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Bible Engagement Blog


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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:

A 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 precedence 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 fulfil God’s purpose for one’s life without extensive reading and reflection on God’s Word.

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.

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

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Rooting out legalism

There’s an injunction in Galatians 6:1 to “watch yourself.” Eugene Peterson in the Message interprets this command as “saving your critical comments for yourself.” Sometimes (and tragically) the Pharisee in me gets the better of me. Instead of watching myself, I see the speck in someone else’s eye. Which got me thinking about rooting out legalism in my life, and then got me thinking about rooting out legalism in how I engage with the Bible. So here are my thoughts as they pertain to rooting out legalism in Bible engagement:

To begin, I should probably admit to a tendency to promote my own personal Bible engagement standards. My personal standards are rules or expectations expressed in words like, “Christians should have a ‘quiet time’ (prayer and Bible reading) every day.” While this personal standard may be okay for me, it’s not okay for me to press others to adopt this standard.

When I was a young Christian I was free and easy about urging fellow Christians to have a quiet time. I didn’t appreciate that what I was doing was legalistic. Most legalists are legalists without realizing it.

Recognizing that the fog of legalism is ever present helped me identify four legalistic Bible engagement inclinations that I need to guard against:

  1. Self-righteousness. If I read and reflect on God’s Word in a way that makes sure others are aware of my good behaviour, I’ve crossed the line into legalism. Performance-based Christianity should never be the goal of Bible engagement.
  2. Human effort. If my motive for reading and reflecting on God’s Word is to exert all the energy I can muster to make God happy or be a good Christian, I’ve got it all wrong. Bible engagement conducted in my own strength is antithetical.
  3. Religious duty. Reading and reflecting on God’s Word to be devout or faithful is another form of legalism. The spirit of legalism is also inherent in the fear that God might punish or reject me for not reading or reflecting on His Word. Religious duty is the enemy of Bible engagement.
  4. Personal standards. Telling others to “Read your Bible every day” is legalism. It’s not a command in the Bible and I shouldn’t equate personal values with God’s values. That to identify that the measure of Bible engagement is in God’s hands, not mine.

 

That’s my Bible engagement short list for rooting out legalism. It reminds me that Bible engagement should never be obedience to a formula or special moral code. Bible engagement, correctly undertaken, breaks all bondage to legalism and sets me free. For true Bible engagement is a grace-filled, Christ-exalting, kingdom-championing process that liberates me to live fully and only all for Jesus.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Kingdom Focused Bible Engagement

In many instances Bible engagement has been reduced to majoring on the bits of the Bible that speak to making the world a better place through social activism, the golden rule as it applies to living a decent life (cf. Matthew 7:12), or using the Scriptures to underpin religious duties and obligations. But Bible engagement is about something far bigger than cherry picking Bible verses to inform our good works, good morality, or good religion per se.

Bible engagement is counter cultural. For Bible engagement to truly happen, we can’t be double minded. We can’t serve two masters (cf. Matthew 6:24). Bible engagement begins when we turn away from our old way of life and invite Christ to give us new life. And it proceeds as we sever our loyalties to the world and give our total allegiance to Christ (cf. Luke 14:33).

When we connect with the Bible, everything should change. We cannot continue to think and do life as we’ve done it before. Bible engagement requires a new way of being and a new way of living. We must relinquishing all we have to follow Jesus (cf. Luke 14:25-27). And for that to happen, Bible engagement has to be kingdom focused.

So what does kingdom focused Bible engagement look like? Kingdom focused Bible engagement is giving our unreserved commitment to the King and His kingdom. It’s submitting fully to Christ’s reign over our lives. And it occurs as we continually respond to God’s Word in ways that indicate that Christ is working in and through us.

While kingdom focused Bible engagement is embodied in Christ, it also includes everyone who submits to His kingship (cf. Romans 5:10). Bible engagement should never be an exclusively private or internal affair. Yes, Bible engagement concerns me, but it’s more about us. That’s because the kingdom of God is about community – about Christ’s Word being embodied and manifested in the lives of all of His kingdom citizens.

This is the good news: Bible engagement is about being liberated and empowered. It’s entering the throne room, encountering the King, and embracing, sharing and enjoying the fullness of kingdom life (cf. John 10:10). But wait, there’s more! When we’ve finished being part of the kingdom that’s here, we get to be part of the kingdom to come (cf. 1 Timothy 6:19).

Now before we get too heavenly minded that we’re of no practical use, let’s not forget that kingdom focused Bible engagement, while eternity bound, has an earthly home. Bible engagement is about God’s future turning up in the present. Bible engagement was never meant to be esoteric. Bible engagement is for this world, but not of this world. The Bible engagement prayer is “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10. And for this prayer to be apprehended, kingdom citizens must live out the Word in ways that bring honour and glory to the King.

This to simply say that Bible engagement is Jesus engagement, and Jesus engagement is kingdom engagement. The three go together. They’re distinct, but not separate. When we engage with the Bible, we should do so with the express purpose of engaging with Christ. And as we engage with Christ, we should do so with the express purpose of being kingdom focused.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5


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Radicalized Bible Engagement

To be radicalized is to become more drastic in one’s beliefs. It’s a term that’s commonly used today – usually with negative connotations. In the context of terrorism, a person is radicalized when they sever adherence to the values of society at large and commit themselves fully to the ideology of a terrorist organization like ISIS, Hamas or Al-Qaeda.

Extreme change from an accepted form and absolute commitment to a new form is what Christian faith should be about. Unfortunately this isn’t usually true of most modern-day Christians. Rather than giving our total allegiance to Jesus Christ, we try to keep one foot in the world. For many Christians, the greater value is tolerance or accomodation, certainly not radicalization. Words like subversive, offensive, dangerous or radical are generally not in the average Christian’s vocabulary.

There’s a disturbing disconnect between today’s Christianity and the faith of the Christians mentioned in the Bible. Acceptance and broadmindedness characterizes contemporary Christianity whereas first-century Christians were an offense to society because their allegiance to Christ undermined or threatened the existing views, habits, affairs, conditions, institutions and systems of the Roman world.

Now linking radicalization with Jesus may be a transgression for some or puzzling for others, but, like it was in the first-century, it should be the reality for every Christian today. That’s because Jesus doesn’t call us to a partial dedication or limited commitment. It’s all or nothing. He wants our full and exclusive allegiance. In common with Paul’s advice to Timothy, we’re to flee from the things of the world and fight to take hold of the faith and life we have in Christ (cf. 1 Timothy 6:11-16).

Which brings us to radicalized Bible engagement.

To embrace the Word, which is to embrace the One who is the Word, should be to radically receive and respond to the Word. It’s being all into Him and all out of the world. Bible engagement should be nothing short of giving our total allegiance to the kingdom message and mission of Christ. It should never be a little bit of this or a little bit of that. Radicalized Bible engagement is putting to death every word of darkness and fully immersing ourselves in the Word that brings light. It’s separating ourselves from the lies and half truths that have held us captive. It’s giving our undivided devotion to Christ and choosing to live in resurrection power. It’s appropriating His grace and denying ourselves in order to fully love Him. And it’s being a willing conduit through which His love flows to those in need.

Radicalized Bible engagement is unlike the regular way Christians usually connect with the Bible. It’s also more than a new methodology or approach to reading/hearing the Word. For radicalized Bible engagement is an uprising. It’s saying no to legalistic, guilt fueled, shame based, fear driven religion. It’s connecting with the Word as something more than knowledge to be gleaned or morals to be emulated. It’s letting the Word read us, and as it does, it’s humbling ourselves and crying out for mercy.

Radicalized Bible engagement isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s about being all in. There can be no half measures. It’s encountering the Word in ways that enable us to fully worship, work and witness in order to bring all honour and glory to Him.

When Bible engagement isn’t radicalized we need to change. The ways in which we’ve read, reflected, remembered and responded to the Bible in the past cannot continue with us into the future. Why? Because what got us where we are won’t get us to where we need to be.

Or, stated slightly differently, if what we’re doing now in our Bible engagement practices doesn’t result in absolute commitment to Jesus Christ and extreme transformation in our lives, then we’re not reading/hearing the Bible as we should. Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” John 14:23 (NIV). When we’re not reading/hearing the Bible as we should, a complete overhaul of what we’ve been doing, or not doing, needs to happen.

Now that’s not to say that embracing Christ through radicalized Bible engagement will be plain sailing. Far from it! Radicalized Bible engagement places us at odds with the world’s values and choices. God’s Word is, and always has been, an offense to those who are not Christians. Whether we like it or not, when we choose to live out our love for Christ through total obedience to His Word, there will be negative reactions, opposition or persecution.

And herein lies the tension. Some Christians don’t like the fact that God’s Word is an offense (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23-25, 1 Peter 2:8) to those who don’t know or love Jesus. So they try to mitigate the offense by watering down, creatively excusing, or falsely interpreting the Bible’s message. When this happens, the weakening of the Church and the death of faith follows. For every attempt to take the offense out of God’s Word always results in the loss of the saving and transforming power of the Gospel.

So let’s be all in! Let’s forsake lukewarm Bible reading/hearing. Let’s break with our loyalties to the systems, entanglements and distractions of the world. Let’s renounce the fears and failures that control and restrict us. And let’s do this by praying for a Jesus revival in our personal lives and communities of faith. Then, as we pray, let’s subversively reclaim Bible engagement as something more than it’s been by asking God for a form of Bible engagement that results in extreme devotion and absolute allegiance to Jesus Christ as Lord of all and Lord for all!

© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5


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Reimagining Bible Engagement

The problem with the emphasis of some of today’s Bible engagement teaching is that stress is laid on how often we connect with the Bible and whether or not these connections impact what we think, say and do.

Or to say it differently, the problem in some local churches, Sunday School classes and Bible agencies is that the underlying agenda is to get us to read/hear the Scriptures so that we’ll gain spiritual insight and understanding that results in submitting to and obeying God’s Word (i.e. acting in accordance with biblical morality).

Now hear me out. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t engage with the Bible regularly. Nor am I saying that the Bible shouldn’t influence how we live. Far from it. But what I am saying is that when the emphasis in Bible engagement is on regularly reading/reflecting on the Bible and ordering our lives according to biblical morality, then we have a problem. It’s a problem because in and of itself, it’s legalism.

You see, we’ll struggle to interact frequently with the Bible and live righteous lives if we aren’t first taken up completely with Jesus. I don’t say that lightly. The focus in Bible engagement must always be on how wonderful, amazing and magnificent Jesus is – nothing less and nothing more!

Now why do I say that? Why should Bible engagement be first, foremost and always about Jesus? Because in Jesus “all things (including Bible engagement) hold together” Colossians 1:17 (NIV).

Here’s the rub. When Bible engagement isn’t always about Jesus, our reading/reflecting on the Bible will be done mainly out of guilt or duty and fueled, not by love, but by fear, shame or self-serving ambitions. And when our Bible reading/reflecting is done out of guilt or duty we usually dry-up or fizzle out. That, or our hearts grow progressively colder and more judgmental – holding to the letter of the law and condemning those who don’t obey God’s commands.

First things first. Bible engagement should always be Jesus engagement. Bible engagement is seeing His glory, knowing His grace, and growing in Him. From beginning to end, the Bible is a window through which we look to see Jesus. So when we read/hear the Bible it’s about opening our eyes and ears to His unbridled compassion, His inestimable salvation, His unstinting care, His extravagant provision, and His infinite mercy.

When we don’t get Jesus first, we’re in trouble. There’s no polite way for me to say this, but when the emphasis is on the regularity of Bible reading/hearing and the importance of moral outcomes, it creates modern-day Pharisees.

Bible engagement without Jesus is a heavy cumbersome load. When it’s about keeping score of how often we read the Bible or how many right choices we make in a day, we’ve missed the mark and will always miss the mark. That’s because Bible engagement, according to Jesus, is less about what we do (or not do), and more about who He is (cf. John 5:39).

At the risk of repeating (albeit in slightly different words) what’s already been said; loving Jesus should never be absent from our Bible engagement. The measure of Bible engagement is whether we are, or are not, meeting with Him. When we read, reflect, remember and respond to the Bible we must do so in a way in which we’re constantly recapitulating our hearts to Jesus and inclining the content of our lives to Him. That’s when Bible engagement takes on a life of its own.

So here’s to reimagining Bible engagement. Let’s read/hear the Word as an encounter with the One who is the Word. For when we meet with the One who is the Word, the rest falls into place. That is, when the priority in Bible engagement is connecting with Jesus and abandoning our lives to Him, that’s when we’ll be committed to regularly reading/reflecting and obeying His Word.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5


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In your mouth …

Some of my friends and family call me Mr. Bible Engagement. I’m not sure how I feel about that because even though I’m an advocate for Bible engagement in my daily work, I’m still maturing in my personal reading, reflecting, remembering and responding to God’s Word.

My knowledge about God’s Word is a case in point. I had never noticed (in the sense that something really “jumps” out at you), until recently, that the scriptures prioritize the importance of God’s Word being “in your mouth” and not departing “from your mouth” (cf. Isaiah 59:21).

Maybe it’s because we’re inclined to compartmentalize what we do and say, but I don’t usually hear Christians mentioning God’s Word in their everyday conversations. Is God’s Word in your mouth? When we speak the Word it’s an affirmation that God’s Word is true and real in our lives. It’s also an indication that we’re Spirit filled Christians and God’s covenant people.

Faith can never be a private affair. If you have faith in your heart it should also be in your mouth. “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” Romans 10:10 (NIV). Plainly stated, the evidence of your faith is the verbal confession of your salvation. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” Luke 6:45 (NIV).

Taking another tack: The emphasis with some preaching and teaching, is to encourage Christians to diligently meditate on God’s Word and memorize it. What’s considered important is renewing the mind through daily Bible reading and reflection. But renewing the mind, while essential, isn’t the desired end. God commanded Joshua to meditate on the Word day and night so that it would always be on his lips (cf. Joshua 1:8).

So what does it look like for God’s Word to be in your mouth? A friend recently told me that every day as part of her reading and reflecting on God’s Word, she searches for a verse in the text that she writes on a serviette. At some point during the day she verbally shares this Scripture (why it’s meaningful or how it’s impacted her life) with someone, and then gives them the serviette.

Is my friends methodology unusual? Maybe. But what she does models the importance of having God’s Word in your mouth. So keep a serviette handy, or do whatever helps you to engage with the Bible in order to intentionally “speak words of wisdom” Psalm 49:3 (NIV).

© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement is Trinity Engagement

Bible engagement is Trinity engagement, nothing more and nothing less. All Bible engagement is connecting with the triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So Bible engagement is Father engagement, Jesus engagement, and Holy Spirit engagement, because all three are one and one is all three. That’s not to say that the Father is the Son or the Holy Spirit, or the Son is the Father or the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Spirit is the Son or the Father because they are three coexistent, co-eternal persons who are God.triquetra-with-shadow-512px

The individual members of the Trinity have different roles in Bible engagement. The Father initiates all things and is the ultimate source of the Word (John 1:1, Revelation 1:1). The Son is the agent through whom the Father reveals the Word (Matthew 11:27, Luke 24:45, John 1:3, 14). And the Holy Spirit is the agent through whom the Father teaches the Word (John 14:26, John 16:13-15, Ephesians 3:5, 2 Peter 1:21).

So when we engage with the Bible we are connecting with a loving heavenly Father, through the Son who reveals Him, by the Spirit who guides and teaches us about Him.

Knowing that Bible engagement is Trinity engagement is immensely practical. When we engage with the Bible we are not alone. The Father is watching over us, the Son is opening the Word to us, and the Spirit is helping us know and grow in the Word. With this in mind we can confidently, imaginatively and personally meet with God in and through His Word.

Bible engagement is never a solo affair. It’s highly relational and dynamic. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit work together to help us enter into the Word as parts of the big Story and then help us enact out the Word in our own lives. Simply stated, we are not alone when we engage with the Bible. The triune God is with us, opening our eyes to see and our ears to hear in ways in which we can grow in understanding, insight and faithful action.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5


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A Bible Engagement Church

While there are many church congregations that believe the Bible informs our faith and practice, there are very few Bible engagement churches. That’s not to say that the Bible isn’t read or preached in most churches, it usually is. But it is to say that Bible engagement hasn’t permeated every facet of local church ministry.

So what are the earmarks of a Bible engagement church? Here are ten suggestions:

  1. A Bible engagement church is a church where everything is aligned with Scripture, submitted to Scripture, and seen to be subservient to Scripture; in as much as when the Bible speaks, God speaks.
  2. A Bible engagement church models the priority of Bible engagement. The Bible is opened in the business meetings to inform the decision-making process, finances are disbursed according to the principles in God’s Word, weekly small groups study the Scriptures, and the church website, social media, bulletins, newsletters and PowerPoint announcements advocate for Bible engagement.
  3. A Bible engagement church is evidenced by the fact that everyone in the congregation knows that Bible engagement is a high priority. Ask an individual in a church what’s special about their church and if one of their top three answers is, “We value God’s Word,” then it’s possibly a Bible engagement church.
  4. A Bible engagement church fosters meaningful congregational participation and interaction with the Scriptures. It’s a disaster when, functionally speaking, a congregation thinks or acts as if Bible engagement is something reserved for the pastor, experts or professionals.
  5. A Bible engagement church is a community of faith where people line up their lives with the Word. In other words, they’re living epistles. On a 24/7 basis they’re striving (as the Holy Spirit empowers) to say and do what the Scriptures say they should say and do.
  6. A Bible engagement church intentionally integrates God’s Word into every aspect of the Sunday service. The Scriptures are read regularly and well, the content of the songs/hymns are biblically and theologically sound, the prayers are fueled by the Word, and the sermons consistently remind and reinforce the importance of connecting with the Word in order to connect with the One who is the Word.
  7. A Bible engagement church equips and teaches children, youth, adults and seniors how to engage with the Bible. Every person (all age groups) in the church has a Bible and a daily Bible reading guide. Bible engagement resources, curriculum and tools are incorporated and injected into every ministry, program or event in the church.
  8. A Bible engagement church incorporates the Scriptures fully into the discipleship and evangelism strategy of the church. Members of the congregation are taught how to personally listen, read, pray, interpret, contemplate, study, imagine, memorize, journal, apply and share God’s Word.
  9. A Bible engagement church has a pastor who preaches sermons that are Word-soaked, Spirit-inspired, and Christ-centred. The pastor finds ways to demonstrate that the Scripture text(s) for the sermon are more important than what will be said about the text(s). The preaching also takes seriously the oral and narrative nature of the Bible and incorporates sizeable readings of the Scripture.
  10. All told, a Bible engagement church makes Bible engagement central to the life of the church so that people live it out as part and parcel of everything they do together. A Bible engagement church is therefore one where the congregation have learnt how to let the Bible move; to be our voice in all the discussions we engage in, to be the main point in our preaching and teaching, to be the truth that we build our lives on, and to be the window through which we see Jesus.

Have your say. Is there something you’d add or subtract?

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Create a Banquet

Writing experts say that half the struggle is getting people to read what you write. They also say that a good title is everything. This may be true. When I saw The Hottest Thing at Church is Not Your Pastor or Worship Leader, the title of a Christianity Today (April 2017) article, I was enticed to read it.

It’s a good read. It highlights the fact that the number 1 explanation for why Americans go to church is for “Sermons that teach about Scripture.”

That’s music to my ears! I firmly believe that reading, preaching and appreciating the Word (which is to appreciate the One of whom the Word speaks) should rank above every other reason for why we go to church.

Which reminds me of something a veteran Bible teacher and preacher recently said to me, “We should lay out a banquet for people to feast from when they come to church.” He’s absolutely right. The preaching and teaching of God’s Word should be spiritually tasty and filling.

Unfortunately pastors don’t always provide their congregations with a weekly banquet on God’s Word. Sometimes it’s only a snack and sometimes it’s just a morsel – certainly not enough to sustain or nourish a congregation.

Pastors, “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). That’s literal language. It’s not a suggestion. It’s not figurative. With every ounce of strength and passion, prayerfully and humbly, carefully and patiently, in the power of the Spirit – preach the Word! Exegete the text. Do everything possible to invite every person to enter into the Scriptures, engage the Scriptures, encounter the One of whom the Scriptures speak, and emulate the Scriptures in everything they say and do.

I still remember, about 30 years later, how one pastor told me that it only took him 3-4 hours to prepare his Sunday message. He was proud of this because it gave him more time to spend with his family … the implication being that it was good and right for him to make his family his highest priority. I’m still flabbergasted! A good message takes days of preparation, hours and hours of wrestling with the text, and even sleepless nights as the preacher seeks to reconcile himself with the text because he knows he can’t preach if the Scriptures don’t have ascendency in his own life.

In fact sermon preparation is somewhat similar to cooking. When my wife and I want to prepare a really nice meal for friends or family it takes us about two full days to do the planning, shopping, cooking, table setting, vacuuming and dusting (our house must first be clean before we can serve up a banquet), dish washing and drying. Similarly, when I prepare a sermon I know it requires planning, getting all the ingredients together, arranging and organizing, making sure my own house is in order before I tell others how to get their house in order, serving something sumptuous, and doing what needs to be done so that others will say, “Thanks, that was great!”

One more thing: I’m a nobody when it comes to cooking and I’m a nobody when it comes to preaching. But that’s okay. The Christianity Today article mentions how the Gallup poll also discovered that “people in the pews care far more about what’s being preached than who’s preaching it.” That’s good news for every ordinary pastor who is diligently feeding the congregation a Sunday banquet week in and week out.

It’s also a reminder that the preacher plays the supportive, not the main role. When I go to a restaurant and eat a good meal, the food itself, not the chef, is the focus of my gastronomic experience. Similarly, the texture, flavour and aroma of the Scriptures should be the focus of the preaching, not the preacher. And for this to happens the preacher’s main aim should be to preach the Word so that everyone can “taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Engaging the Bible Relationally

Many people engage with the Bible in order to know more. They study the Bible to learn about faith, God, morality and how to live their lives. Gaining information and growing in knowledge about the Bible is the desired end.

An informational approach to the Bible is largely borne out of the fact that we’ve been wired by educational institutions to gather facts, interpret events, and understand our world. But the Bible is not a text book and God never intended for us to treat it as one. That’s because the goal of Bible engagement is something far greater than elevating our knowledge or trying to understand the Word.

So what is the goal of Bible engagement?

Our primary motive for engaging the Bible should always be relationship. Specifically, the main reason for connecting with the Bible should be to elevate our worship, communion and love for God. Why? Because Bible engagement, while it involves us, is not ultimately about us. I’m guessing Rick Warren would agree. His mantra in The Purpose Driven Life is, “It’s not about you!”

Maybe one of the reasons why we approach the Bible informationally rather than relationally is because we’re inclined to look out for our own wellbeing. We study the Bible because we want help, healing, hope and so much more. And yes, God gives us these things, but only within the context of a reciprocating relationship. The trouble is, we sometimes get the cart before the horse, we major on the benefits of the relationship when we should be majoring on the fact that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father …” James 1:17.

That’s not to say that engaging the Bible relationally is easy. It’s not. Bible engagement requires personal discipline and intentionality as well as wisdom and strength from God. In fact when we try to engage the Bible relationally, without the help of the Holy Spirit, we usually fail.

Here’s the rub: Knowledge about the Bible is important, but knowledge without an intimate and dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ, is hazardous. This is the point that Jesus was trying to make to the Pharisees (Mark 7:1-13). It’s a matter of first principles. We can’t find truth or know truth if we’re disconnected from the truth-giver.

Years ago, when I was a full-time pastor, I remember hearing a story about a dinner gathering that was attended by a well known orator. During the course of the meal he was asked to recite the 23rd Psalm. He eloquently recited the psalm and everyone was impressed. Then someone turned to the old pastor who was also there that night and asked him if he would recite the 23rd Psalm. As he recited the psalm it was obvious that his words came more from his heart than his lips. Instead of the people being impressed, they were moved. Of course we know what made the difference, the orator knew the words but the pastor knew the One who is the Word.

Do we know the One who is the Word? Effective healthy transformational Bible engagement fails or succeeds based on how we answer this question.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5