Jump Into The Word

Bible Engagement Blog


3 Comments

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


Leave a comment

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

??????????????????????

 


Leave a comment

Outliers

Today, for the first time, November 24, the National Bible Association, in partnership with YouVersion, American Bible Society,  Bible Gateway and Scripture Union, has suggested we celebrate the International Day of the Bible. Organizers are encouraging people to find ways to honour, show appreciation for God’s Word, and to use #BibleCelebration when posting online comments, videos, photos and creative expressions. [Click here for Twitter and Facebook]

So here’s the jumpintotheword Bible Engagement Blog contribution:

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success*, argues that success is due to much more than intelligence and ambition. According to Gladwell there is one very important factor that enables people to be extremely successful – the amount of time they spend pursuing/practicing a specific activity or pursuit.

In a study of college music majors, Gladwell discovered that students who had practised for 4-6 thousand hours on their instruments usually become music teachers, those who had practised for 6-8 thousand hours usually became music performers, and those who had practised for 10,000 hours had the potential to be world-class musicians. The 10,000 hour plateau also applies to writers, painters, football players, astronomers, gymnasts, researchers, sculptors, actors – to everyone in the arts, academics or athletics.

If Bible engagement was our college major, then to become Bible teachers we would need to read/reflect/practice it for 4 hours every day for 365 days of the year for 3-4 years. To go to the next level (maybe a teacher of teachers) we would need to read/reflect/practice the Bible for 6 hours every day for 365 days of the year for 3-4 years. To be world class we would need to read/reflect/practice the Bible for 8 hours every day of the year for 3.5 years.

Most of us aren’t able to commit 4-8 hours a day over 3-4 years to Bible reading/reflection/practice. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible for us to attain a level of engagement with the Bible that would, by Gladwell’s measure, be considered world class status.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Ten-thousand hours is attainable when it’s accrued over a longer period. If one goes to church every week for 2 hours, attends a weekly Bible study group for 2 hours, and reads the Bible for 1 hour every day; it takes about 17 and a half years to attain world class status.

Of course it requires much more than time spent reading/reflecting/practicing the Bible to become mature in the Word. We should probably add that to attain world class Bible engagement status we need the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and minds (cf. Psalm 119:36Romans 12:2), the recognition that we can’t do it in the flesh (cf. Galatians 5:17), a willingness to hear the word of God and obey it (cf. James 1:25), and the desire to see our lives becoming more and more about Jesus (cf. Colossians 3:1-3).

* An outlier is a statistical term referring to an extreme observation, i.e. an observation point that is distant from other observations or belonging to something different to the rest of a sample set.

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


2 Comments

Top Five Picks

Have you read the best of the 2013 jumpintotheword Bible Engagement Blog posts? Here are the top five picks:

1. Why Christians Don’t Read the Bible – Yes, you read the title correctly. Research indicates that most Christians don’t read the Bible regularly. Here are their reasons . . . https://www.jumpintotheword.com/2013/08/01/why-christians-dont-read-the-bible/

2. Bible Engagement in a Digital Age – Technology writer, Richard Carr, suggests that books and book reading are in their “cultural twilight.” Some may disagree with Carr, but we can’t ignore the fact that innovation and change brought about by the digital revolution are reshaping the way people read . . . https://www.jumpintotheword.com/2013/11/08/bible-engagement-in-a-digital-age/

3. Pensees and Questions – What will the shape of Bible engagement be in the years to come? Here are some pensees and questions for consideration . . . https://www.jumpintotheword.com/2013/05/13/pensees-and-questions/

4. Why Pastors Should Make Bible Engagement Their Priority – The single most beneficial thing pastors can do for their congregations is help them read and reflect on the Scriptures. Bible engagement is critical for spiritual health and growth. The primary catalyst for developing mature Christians is Bible reading coupled with reflection. In fact Scripture reflection has twice the power of any other spiritual discipline to advance people in their love for God and others . . . https://www.jumpintotheword.com/2013/03/04/why-pastors-should-make-bible-engagement-their-priority/

5. How Do You Read the Bible? – People read the Bible differently. Some read it flippantly, fancifully, dismissively, selfishly or subjectively. Others read it academically or ardently. How do you read it? . . . https://www.jumpintotheword.com/2013/04/25/how-do-you-read-the-bible/

© Scripture Union Canada 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Leave a comment

Family Faith Formation

Family matters! Here are several practical suggestions to help get the family into the Word:

  • Use versions of the Bible suitable for the grade level of each member of the family. You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but some parents give their children the KJV, NRSV, RSV or NASB (versions using grade 11 language). A child should understand what he or she is reading. Consider giving children the NIrV, NCV, TEV or NLT (versions using grade 3-6 language), give teens the CEB or NKJV (versions using grade 8 language) and give young adults the ESV or NIV (versions using grade 10 language).
  • Utilize video, internet and other technology to augment and accentuate the stories of the Bible. About two thirds of 8-18 year olds own cell phones, iPods or MP3 players and about one third own laptops. In a multimedia society it’s essential for families to be able to interact with the Bible electronically. Use social media and other means to share, tweet, text or comment on a verse.
  • Have Scripture easily accessible around the home. Display favourite verses with cool prints. Hang up Scripture posters or write/paint a special text for a child or teen on the walls in their rooms.
  • Enjoy family devotionals after dinner every day. Get everyone involved. Be enthusiastic, authentic and creative. Act out scenes in the Bible with props and costumes, pull out instruments and worship, download YouTube videos, benefit from hearty theological debates, read Bible narratives dramatically with each characters ‘lines’ in the story read by different members of the family, etc.
  • Help children and teens pick out devotionals they like at a local Christian bookstore or online. For great age appropriate Bible reading guides check out  http://scriptureunion.ca/bible-guides
  • Pray and read the Bible with young children before they go to bed. There are excellent biblical books for young children available at http://scriptureunion.ca/books-for-children
  • Be seen to be reading and reflecting on the Bible. More is caught than taught! When we see other members of the family digging into the Word it encourages us to do likewise.

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


Leave a comment

Opposition to Bible Engagement

Many Canadians reject the Bible because they distrust it. The reason why many Canadians distrust the Bible is because they do not believe in metanarratives*. Distrust in metanarratives has arguably done more to alienate people from the Bible than any other aspect associated with culture.

In an online survey inviting feedback on why people think the Bible is not relevant, some of the remarks were:  “The Bible is one gigantic anachronism”, “It’s a book – nothing more!”, “It cannot be accepted as a reliable document”, “It reflects a worldview out of date with scientific advances”, and “There is more than one holy book, more than one religion.” [Source: June/July 2009 online survey conducted by SGM Canada with 66 Canadian humanists, atheists and agnostics]

Coupled with the distrust that many Canadians have for the Bible is the popular notion that there are no absolutes and no objective or exclusive truth. There is also the view that reality is unknowable, language does not convey reality, and everything is therefore open to the interpretation and perspective of the individual. As a direct and indirect result of these ideas many Canadians have typically adopted pluralism and multiculturalism. The outcome of adopting pluralism and multiculturalism has been the elevation of tolerance as a prime social norm.

Distrust in metanarratives places popular culture in direct conflict with Christian faith. The clash is fiercest over the Christian belief that the Bible is truth (the belief that the Bible is truth because it agrees with God, who is absolute, and describes who He is – the Truth). Based on the conviction that the Bible is truth, Christians believe that the Bible is authoritative. This explains in part why, when Christians try to gain an audience for Bible engagement, they are labeled as intolerant, ignorant or arrogant.

How is the church responding to people who are alienated or in conflict with the Bible? Some elements of the church (Conservative Catholics, Conservative Evangelicals and Fundamentalists) adopt a defensive attitude (isolate/insulate themselves) or go on the offensive by working hard to make the Bible available and accessible (mostly using approaches developed more than 50 years ago). Making the Bible available has not helped stem the decline in Bible engagement. Other elements of the church (Liberal Protestants and Liberal Catholics) are generally not concerned. They have little interest in functioning as conduits for Bible engagement and do next to nothing to promote the Bible or invite interaction with it. In practice they accommodate popular culture by favouring a broad humanism and acquiescing to the deconstruction of the Bible.

So is there any hope for Bible engagement? Yes! There are elements of the church (mainly Evangelicals) attempting to creatively re-imagine and critically re-form their faith and practice around what Marcus Borg describes as a “transformation-centered paradigm”.  Within this paradigm Christians are re-conceiving, articulating and embodying the Story in contextually meaningful ways. This includes efforts to restore the message of the Bible (e.g. SU Canada’s  theStory™), invitations to read the Bible as a narrative of faith (e.g. SU Canada’s free e-book – Taste and See: An Invitation to Read the Bible), re-imagining language and relationships (e.g. SGM Canada encourages the development of relationships and companionship as the primary catalyst for Bible engagement), and inviting people to participate and enter into conversations/dialogue with the narrative of the Story in communal and inclusive forums. Added to this is the understanding that our invitations to engage with the Bible will be fruitless if we attempt anything without grace, vulnerability and humility.

*Metanarratives are defined as narratives about narratives that give a totalizing, comprehensive account to various historical events, experiences, and social, cultural phenomena based upon the appeal to universal truth and values.

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


1 Comment

Distractions and Diversions

What is the best English version of the Bible? That’s an important question, isn’t it? And the answer is the ________________ (fill in the blank).

Personally I don’t think preferences for one Bible version or another is that important! In fact it saddens me deeply that there are churches and Christians who will not associate with other churches and Christians because they don’t use the version they use. Shame on us! I find it hard to believe that God authorizes or favors one version of His Word over another.

Arguments about what may or may not be the best version of the Bible are distractions and diversions. Far more important than what Bible we may read is this: Are we meeting God in and through His Word? Are we entering into His Story and finding our part in the drama of salvation? And are we seeing His Word shape and mold us to be more like Him?

That’s not to say that all English versions are equal. All of them are translations from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts. Because all English Bibles are translations, they have limitations. The reality is that even a so called “weak” translation may in parts be better than a “strong” translation. And more, let’s note that both “weak” and “strong” Bible translations, compared to other books, have usually been scrupulously researched, subjected to painstaking textual criticism, and assembled by outstanding scholars.

So what is the best English version of the Bible? The one that gets read! When we read the Bible, be it a “weak” or “strong” translation; let’s remember the Bible is more than words. God is not limited by one version or another. When we read the version in our hands the Holy Spirit can and will lead us to God, incarnate truth, and breathe life into us.

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


Leave a comment

When the Going Gets Tough

TOUGH goingSomeone recently said to me, “I’m embarrassed to say this, but I have to admit that my Bible reading’s dry – I’m getting nothing out of it. I’ve been reading the Bible for fifty years and for the past two years it’s been a grinding routine.” “I know”, I replied. “Sometimes it can be a tough slog. I’ve had times when it feels like there’s nothing fresh.” We chatted for some time . . .

So how do we turn it around when we’re struggling to meet with God through His Word? What do we do when our expectations of hearing God speaking through the Scriptures are at an all time low? Here are some suggestions:

  • Mix it up. Sometimes we get in a rut. We read the same version of the Bible over and over again. Why not try a different version or a paraphrase? There are more than 800 English versions to choose from!
  • Connect with others. Personal Bible reading and reflection must be balanced with communal reading and reflection. Why? Because two are better than one. When one falls down the other can help pick him/her up (cf. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
  • Open up. The Bible is good news for our lives. Are we reading it as such? Let’s be careful not to tame the Word or reduce it to the scale of our own ideas. Before reading the Scriptures we should ask God to unlock our minds to His transforming power (cf. Romans 12:2).
  • Use a reading guide. Be alert to the insights that come through others. Yes I know the Holy Spirit is the Teacher and instructs us directly from the Word, but He also works through human teachers to unpack the meaning of a text, challenge our prejudices and expose our blind spots.
  • Linger longer. We’re more likely to encounter God when we slow down. Most of us live with the tyranny of the urgent, but not God! To meet on His turf we must “be still” (cf. Psalm 46:10), which in context means “Enough! Stop trying to have control over things!”
  • Focus. There’s a tendency to read the Bible almost exclusively to find out what to do. We should rather read it to find out who we are and who we ought to be. Interact with the Bible like you would with a mirror. Look into it and ask, “Who am I? Who do You want me to be?”
  • Live it. God’s Word has a claim on our lives – a purpose. We should be living epistles. The litmus test of Bible reading is whether or not we’ve acted on what we’ve discovered. Bible reading must translate into a response. Imitate Jesus (cf. Philippians 2:1-11). Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (cf. Micah 6:8).

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


1 Comment

Reading the Whole Story

How do you read the Bible? A little bit of this, a little bit of that? A verse here a verse there? Some folk slice and dice it – treat it like a piecemeal diet. What about you? Is your Bible reading just the bare necessities – a text with a blessed thought that’s easily digested in two-minutes?

Scripture should be read holistically. The Bible shouldn’t be reduced to a depository of spiritual truisms or selected nuggets we occasionally mine. When we read the Bible we must read texts in their contexts and stories within the framework of the grand Story. Why? Because the meaning of the texts and stories are accurately gleaned only when we read with a clear understanding of the larger context and themes of the books and Bible as a whole.

God speaks to us through His Word. When texts or stories are read in isolation they can be interpreted with meaning they were never meant to convey. God wants us to know truth. When we de-contextualize Scripture or read passages divorced from the overarching narrative we may miss out on what God is really saying. So let’s make sure we don’t short circuit the process of God speaking to us – let’s read the whole Story.

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


Leave a comment

New Year Resolutions

The beginning of a new year signals a new start. Many of us get freshly motivated to do better than we did the year before. Christians often think about how they can improve their Bible reading. The trouble is they tried that last year, and the year before, and when they hit Numbers their days were numbered! March comes and goes and our good intentions to read through the Bible are nothing more than a distant memory.

So what can we do this year so that our resolution to read the Bible doesn’t fizzle out? Here are three practical suggestions:

1. Get connected. Don’t go it alone. When we read the Bible in isolation we’re more likely to run out of steam. So invite your spouse, one or two friends, or a sibling to join you in 2013. Work together to set goals, figure out how you’ll be accountable, find times to chat about what you’re reading and spur each other along.

2. Be realistic. Sometimes we set ourselves unreachable goals. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s better to read shorter portions of Scripture that you ponder on than read lengthy sections that go in one ear and out the other. So read less and meditate more. And, most importantly, read only what you can absorb and apply.

3. Use resources. Bible reading coupled with reflection is the primary catalyst in the development of our spiritual health and growth. If you’re a newbie to Bible reading consider using the E100 Challenge to get an overview of the major themes of the Bible. If you’re a veteran Bible reader consider using one of Scripture Union’s Bible Reading Guides – Daily Bread, Encounter With God, Closer to God. You can also download the eDaily Devotions for free.

Now onward and upward with this year’s Bible reading resolution!

© Scripture Union Canada 2013

Privacy Policy