagement Basics’ to a number of our international regional directors. They were eager to accept it. Now the book is in Hong Kong/China, 2 directors covering the whole of Africa, India, US, France, our directors of Latin America and the Middle East.” – CEO of an international Bible agency.

“I’ve needed a handbook like this. I’m not reading the Bible as much as I should. I’m hoping this will strengthen my Bible reading.” – Middle aged lady.

“We have had a conference for SU school group leaders and members this past weekend where we have been using Bible Engagement Basics. Rather than just sell them or give them away we want, where possible, to use the book with small groups to introduce them to it and get them engaging with it so it can be maximum help to them in engaging with the Bible.” – Executive Director of SU Scotland.

“I finished reading your Bible engagement book yesterday and I enjoyed learning new things from it like Lectio Divina. I don’t usually read theological or academic books but this was easy to read! Thanks for your encouragement to emphasize reflection with reading the Word.” – Physiotherapist.

“It’s really good! I never expected it to be this good!” – Mission Agency colleague.

“I was so pleased to hear that 250 of your books were sold after the Sunday morning service … Thank you for presenting a wonderful, biblical exposition. You applied the truths accurately and meaningfully and in an interesting way. It was wonderful for me to also be blessed by hearing your message.” – Church of the Nazarene Pastor.

“It’s very potent, your book … every time I pass my Bible where it sits in the living room, I feel guilty and feel I should be reading it and nothing else!” – My mother.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Basics Review

Bible Engagement Basics is hot off the press! Here’s a review:

If I am honest, sometimes … actually, maybe MOST times, the Bible is hard work. Its hard work getting the motivation to read it, to bridge the gap between the world of the original writers and recipients and mine, and to try and make sense of it through my 21st century worldview.

Any support, encouragement and practical ideas are welcome, and Bible Engagement Basics ticks all 3 boxes.

It’s an ambitious book by any standard. It attempts to engage a global audience, whilst laying out a clear theological premise for the importance of Scripture, as well as providing practical suggestions for those wanting to explore different models and ideas for Scripture engagement. I think it does it well.

When I speak to groups of young Christians, I sometimes pose the question “What IS the Bible?” Responses offer an immediate understanding of not just how, but why they read (or don’t read) the Bible. “God’s love letter to me,” or “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth,” and “A manual for how to live” are some of the common responses. I appreciate that from the opening pages, Bible Engagement Basics explores Scripture as Gods Story, and that Story – as Lawson so eloquently writes “is a spacious realm that we are invited into with imagination and faith, and once we have entered, to see ourselves as participants.”

Throughout history, the Bible has at times been used to contain, control and condemn people. It has been seen as a weapon of oppression, not a source of liberation and life as it is intended. To gather in community and be transformed by Gods Word, it requires “new postures of authenticity, vulnerability and consecration” as Lawson articulates well. Reading in community, where we bring our stories, questions and revelations, and together prayerfully allow God to speak to us is highlighted in this book. I cheer on this approach, mindful that Scripture was written (or spoken) for communities – not individuals, and is most powerfully entered into within community.

Let me warmly commend this important and timely resource to you.

Adrian Blenkinsop, Youth Bible engagement specialist, Author of “The Bible According To Gen Z.”

Bible Engagement Basics

Author: Lawson W. Murray | ISBN: 978-0-9951694-1-8 | Publication Date: July 2017 |

Order: http://scriptureunion.ca/bookstore-1/books-adults/bible-engagement-basics

Order (French): http://boutique.llbquebec.ca/products/principes-dinteraction-avec-la-bible

More Information: http://www.scriptureunion.ca/beb

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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State of the Bible 2017

Since 2011 the Barna Group has conducted an annual survey concerning the state of the Bible in the USA. The survey is commissioned by the American Bible Society and aims to gather insights into the multifaceted relationship that Americans have with God’s Word.

This year’s findings revealed the following:

  • Two-thirds of Americans read, listen to or pray with the Bible (16% daily, 21% once a week or more, 7% once a month, 6% a few times a year).
  • Bible usage is highest among Black American practicing Protestants who live in the South.
  • The average Bible user reads the Bible for 30 minutes during each sitting.
  • Lower income people (less than $50K annually) read the Bible more frequently than higher income people (more than $100K annually).
  • While the KJV is the most popular version it’s usage is declining (down 14% since 2011).
  • The NIV is the second most popular version followed by the ESV.
  • The primary reason why two-thirds of Bible readers connect with the Bible is because it “brings them closer to God.”
  • Nearly 60% of adults indicate that they want to read the Bible more frequently.
  • Bible reading increases when it is seen to be an important part of a person’s faith journey.
  • Bible reading declines when people are too busy with the responsibilities of life, start doubting their faith, face trauma, or leave the church.
  • There is a decline in Bible reading among Millennials.
  • Favourable emotions when reading the Bible included feelings of peace (49%), hope (45%), happiness (29%), and intrigue (19%).
  • Unfavourable emotions when reading the Bible included feelings of being overwhelmed (13%) or confused (12%).
  • Nearly half of the Bible readers give a lot of thought to how the Bible applies to their lives.
  • Most people prefer to use a printed Bible (91%) for reading the Scriptures yet they also use non-print formats (smart phone, apps, podcasts, internet, audio) for reading the Bible (92%).

For more information click here to download the whole report.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5