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Top Ten Bible Engagement Practices

Bible engagement can be a hit-or-miss affair for many people. That’s unfortunate and unnecessary. There are tried and tested things we can do to develop and maintain regular engagement with God’s Word.

Gleaned from decades of learning and teaching, here are my top ten Bible engagement practices to equip you to jump in and stay connected with God’s Word:

Connect with the author. The Bible is more than words. Bible engagement is Jesus engagement. Concentrate less on what the Bible is saying and more on who the Bible is talking about (Jesus). Prayerfully aim to meet Jesus in and through your encounters with the Word. According to theologian and author Scot McKnight, the aim of Bible engagement isn’t to know the Bible; it’s to know the God of the Bible. Seek Him, and you’ll find Him (cf. Jeremiah 29:13). While He’s often hidden, He reveals Himself when you search diligently. You’ll know you’ve found Him when your heart feels like it’s on fire (cf. Luke 24:32).

Discover your Bible engagement disposition. Different personalities connect with the Bible in different ways. There’s no one way or right way to receive, reflect, and respond to God’s Word. Some like to study it; others like to soak in it. Figure out how you’re wired. What’s your devotional temperament? You may prefer to sing, journal, question, draw, contemplate, or pray the Bible.

See it as a lifelong journey. The Bible isn’t a book you read from beginning to end, and then you’re done. It’s a companion on a voyage where you spend time together until you reach the final destination. Your time together doesn’t happen willy-nilly. Create a plan. There must be direction and planning so that Bible engagement happens in a structured manner.

Keep it at your fingertips. There are moments available every day to engage with God’s Word. Instead of checking your emails or scrolling through Facebook, open the Bible app on your phone or tablet. When you’re driving to work or soaking in the tub, listen to a Psalm or short passage of Scripture on YouVersion.

Do it with others. When Bible engagement is a community experience, it creates an inflow of inspiration and positive reinforcement. We’re better together. Individual engagement with God’s Word requires substantial personal discipline. But when you’re accountable to someone, it strengthens engagement. Sharing and discussing your encounters with the Word also deepens your understanding and enhances your memorization.

Read it on its own terms. Don’t try to manipulate or control it. The Bible has authority over your life, not the other way around. Be humble. Let the Bible read you. Bible engagement is a living experience. Place yourself under the Word and invite it to interpret you.

Put yourself into the story. Exercise sanctified imagination to enter into it. Bible engagement requires participation. Move beyond simply reading or listening. Envision yourself as one of the characters or see yourself in the original situation. Once you’ve entered it, immerse yourself in it. Set the scene, play the part, and be carried along by the drama of the narrative.

Share it. God’s Word needs to be on your lips as much as it’s in your heart. Please don’t keep it to yourself. Meet with a friend via Zoom. When you verbalize and teach it, you absorb it. Tell your family how God’s Word speaks to you. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” Mark 16:15.

Try something new. English poet William Cowper said, “Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.” Revive old habits with fresh routines. If you’ve been doing a verse-by-verse reading, try whole book reading. If you’ve been using one version, switch to another. If you usually read the Bible, listen to a Bible audiobook instead.

Live it out. Bible engagement is as much about your hands and feet as it is about your head and heart. It comes alive when you put it into practice. Be a Nike Christian; Just do it! Bible engagement is more than gleaning information; it should result in transformation. Obey it. Become more like Jesus, not just in how you think and what you value but also in what you say and do.

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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What Can the Bible Do For You?

Remarkably, because it’s living and active (cf. Hebrews 4:12), the Bible can do what no other book can do; it can renovate, renew, and refurbish your life! This is what the Bible can do for you:

Awaken your faith. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” Romans 10:17.

Transform your life. “They are not just idle words for you—they are your life” Deuteronomy 32:47.

Show you the way to salvation. “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” 2 Timothy 3:14-15.

Save your soul. “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 1:21.

Equip you to do what’s right and good. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Preserve you from sinning. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” Psalm 119:11.

Keep you on track. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” Psalm 119:150.

Give you wisdom and understanding. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding” Psalm 111:10.

Grow your faith. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” Romans 10:17.

Increase your intelligence. “Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies.  I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes” Psalm 119:98-99.

Be your counsellor. “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counsellors” Psalm 119:24.

Offer guidance. “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” Psalm 119:130.

Instruct you in righteousness. “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word” Psalm 119:9.

Bring you success. “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” Joshua 1:8.

Help you persevere. “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction” Psalm 19:92.

Give you joy. “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart” Psalm 19:8.

Provide peace and security. “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble” Psalm 119:165.

Make you productive. “But whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers” Psalm 1:2-3.

Fill you with hope. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” Romans 15:4.

Refresh and strengthen you. “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul” Psalm 19:7.

Nourish you. “The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life” John 6:63. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” Deuteronomy 8:3.

Prolong your life. “By them (God’s words) you will live long …” Deuteronomy 32:47b.

Bless all you do. “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do” James 1:25.

The Bible will also rebuke you when you step out of line (cf. Psalm 119:21), take honour away from you when you don’t follow the Scriptures wholeheartedly (cf. Psalm 119:80), cut through your selfishness to humble you (cf. Jeremiah 23:29), and judge the thoughts and attitudes of your heart (cf. Hebrews 4:12).

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Ten Ways We Hinder Bible Engagement

Tragically, we’re prone to reducing the Bible to something manageable, comfortable, or palatable. When we reduce the Bible to something less than it’s meant to be, we handicap Bible engagement.

Here are ten ways we hinder Bible engagement:

Marginalizing – We shut down the Bible when it’s treated as something insignificant or trivial. Pagans do this all the time, but so do Christians. When we say we’re Bible-believing but don’t open it to read it, we’re side-lining it. And when we open it to read it but don’t obey it, we’re not giving it the worthy response it deserves.

Sanitizing – When we connect with the things we like in the Bible but not the things we dislike, we strip the Bible of its efficacy. Are we worried that people will pull back from God if we reveal His whole character? If we feel we have to clean up the Bible by avoiding difficult, controversial, or distasteful passages, we’ve stepped out of line.

Romanticizing – Treating the Bible in an idealized way, as a heroic tale or a book about flawless heroes should be anathema. On one level, the Bible is a love letter; but it’s also a record of humanity’s sin, selfishness, guilt, shame, tragedy, deviancy, darkness and despair. When we engage with the Bible we must engage with it warts and all!

Trivializing – There are occasions (e.g. teaching the Bible to children) when we use approaches designed to make Bible engagement fun. While fun in and of itself isn’t wrong, we should never be amused spectators or reduce the Bible to our carnal level. When the Bible is equated with feel-good preaching or entertaining story-telling, we’ve missed the mark.

Moralizing – The Bible is the doorway to redemption and reconciliation in Christ Jesus. If we diminish it to a niggling petition for ethical change, we close it down. The Bible should never be used to impose control, make demands, get people to conform, or make others feel guilty. It’s not a narrative on issues of right and wrong or a book of moral stories. And it’s never more important to be good than to know Jesus.

Legalizing – While the Bible contains statutes, precepts and commands, it’s not a book of rules per se. Nor is it the means to teach behaviour modification as the be-all and end-all of Christian living. The Bible should never be manipulated to keep people in little boxes. We lock the Bible down if we don’t understand that biblical law only makes sense within the context of faith alone, in Christ alone, through grace alone (cf. Romans 10:4, Galatians 6:2, Ephesians 2:8-9).

Sensationalizing – While the Bible is sensational (extraordinary), it shouldn’t be sensationalized (embellished or overstated). Presenting the Bible in ways designed to provoke interest and excitement at the expense of accuracy is always wrong and always impedes meaningful encounters with the One who is the Word, Jesus Christ.

Minimalizing – Do you snack on a Bible verse a day? Do you only consult the Scriptures for guidance or directions when things go wrong? Do you select just a few favourite passages to the exclusion of others? If you’re doing these things, you’re getting in the way of the Bible fully having its way with you.

Categorizing – Sometimes we treat the Bible like a school textbook, a history of the Jewish nation, or a book of outstanding literature. The Bible is more than information, more than spiritual sayings, more than tips for better living, and more than a storehouse of doctrines or propositions. Pigeonholing the Bible as anything other than the Book of books makes a mockery of the fact that the Bible is God’s living, active, unfettered Word.

Liberalizing – When the Bible is considered fable-laden or false, when it’s treated as something that doesn’t reconcile with modern thinking, or when reason is considered to be the final authority for interpreting which teachings are correct and which are not, then the ultimate shut down of the Bible has occurred. When this happens, Bible engagement is a misnomer.

Sometimes our reductionist approaches are unintended; sometimes they’re due to inexperience, and sometimes they’re intentional. Are you helping or hampering Bible engagement? If you’re doing any of the things mentioned above, you’re reducing the Bible to something less than God intends it to be.

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Parenting and Bible Engagement

Children who experience Bible engagement as a regular slice of family life are more likely to love and live for Jesus through adulthood than children who don’t. This isn’t conjecture, it’s fact.

If you take parents from any denomination, with the same levels of faith and frequency of attendance, the parents who prioritize Bible engagement in their homes are the ones who are more likely to see their children committing themselves to Jesus and staying connected with a community of faith.

Bible engagement makes all the difference. When parents, together with their children, read, reflect, and respond to the Bible, it provides a rock-solid foundation for faith (cf. Matthew 7:24-27). But when Bible engagement is neglected in the home, children are more likely to turn their back on Jesus and leave the church.

For parents concerned about the spiritual wellbeing of their children, the answer is simple: Make Bible engagement part of daily life. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Generate regular discussions about the Word. Families who frequently talk about the Scriptures open the door for Jesus to enter in
  • Create and maintain a “sacred space” in the home. This is a designated place where a member of the family can sit and quietly read/listen to God’s Word
  • Make sure your children see you reading/listening to the Bible. This communicates non-verbally that contemplating or studying God’s Word is one of your daily priorities and core values
  • Make the Scriptures visible. For example, handwritten verses on sticky notes on the fridge door, or send verses as text messages to older children who have phones
  • Memorize Scripture. Make it a monthly challenge for the whole family (maybe practice together each night after supper)
  • Watch Bible videos/films together
  • Have Bible comics or graphic adaptations of the Bible sitting on a coffee table where they’re more likely to be picked up and read
  • Look for unplanned opportunities (teachable moments) to share biblical insights with your children  

For churches concerned about the spiritual wellbeing of children, the answer is also simple: Equip parents with Bible engagement strategies and tools. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Train parents in basic Bible engagement practices, i.e., how to interpret, teach, apply, and pray the Scriptures
  • Provide Bible reading guides suitable for families and different age groups
  • Invite families to share testimonies with the congregation about how they meet with God as a direct result of the Bible engagement that happens in their homes
  • Publicly champion the role of parents as the primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives
  • Practically encourage and build parents confidence so they can thrive in leading family Bible engagement

Parents and churches need to work together. Bible engagement is the single most important spiritual discipline in the faith development of our children. So we can’t let Bible engagement fall through the cracks. If family Bible engagement isn’t happening in the home, everything possible should be done to make it a priority.

Recommended Resource:

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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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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Consistent Bible Engagement

The more we read the Bible, the more it will read us. That’s one of the great reasons why Bible engagement should be a steady, ongoing, day-by-day concern; certainly never a hit or miss affair. Yet this isn’t always the case. Most of us don’t feed on the Word as consistently as we eat physical food. So how do we connect with the Word to be regular readers and doers of the Word? Here are three ways to strengthen Bible engagement:

  1. Do what’s achievable. The best person to figure out the best way for you to connect with the Bible in the best way is you! If you’re big on reading, do whole book reading (also called the synthetic study of the Bible). If you’re not a big reader, read smaller bite-sized chunks. If you like reading, but need visuals, try something like the Kingstone Bible or the Word for Word Bible Comic. If you don’t like reading, then listen to the Bible. Google “Free Audio Bible” and you’ll find a range of audio options to choose from. And, if you’re not a good listener, then watch a visual production – one where the dialogue is word for word according to the written text, e.g. the Lumo Project or the Visual Bible.
  2. Tap into technology. There are loads of Bible apps and plenty of online tools to help facilitate a range of Bible engagement practices. I use Bible Gateway all the time. My wife is plugged into YouVersion. Other popular apps include Bible.Is, ESV CrossWay, Glo Bible, NIV Bible by Tecarta, Blue Letter Bible, Daily Audio Bible, and the Olive Tree Bible Study App. Bible apps are especially helpful if you’re a visual or auditory preference learner, so find what works for you and implement.
  3. Do it together. Two are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9). Simply doing something with someone else is motivation in and of itself. When we journey through the Word with others, it makes it easier to engage with the Word. That’s because there’s something about helping each other stay accountable that serves to spur us on to read the Scriptures in the morning or listen to them while driving to work.

 

You can do it! Prayerfully, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, adopt these three simple tips, and you’ll fortify your connections with the Bible!

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Spiritually Malnourished

Why are so many Christians spiritually malnourished? Maybe it’s because they’re trying to survive on a starvation diet.

It’s odd. There’s plenty of spiritual food available. Yet many Christians only eat once a week. Admittedly the once a week meal is usually a feast that a pastor’s prepared. Then when everything’s been consumed, mouths are dabbed with communion napkins and we go home to live hungry lives until we can slide into a pew for the next banquet.

What’s up? Why do some of us try to exist on a diet that consists of only one or two meals every seven days? It’s bizarre! We’re not food-deprived. We could and should be enjoying an amazing buffet every day.

When we don’t eat physical food we soon become tired, weak, irritable, depressed, lack concentration, or fall sick. Something similar happens when we don’t eat spiritual food.

Just like we’re made to eat physical food, we’re made to eat spiritual food. One or two meals a week can’t sustain us and a snack every now and again is simply not enough. Physically, we need three square meals a day. Spiritually we need a substantial, satisfying and balanced meal every day.

A child learns to suckle and then chew. Many Christians are spiritually malnourished because no one’s taught them how to eat the Word.

So how do we learn to eat? By first learning how to live on milk and then learning how to live on solid food (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:2, Hebrews 5:13-14). Like everything in life, learning begins with understanding the elementary principles and practices, then building on that foundation.

Eating the Word commences with learning how to read, listen, digest, and apply the Scriptures. Once these things are mastered, we must learn how to contemplate, interpret, study, memorize, pray, teach, and live the Scriptures.

When I was a boy, my diet was basic. As I grew older, I started eating a wider range of foods. In the same way, we must start with a basic diet, then add new foods as we grow. There’s a smorgasbord of fine foods to satisfy our palates. To grow spiritually we must taste the different Bible engagement practices in order to enjoy the delights of God’s Word.

The hunger in us needs to be satiated. We were made to feed on God’s Word. Spiritual malnourishment shouldn’t exist in the Church. But that will only happen when we learn to eat the Word.

Recommended Resource:

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

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Healthy Bible Engagement

A lover who is separated from the beloved doesn’t let a love letter just sit on the kitchen table unopened for days on end with the ever-growing pile of junk mail, but instead quickly and eagerly opens it upon its arrival, reading and rereading it until the ink is nearly worn off from use. Scripture is a love letter from our Divine Bridegroom … we too should eagerly and often read the Scriptures and hear there the voice of our Beloved speaking to us. Tim Gray, “Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina.”

Bible engagement isn’t something we master overnight. “Exposure to the contents of Scripture does not necessarily lead to a transforming encounter with God’s Word,” says professor of theology J. Todd Billings. The Bible reveals while it hides and hides while it reveals. To engage the Bible successfully with our hearts, heads and hands requires much more than reading the Scriptures, listening to sermons, or memorizing some verses.

It can be a challenge to engage with the Bible. In fact, the reality for some Christians may look like this: Commit to reading the Bible every day. Do okay for a while. Fail. Try again. Do okay for a while. Fail again. Try again. Do okay for a while. Fail again. Give up.

Maybe one of the reasons why some people fail in their efforts to read, reflect, remember and respond to God’s Word is because they think it’s about them; about what they need to do to please God, how they can get Him in their lives, or how to be right with Him. That’s getting it back to front. Bible engagement isn’t about our prosperity, safety or gratification.

For others, it may be that when all is said and done, Bible engagement doesn’t really matter. In their heart of hearts, some Christians secretly wonder if reading the Bible makes a difference. They look around and see nice people who aren’t Christians and Christians who aren’t nice people, and say to themselves, “Why should I read the Bible?”

When I took to the streets and asked people why they don’t engage with the Bible, most people responded, “Because I don’t have enough time.” On the surface, this may be true. Our lives are often frenetic. On the other hand, we’re rarely too busy to surf the internet, watch television, or meet someone for a cup of tea or coffee. The truth is we think we have better things to do and we prioritize our time accordingly.

The more fundamental reason why people fail to connect with the Bible is sin. Some people shy away from reading the Bible because they’re sustaining their lives in their own strength. Our independent spirits don’t want to confess the need to be dependent on God. Pride, lack of obedience, an unwillingness to submit, and a skewed view of God result in us not doing what we should be doing.

Here’s the bottom line: Bible engagement thrives when it’s about Jesus, not when it’s about us. “He must become greater; I must become less” John 3:30. To engage fruitfully with the Bible we must look to Christ, and not ourselves. Author and pastor Eugene Peterson says, “One of the most urgent tasks facing the Christian community today is to counter self-sovereignty by reasserting what it means to live these Holy Scriptures from the inside out, instead of using them for our sincere and devout but still self-sovereign purposes.”

So Scripture is given to us to reveal Christ. Christ is the theme, purpose and interpretive key to Bible engagement. He is the motive, the means and the message. Yes, Bible engagement is challenging, but it isn’t complicated. Quite simply, if our relationship with Christ is healthy, our Bible engagement will be healthy.

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Helping the 95%

Many Christians don’t engage with the Bible because they don’t know how to. According to Dr. Phil Collins, Center for Scripture Engagement, Taylor University, “Ninety-five percent of Christians say they have never been taught how to engage Scripture.”

That’s an alarming statistic. Alarming because it indicates a dramatic failure by teachers and pastors to equip Christians at the most basic level of spiritual formation.

In fairness to teachers and pastors, they usually know a few reading-based approaches to Scripture engagement and sometimes share these approaches with their congregations. Unfortunately, many pastors know very little about non-reading or minimum reading-based approaches. This is significant because most Christians, even in literate societies, need to be taught non-reading or minimum reading-based approaches to Scripture engagement.

Helping the 95% begins with the recognition that everyone is unique and engage with the Bible in diverse ways. That’s because our brains are wired differently. Right-brain dominant thinkers prefer to engage with the Bible in more creative and artistic ways and left-brain dominant thinkers prefer to engage with the Bible in more analytical and methodical ways.

Simply telling the 95% they should engage with the Bible through reading based methods alone is grossly inadequate. Bible engagement is effective when it’s geared to a person’s governing learning style. If the 95% are going to engage Scripture well they must be taught approaches utilizing visual, auditory, reading/writing or kinesthetic styles of learning.

If you know how to do it, the rudimentary principles and practices of how to engage Scripture can be taught in a 3-hour workshop. However, this isn’t happening because most pastors and teachers don’t know how to teach others how to engage Scripture.

To address this problem, Scripture Union published Bible Engagement Basics, a handbook that equips individuals and communities with biblical strategies, approaches, tools, and principles to engage with the Bible. If pastors and teachers read Chapter 2 of Bible Engagement Basics, they will be equipped with enough content to teach the 95% how to become Bible engagers.

Most of the 95% are oral preference learners. Oral preference learners learn by listening, talking, seeing, and doing. Interactive practical workshops are therefore the ideal environment for teaching the 95% how to engage Scripture.

Learning how to engage Scripture isn’t enough in and of itself. Bible engagement needs to be cultivated. This is challenging and requires ongoing individual support and encouragement. If, for example, there are several people in a congregation who thrive in an environment where they can engage with the Bible through dramatizing Scripture, then opportunities for doing this need to be created, resourced and sustained.

Helping the 95% is a massive undertaking and will never be accomplished if we don’t help each other. If someone knows how to engage the Bible through journaling, he/she should teach others. If someone knows how to engage the Bible using the Ignatian Method, he/she should teach others. Every one of us needs to play a part, even a small part, in helping someone else engage Scripture.

Will you help the 95%? The challenge facing the church isn’t Bible accessibility or distribution. The 95% have the Bible in multiple printed and online formats. The challenge is Bible engagement. The 95% need someone to teach them how to engage Scripture in a way that works well for them.

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Cultivating Bible Engagement

Many pastors urge their congregations to read/hear the Bible personally. Bible reading plans or daily devotional books are freely available in many local churches. Every now and again churches have special events (e.g. Bible Sunday) to encourage individuals to get into the Word. Yet despite what’s being done to boost regular engagement with the Bible, most Christians only read/hear the Bible in a Sunday service.

So what can we do to ramp up Bible engagement?

To begin, we should recognize that 80% of people throughout the world are oral preference learners. That means, regardless of education or background, most people learn and absorb information, not through literate means, but through oral methods of storytelling, drama or song. The implications are critical: If most people aren’t wired to engage with the Bible through literate means, then urging them to mainly read or study the Bible will be counter-productive. However, when we use oral preference approaches to Bible engagement, like group discussions or acting out a Bible story, Bible engagement is strengthened.

Another consideration is self-discipline. It’s one of the 20% of skills that contributes 80% of results. In fact, self-discipline is a vital personal attribute needed for Bible engagement. It’s vital because self-discipline directs a person internally rather than externally. When Bible engagement is externally motivated, it’s more likely to fizzle out, but when it’s an internal motivation, it’s more likely to be sustained. Unfortunately, self-discipline is something of a Cinderella value today. People are generally inclined to go with the flow rather than developing habits that rule their lives. So we need to figure out how we can actively help each other cultivate Bible engagement habits.

We should also give communal Bible engagement our attention. The Scriptures emphasize Bible engagement as “we with the Word” more so than “me with the Word.” When people get together to focus on the Bible in small groups, be it a family at the kitchen table during supper or friends meeting together once a week in someone’s home, the relational dynamics enhance engagement with the Word.

Communal Bible engagement may be the best thing we can do to help people jump into the Word because it creates an ideal environment for oral preference learners and provides opportunities to develop Bible engagement habits.

Everything mentioned above is only well and good if it’s put into practice. People need opportunities to hear, talk about, act out and sing the Word together. That’s easier said than done. It takes effort to prepare and incorporate a Bible drama in a church service, to invite people into our homes for a Bible study, to ask an open-ended question to prompt discussion about the Word, or to corral the children to share a Bible story with them. But when we make the effort, people get to meet with Jesus in and through His Word.

What are you doing to cultivate Bible engagement? If you have some practical suggestions, please comment. Your input could make all the difference!

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5