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Bible Engagement Defined

What do we mean by the term Bible engagement?

Bible engagement is the process that connects us with the Bible so that we have meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ in order for our lives to be progressively transformed in Him.

To elaborate: Bible engagement happens through the course of our lives as we find our part in God’s Story. For Bible engagement to happen we must first come together with and develop a vital relationship with Christ. The relationship begins and proceeds by grace and through faith as Christ saves us from sin and sanctifies us by the Spirit. Bible engagement is evidenced through ongoing obedience to God’s Word that’s seen in life-changes that take place individually and in community.

According to James 1:17-25, there are four actions involved in Bible engagement:

  1. Receive God’s Word – “humbly accept” James 1:21.
  2. Reflect on God’s Word – “looks intently” James 1:25.
  3. Remember God’s Word – “not forgetting” James 1:25.
  4. Respond to God’s Word – “doing it” James 1:22-23, 25.

 

To effectively receive, reflect, remember and respond to God’s Word there are several things we need to know:

  1. Bible engagement flows out of an intimate reciprocating relationship with Jesus. The motivation for reading, reflecting, remembering and responding to the Word is only as strong as our love for Christ. The more we love Jesus, the greater our drive to engage with His Word will be.
  2. Bible engagement is a process. There are no shortcuts. It involves what the scholar and author Eugene Peterson, calls “a long obedience in the same direction” – a course of action that’s repeated over and over again through the ups and downs of life.
  3. Bible engagement involves desire. When our desire to receive, reflect, remember and respond to the Word is greater than staying where we are, we’ll be on the way toward regular and consistent engagement with the Word.
  4. Bible engagement requires discipline. Daily choices about how we prioritize our time must be made in order to grow stronger in our engagement with God’s Word. Praying or hoping for a better connection with the Bible is futile if we spend our time glued to the TV or consumed by social media.
  5. Bible engagement is fuelled by the Holy Spirit. “The same Holy Spirit who inspired Bible authors to write, inspires Bible readers to understand and accept it, as God’s Word,” says David Jackman, president of the Proclamation Trust. Self-efforts to improve our engagement with the Bible will end in failure. We’ll only mature in receiving, reflection, remembering and responding to the Word when we seek the daily filling of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Real Bible engagement is initiated and enabled when we recognize our impotence – then invite the Holy Spirit to equip us as we listen, learn and live out God’s Word.
  6. Bible engagement is a challenge. The enemy of God, Satan, does not want us to engage with the Bible. The spiritual forces of darkness work actively to distract, divert, daunt, deceive or defeat us when we seek to receive, reflect, remember and respond to God’s Word.
  7. Bible engagement results in action. In the Parable of the Sower, the climax of the story comes when people “hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop” Mark 4:20. When hearing the Bible results in people becoming living epistles, i.e., being life words, then Bible engagement has occurred. Producing a crop is the ultimate goal. It’s not enough to hear the Word and accept it; the inward must become outward – the concealed must be revealed.

 

All told, Bible engagement is foundational and imperative for God’s people. So “get them (the Scriptures) inside of you and then get them inside your children” Deuteronomy 6:7 (MSG).

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Defined

Bible engagement defined by agencies, forums, societies, centers and research groups has many shades of meaning. Here are some definitions:

Scripture engagement is an identity-forming, learning experience, rooted in the Scriptures and practiced throughout the history of the church, involving the whole person, in which the Word of God, mediated in culture, restores, renews and equips people-in-community, enabling them to embody Christ authentically in the world as His agents of reconciliation and social transformation. American Bible Society

Scripture engagement is encountering God through the Bible to become faithful followers of Jesus Christ. American Bible Society

Bible engagement includes action, whether people are intentionally and frequently engaged in using Scripture (either reading or hearing it read) and attitude, whether people believe the Bible to be the inspired and authoritative Word of God. Barna Group

An encounter with God/Jesus/Holy Spirit 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. Bible Research Summit (compilation of group definitions)

The Bible is well-engaged when a community: has access to a well-translated text in its natural literary forms, feasts on whole literary units read in context, understands the overall story and accepts the invitation to take up its own role in the great drama. Biblica

Bible engagement is the act of receiving what the Word of God has to say by reading or listening to the Bible, reflecting on the Scripture, and responding to the biblical truths in your daily life. Center for Bible Engagement, Back to the Bible

Scripture Engagement is encountering God’s Word in a life-changing way. Forum of Bible Agencies International

Bible engagement is peeling back the covers of God’s Word to discover the hopes and promises of the Bible and discovering what God has to say to you, no matter what your situation; that results in hearts changed, lives transformed and an unrelenting drive to be like Jesus to this broken world. Forum of Bible Agencies – North America

Bible engagement is allowing God, through His Word, to lead and change an individual’s life – one’s direction, thinking and actions. LifeWay Research

Scripture engagement is frequency of engagement in the spiritual practice of reflection on Scripture. REVEAL

Bible engagement is the process whereby people are connected with the Bible such that they have meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ and their lives are progressively transformed in Him. Scripture Union Canada

Bible engagement is the process of taking in and living out God’s Word for the purpose of knowing him better and experiencing him more. Scripture Union USA

Scripture engagement is a way of hearing and reading the Bible with an awareness that it is in the Scriptures that we primarily meet God. It is a marinating, mulling over, reflecting, dwelling on, pondering of the Scriptures, resulting in a transformative engagement with God. Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement

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. Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement

Scripture engagement is facilitating life-changing encounters with God through His Word. Wycliffe Scripture Engagement Forum

Please make a comment to share your definition of Bible engagement.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

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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Letting the Bible Have Its Way with Us

Most of us think of Bible engagement as giving people a Bible,reading or studying the Bible, giving our loyalty to the Bible, or the work associated with Bible translation, linguistics and publishing. At Scripture Union Canada we believe Bible engagement should go beyond these transactional and cognitive elements to embrace and emphasise encounter, relationship, interaction, and transformation. That is, Bible engagement is the process whereby people are connected with the Bible such that they have meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ and their lives are progressively transformed in Him.     

Bible engagement is about people meeting the One of whom the Bible speaks and being changed by His Story. For Bible engagement to occur, transformation, not information, should be the desired end. When transformation is the desired end then Bible engagement is first and foremost about letting the Bible have its way with us.

Roy Harrisville in “The Loss of Biblical Authority and Its Recovery”, in Reclaiming the Bible for the Church, eloquently makes the point that the Bible “will have a man’s or woman’s heart and soul, and if not, it will work despair . . . whoever you are, if you do not repent and believe the testimony laid down in this book concerning God and his Christ, it will judge you to inconsequence, render your reading of it, your interpretation of it, your preaching on it a comic spectacle to the world to which you believed you had to adjust it.”

The point is this: Bible engagement should be more than connecting with a book (even when it is described or thought of as the Book of books). Bible engagement should be a connection with the triune God’s Story in a way in which a person’s or communities’ story intersects with, is changed by, and finds its place in the Story.

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2011