Jump Into The Word

Bible Engagement Blog


1 Comment

Improving Bible Engagement in the Church

Getting a congregation connected with God’s Word is essential for spiritual health and growth. That’s why improving Bible engagement in the church is a top priority for most pastors. So how can pastors do it well? Here are some tried and tested ways to ramp up Bible engagement in the church:

Take small steps – Most people in most churches don’t read the Bible regularly, and they feel like failures. Don’t guilt-trip them. Acknowledge the challenges. Start slow. “Tiptoe if you must, but take a step,” Naeem Callaway, CEO of Get Out the Box. Set attainable goals. It’s unlikely that someone will go from zero to hero in a few weeks. Be community-minded. Do it together and encourage each other to keep moving forward.

Recommend a range of versions – To endorse only one version of the Bible in a world full of options is narrow-minded and counterproductive. Don’t promote your favourite version as the best choice for everyone. Due to different reading and comprehension levels, people require different versions. The best version is the one a person is most likely to read. Help individuals understand, navigate, and choose options best suited to them.

Use Bibles together – When you’re gathered in a small group or church service, invite people to turn to a given text or passage in a printed or on an electronic device. Aim to get everyone interacting personally and directly with the Bible. When preaching or teaching, make sure you do it in a way that gets people looking at and reading their own Bibles. Ask questions that prompt people to search the text for answers. Small actions can birth big outcomes. Encouraging people to use their Bibles publicly (a small action) may spur them to use their Bibles privately (a big outcome).

Be practical – There’s no right way or better way to engage with the Bible, only different ways. Each of us has preferences that suit our personalities, learning styles, and temperaments. Author of the E100 Bible Engagement Challenge Whitney T. Kuniholm says people get more out of their daily Bible reading if they understand their devotional personalities. These devotional personalities include early birds (classic morning devotionalists), mid-day breakers (read during the lunch break), commuter seekers (connect during bus or train rides), night watchers (enjoy the Scriptures when everyone is asleep), and free spirits (whenever it happens).

Make it shareable – Connect congregations around Bible passages, scripture texts, or biblical themes. Create memes of key verses used in sermons and post them on social media. Update your website every week with the Scripture passage that your small groups are studying. Print a weekly memory verse and tuck it into the service bulletin. Live stream your services using church streaming software and solutions. Think multi-generationally. Involve and include all age groups. Check out ProChurch Media, Open Network, or Church Media Drop for free graphics you can use right away.

Tell compelling stories – If the pastor promotes it, it goes a long way to people doing it. Advocate and motivate people to integrate Bible engagement into their daily lives. An effective way to do this is through personal testimonies extolling the benefits of daily Bible engagement. Pew Research states that 37% of Christians don’t believe Bible reading is essential, and 21% don’t consider the Bible an important part of their Christian identity! Challenge these assumptions. Share persuasive stories to encourage and inspire Bible engagement. Catalyze an annual Bible engagement campaign.

Go digital or go home – People carry phones they can use to connect with God’s Word anywhere at any time. Teach them how to access and use Bible apps like YouVersion, Bible.is, Glo Bible, Logos Bible, or Bible Gateway. Use a digital version on Sundays in your services. Encourage people to share scripture memes on Facebook and Instagram. Free shareable Bible memes are available from DailyBibleMeme, Bible.com, and other sites.

Link it to Jesus – To be a Christian is to be a follower of Jesus. To be a follower of Jesus, we have to listen to Him. To listen to Him, we have to read/hear His Word. If we don’t read/hear His Word, we can’t be a follower of Jesus! Teach this truth clearly, frequently and earnestly. We can’t grow in our relationship with Christ if we’re not receiving, reflecting, and responding to His Word. Bible engagement isn’t a spiritual option; it’s a spiritual necessity. This is Christianity 101. Loving Jesus is tied to loving His Word.

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

Bad News – Good News

According to Stephen Bullivant, a professor of theology and the sociology of religion at St Mary’s University in London, “Christianity as a default, as a norm, is gone, and probably gone for good – or at least for the next 100 years.” [The Guardian, March 2018].

Is Christianity in Europe as a default, as a norm, gone? Research seems to support Bullivant’s conclusion. Data from the European Social Survey 2014-16 indicates that “the new default setting is ‘no religion’, and the few who are religious see themselves as swimming against the tide.”

German theologian, Evi Rodemann, seems to concur. In response to a Pew Research survey, she says, “German Protestants have to a huge degree lost their Christian identity and Christian history is often just a cultural decoration.” Church planting expert Dietrich Schindler adds, “German Protestantism is anemic at best, irrelevant at least.” [Joel Forster, Evangelical Focus, February 28, 2019]

From the mountain-top to the valley. In the 19th Century, the church in the UK was the hub for the greatest missionary advance the world has ever seen. Now, according to statistician Peter Brierley, 95% of UK children and young people don’t go to church [UK Church Statistics 2, 2010-2020, Tonbridge: ADBC Publishers, 2014]. It’s a similar story in Germany. Five-hundred years after the reformation, Christian faith has been pushed to the margins (Evangelicals account for 2% of Christians in Germany).

Christian faith in North America is also in free-fall. According to the Pew Research Center, the growth of the religiously unaffiliated in Canada and the USA has gone from about 4% in the 1970s to more than 20% in 2010. In Canada, religious disaffiliation for those born in 1987-1995 is 30%. The trends reveal that every successive generation of North Americans is more secular than the previous generation.

What’s collapsed in the UK and Germany, and is collapsing in North America, is cultural-historic Protestantism. Cultural historic Protestantism is religion focused on hard work, thrift, and efficiency, i.e. it places an emphasis on religious duty and using God-given resources at each individual’s disposal. Rodemann describes it as “reason (not Christ) alone, my work (not grace) alone, my self-reliance (not faith) alone, and my philosophy of life (not Scripture) alone.”

That’s the bad news.

But the bad news may be good news.

The purpose of writing the jumpintotheword blog is tied to sola scriptura. The collapse of cultural historic Protestantism is therefore good news because religion (institutional traditional systems) is the enemy of Bible engagement (see my previous article The Scourge of Bible Engagement). And it’s good news because the disintegration of cultural historic Protestantism means the Christian slate is being wiped clean.

With the Christian slate being wiped clean, cultural-historic Protestantism can be replaced with something new. The million-dollar question is, “What will be the nature and purpose of the church that replaces cultural-historic Protestantism?”

Biblical scholar Richard Halverson says, “When the Greeks got the Gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a government; when the Europeans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business.”

Missional culture guru JR Woodward says, “We are called to incarnate the Good News, not to overcontextualize it.”

Incarnating the Gospel: With the decline of cultural historic Protestantism, there are unprecedented opportunities to get back to God’s Word – back to reimagining the church – back to the church as a spiritual organism – back to embodying and proclaiming Jesus Christ.

Yes, the bad news may be good news. With the spiritual vacuum that now exists in Europe and is growing in North America, opportunities to re-imagine and reform the church abound. But as we take advantage of the opportunities, we must make sure we don’t overcontextualize the Gospel.

To guard against overcontextualizing the Gospel, we must safeguard the way in which we connect with the Bible. We must make sure we don’t read God’s Word in ways that adapt it to our culture. We must be careful not to read God’s Word in ways that interpret our existing church practices back into the text. And we must get back to reading its essence – back to understanding the Gospel, not in the milieu of the shifting sands of postmodernity, but in the framework of the life, death, resurrection, and return of Jesus Christ.

All this to say that a new season of Bible engagement is needed for the changing times. A season where we break free from the subtle entrapment of deeply entrenched unbiblical traditions. A season where we biblically re-evaluate what the meetings of the church should look like in order to express Jesus Christ in all His fullness. And a season where we practically, and not just intellectually, believe that the Word of God shows us how to truly worship and live for Jesus Christ alone.

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5