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Bible Engagement Blog


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Improving Bible Engagement in the Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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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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Re-reading the Bible

Once, while doing some street outreach, I asked a lady if she read the Bible. “Yes,” she said, “Many years ago, I read it from cover to cover.” “Do you still read it?” I asked. With a face registering surprise she said, “Why would I do that? I’ve read it once and that’s enough!”

The lady asked a great question. Why, having read the Bible, should anyone read it again? Surely once is enough? Or is it?

I’ve read through the Bible dozens of times. Each time I read it, I’m changed. So when I re-read it, I’m not the same person as when I last read it. That is, each time I re-read the Bible I’m reading it from a new perspective.

Have you read through the Bible? If you have, you need to continue re-reading it.

Remarkably, because the Bible “is alive and active” (cf. Hebrews 4:12), every time it’s read, the reading is never quite the same as the previous reading. That’s because the Bible is like an onion. When we re-read it, we peel back a layer. Then, as we peel back a layer, new insights are discovered, new depths are plumbed, and new vistas revealed.

“It is the glory of God that hides the word, and the glory of the King that seeks for the word” Proverbs 25:2 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English).

Reading the Bible once is not enough. Nor is it enough to read it seven times or seventy-seven times. I know from first-hand experience. It’s only when we re-read the Word again and again that it opens up to us. In fact, the Bible reveals its secrets only to those committed to a lifetime of re-reading.

There are other reasons for re-reading the Bible …

  • Faith needs to be constantly strengthened by the Word (cf. Romans 10:17)
  • Understanding needs to be continually cultivated through reflection on the Word (cf. Psalm 119:130)
  • Spiritual maturity mainly comes through a life-time of interacting with the Word (cf. Hebrews 5:13-14)
  • Fruitfulness flows out of ongoing engagement with the Word (cf. Psalm 1:2-3)
  • Growth in reverence and obedience requires reading and reflection on the Word throughout one’s life (cf. Deuteronomy 17:19)

While these are all good reasons for re-reading the Bible, the main reason for re-reading the Bible should be to connect and stay connected, with Jesus. For re-reading the Bible is an out-and-out necessity for the ongoing health and growth of our relationships with Him.

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Reading And Bible Engagement

Bible reading, the kind that’s concerned with being knowledgeable and learning about God, should never be equated with Bible engagement. Here’s why Bible reading and Bible engagement are different:

When Bible reading is strictly about gaining facts, studying the history of Israel, enjoying the stories, learning about how to behave, just reading it, or looking for guidance for one’s life, the outcome, at best, is that we get to be informed.

But God didn’t give us His Word to inform us. God gave us His Word to form and transform us.

A person can know all the stories, recite the ten commandments, say the Lord’s Prayer, hear the Gospels read every week in church, and even read the Bible personally every day – yet not engage with the Bible. That’s because God didn’t give us the Bible to tell us about Him. He gave us the Bible so that we would meet with Him and be forever changed by the encounter.

Bible engagement is Jesus engagement. Bible engagement is entering into the Word to get together with the One who is the Word. When we meet the One who is the Word, something radical and life-changing happens. Bible engagement always rocks our socks off! That’s because Bible engagement is getting up close and personal with the One who was dead and is now alive for ever and ever! (Revelation 1:18).

Bible engagement isn’t for the faint of heart. When we engage with the Bible, we’re not safe! Bible engagement will turn us upside down and inside out.

Now why do I say that? Because Bible reading per se is about us taking control of the text. When we take control of the text, we’re safe. But Bible engagement is about the text taking control of us. And when the Bible’s in control things happen that are out of our control.

There should be a warning on the front cover of every Bible – “Dangerous Contents!” Unlike other books “the word of God is alive and active” Hebrews 4:12. When we correctly engage with the Bible, the Word will read us! And when the Word reads us, we must watch out! Anything can happen (according to God’s will). And what will definitely happen is you’ll feel constrained to worship Him with every ounce of your strength, trust Him with your heart, give Him your mind, and live wholly and only for Him until the day you die.

Is Bible engagement risky? Absolutely! Bible engagement, correctly undertaken, is always hazardous. But, (to borrow a concept from C. S. Lewis) while Bible engagement isn’t safe, it’s always good!

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Kids Can Read The Bible Too!

Amy Csoke, a colleague at Scripture Union, recently entitled one of her workshops, “Kids Can Read the Bible Too!” It’s a great title and I’m hoping it catches the attention of Christian parents and teachers who want to help children read God’s Word.

Before we get to the practical part of how kids can read the Bible too, there are three essential Bible reading principles we must teach children:

  1. We must read the Bible focused on Jesus. The principal reason why we read the Bible should be to know the One of whom it speaks (cf. Luke 24:27, John 5:39-40). Bible reading should connect children with Jesus as King so that they see themselves as citizens in His kingdom. “Our goal must be for kids to catch this rock-their-world vision of Jesus,” says author Jack Klumpenhower. So Bible reading should never major on gathering information or knowledge, developing biblical literacy, teaching Christian morality, providing answers for pressing needs, or changing a child’s behaviour.
  2. The Bible is read according to its conditions and context, not ours. When children read the Bible, they can’t read it like they read other books. That’s because the Bible “is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12a) and as such, reads us. God’s Word isn’t like our words. In fact God’s Word has authority over our words and even “judges the thoughts and attitudes of [our hearts]” Hebrews 4:12d.
  3. Bible reading requires the reader to enter into the Story. Children can’t read the Bible at arm’s length. They’ve got to read it intimately and engagingly. That’s because the Bible is a spacious realm that invites us to actively come in with imagination and faith, and once we’ve entered, to be participants who get caught up in it by receiving and reenacting it.

So with these three principles in mind, how do we help children read (listen, reflect, engage) the Bible dynamically? Here are ten practical suggestions:

  1. Sing it. When children sing the Word, it brings their hearts “into alignment with God’s heart, with God’s ways, with God’s plans, and with God’s personality,” says Stuart Greaves from the International House of Prayer.
  2. Draw it. Artistic reflection is a powerful way to focus attention on the text because it’s a process that provides creative space for children to linger in the Word. Using water-colours, stencils, markers, sharpies, crayons and such are tools that enable children to surmount spiritual, intellectual or emotional obstacles and meet with God.
  3. Act it. Drama can grip, shape, move and inspire. Especially for children who learn by doing, acting out a story enables them to own it.
  4. Write it. Using a pen or pencil to write out a Scripture passage or verse allows a child to slow down and mull over the words or phrases.
  5. Pray it. The best prayers are those birthed, informed and sustained by the Word. Bible reading and prayer go together. To read right, children must pray the Word; and to pray right, children must read the Word.
  6. Memorize it. When God’s Word is learnt by heart, it reprograms the heart. And more. Scripture memorization draws a child more fully into the Story and builds confidence in reading, reflecting, remembering and responding to the Word.
  7. Contemplate it. Children need to listen to the Word in order to be shaped by the Word. Children’s ministry specialist, Ivy Beckwith, says, “Without silliness and sometimes with profundity, children can do silence.”
  8. Question it. Asking questions, including tough ones, is an essential skill that every child should learn in order to interpret God’s Word. The six questions children must ask of the text is who, what, where, why, when and how.
  9. Enter it. Children should be invited to penetrate a Bible story more holistically by picturing themselves as one of the characters in the story or by stepping into it through the use of sanctified imagination.
  10. Live it. The main body parts for reading the Bible aren’t the eyes and brain, it’s the hands and feet. To read the Bible well, children must learn the Nike principle – “Just do it!”

And one more suggestion: We’re better together. Yes, kids can read the Bible too, but they need you. According to the African proverb, “If you want to go far, go together.” Children need you to journey with them in their Bible reading so that when they require help, lack discipline, or get discouraged, you’re there to support and help them persevere.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Reading the Bible Aloud

Reading the Bible aloud has been a Bible engagement practice since Old Testament (e.g. 2 Kings 23:2) and New Testament times (e.g. 1 Timothy 4:13), and continues today as a spiritual practice in every community of faith. But sadly, while reading the Bible aloud happens in most churches most every week, it isn’t always done well. So here’s a shout-out for reading the Bible aloud with the esteem and reverence it deserves.

There are several things we should take into consideration when reading the Bible aloud:

Christ should be the focus of all church worship and His Word should therefore be a centrepiece in the order of service. Scripture readings should be prayerfully and thoughtfully selected and interwoven throughout the service in a way that indicates that God’s Word is more important than what we say or sing about it.

A spiritual gravitas should accompany the public reading of Scripture. Every reader should take heed how they read. Adequate preparation and practice should, in every instance when Bible reading is part of the order of service, be a pre-requisite for the person(s) selected to do the reading(s). Readers should be mindful of correct pronunciation and enunciation.

An understanding of the genre of Scripture should inform the way the Bible is read. Poetry shouldn’t be read like prophecy or apocalyptic literature, a didactic passage shouldn’t be read like a genealogy, and a narrative discourse shouldn’t be read like a legal list of priestly duties.

Reading the Bible aloud requires a measure of performance. The emotional nature of the Scriptures should be communicated verbally. A lament should always be read with a sense of pathos, the miracles should always be read with wonder and awe, passages about God’s grace and mercy should be read with heartfelt appreciation, and accounts of sin should always be read with feelings that express grief or sorrow.

The aim of all public reading of the Word should be to draw the listener to Christ. We read the Scriptures to invite the community of faith to know and be known by the Word. And we should read in a way that expects and encourages God’s people to obey the Word.

Readings should be long enough to provide adequate context and understanding. When there are multiple readings in a church service, they should be integrated and connected with the other elements of the service. This requires planning, prayer and sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Finally, while we read the Bible to one-another, we’re ultimately reading the Word to an audience of One. When we read the Bible aloud, we’re reading it to the King of kings. Let’s keep this in mind, the One who is the Word is the One who listens to us reading His Word. So when reading the Bible aloud, picture yourself before the holy One seated on the throne, then read to bring honour and glory to Him.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5


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How are you reading the Bible?

How are you reading the Bible? Bible engagement isn’t about reading the Bible exclusively to gather facts, get guidance or learn how to be good. Satan loves it when people read the Bible for these reasons because as long as we’re reading the Bible to simply grow in knowledge, figure out what to do, or develop our morality, we’re not engaging with the Bible as we should.

God wants us to taste and see that He is good (Psalm 34:8a). The goal of Bible reading should be to encounter Christ Jesus and to engage with Him in ways that lead us to become increasingly more like Him.taste-and-see-that-the-lord_t_nv

John Piper, the pastor and theologian, says, “Bible reading that only collects facts, or relieves a guilty conscience, or gathers doctrinal arguments, or titillates aesthetic literary tastes, or feeds historical curiosities – this kind of Bible reading Satan is perfectly happy to leave alone. He has already won the battle.”

How are you reading the Bible? Do you read it focusing on the fact that it’s ultimately the Story about Christ Jesus and how he sacrificed His life in order to atone for your sin and reconcile you to God? If not, you’re not reading the Bible as God intended.

Here’s what Satan tries to hide from us: The overall Bible story centres on Jesus. It’s about His astronomical, unconditional, sacrificial, incomparable, transformational, and eternal love for us. A love that made the world right again by making it possible, through trust in Him, for our sin to be acquitted and our death sentence revoked. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” 1 John 4:10.

Christ’s love for us is why the Word we read has to be the Word we know. For this to happen we cannot rely on pastors, professors or prophets, but from spending time in the Word in order to encounter the presence of the living Word. Then, when we encounter the living Word we should ask Him to renew us through His written Word. For it’s only through encountering Christ Jesus personally and openly that our minds and hearts will be convicted and changed to live a life of love emulating Christ’s love.

So how are you reading the Bible? There are only two ways to read God’s Word. The right way and the wrong way. And the right way is to read the Word as the Word we know.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5


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You can’t worship Jesus if you don’t read the Bible!

You can’t worship Jesus if you don’t read the Bible! Now hear me out …

If you don’t read (i.e., hear, connect, engage, study, contemplate, reflect, act on) the Bible, you don’t know who Jesus is. If you don’t know who Jesus is, you can’t worship Him. If you can’t worship Jesus, then how can you call yourself a Christian?

I meet a lot of people who tell me they’re Christians. When I ask them if they read the Bible and they say “No,” or “Not really,” then I ask, “So what makes you a Christian?” They usually say, “Because I love God/Jesus.” Now here’s my dilemma. If someone says they love Jesus, but don’t read the Bible, then what “Jesus” are they loving? That’s a crucial question. For if we don’t love the Jesus of the Bible, then there’s a problem.jesus-in-bible

Forgive me if I’m blunt, but surely it stands to reason that if someone doesn’t worship the Jesus of the Bible, then that person’s worshipping a different “Jesus.” And who is this other “Jesus” that millions of non-Bible reading “Christians” are worshipping? Probably a “Jesus” they’ve created in their own minds. One who can be shaped and moulded to be whatever a person wants Him to be.

There’s a chilling verse in the Gospel where Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” Matthew 7:21. Every time I read this verse I wonder, “Who are the people who call Jesus ‘Lord’ yet don’t get into Heaven?” Well maybe they’re the people who’ve created an alternative “Jesus” who values what they value, tolerates what they tolerate, and cares about what they care about.

Here’s the rub: If you’re worshipping a “Jesus” who you can control, then you’re worshipping an idol. Jesus said, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” John 4:23. To worship Jesus in “spirit and truth” our worship must be informed, not by the non-biblical things we think we know about Jesus, but by the Word of God.

Now I know, the Jesus of the Bible isn’t a tame Jesus. He disrupts our lives, opposes our personal opinions and preferences, demands holiness, gets in the way of the pursuit of happiness, and expects us to do uncomfortable things. Let’s be honest, the Jesus of the Bible doesn’t line up with our preferred version of Him.

Little wonder that people say, “I respect Jesus, but don’t agree with everything in the Bible.” For in their heart of hearts they know they can’t do things their way if they love the Jesus of the Bible.

So which Jesus do you worship. Is it a “Jesus” shaped by your imagination or is it the Jesus of the Bible? If it’s the latter, then that’s only true if you’re reading the Bible. There is no other way. You can’t worship Jesus if you don’t read the Bible!

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Why We Should Read The Bible

The story is told about a youngster who found a Bible on the bookshelf. “What’s this dusty book Mom?” he asked. “That’s God’s book,” said his Mom. “Well why don’t we send it back to God? We don’t use it here, do we?” asked the boy.

The story raises an important question, why read the Bible? Of all the great books that we could read, why should we read God’s book? Here are 5 reasons why:

The first and most important reason why we should read the Bible is because it’s a God-given window through which we get the best view of Jesus (cf. Luke 24:27). And why is it important to check out Jesus? Because He claims He’s “the way and the truth and the life” John 14:6. That’s a mind staggering and potentially life altering declaration. If it’s true that no one comes to God except through Him, that Jesus personifies truth and is the source of our existence, then it’s a claim that has to be reckoned with. What Jesus said cannot be ignored or dismissed out of hand. So we should read the Bible to consider His claim on our lives.

Hands of a person raised together in prayer with bibleThe second reason why we should read the Bible is to see how God sees us. Most Westerners, due to Existentialism, view life as meaningless, apart from the meaning they choose to give it. But that’s not how God views us. The Bible indicates how God places a high value on every life of every person. We are loved by God and created for a purpose. When we read the Bible it soon becomes clear that it’s a love letter from the Creator to His creation. As God says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11.

The third reason why we should read the Bible is for our deepest needs to be met. Most of us (Nihilists are the exception) want to know why we exist. Is there meaning and a reason for my life? The Bible, by virtue of its content, is the book of life. It reveals God’s meaning and reason for our lives and how we can possess and enjoy fullness of life (cf. John 10:10). Jesus says, “The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life” John 6:63. Did you hear that? The Bible is “full of … life.” Even if the other reasons for reading the Bible didn’t exist, this should be reason enough to read it.

The fourth reason why we should read the Bible is for our health and growth. As I look back over the course of my life I can see how I’ve matured. Do you want to grow in wisdom? I’m thankful that I no longer think and act like a child or youth. And I’m thankful that since I started reading the Bible, the Scriptures have made me “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” 2 Timothy 3:15. My reality can be anyone’s reality. “For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” Psalm 107:9. So read the Bible because we were not meant to “live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

The final reason why we should read the Bible is so that we can learn how to love and accept love. The sad litany of many people’s lives is that they don’t find, receive or love others adequately. Or worse. Many people never encounter the love that surpasses knowledge and fills us with the fullness of God (cf. Ephesians 3:19). The Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). To know love, the real thing, we must be Bible engagers. That’s because the primary way to know Love is in and through reading His Word.

There are many more reasons why we should read the Bible. But we’re not going to consider them now because good reasons need to be coupled with right actions. So let me ask, “Are you reading the Bible? I mean really reading it?” How you answer this question can make or break you. I don’t say that lightly. It would take a book to spell out all the benefits of Bible reading. So please understand why I close by urging you to truly get into God’s Word and discover the joy that comes from having the message of Christ dwell in you richly (cf. Colossians 3:16).

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement in Small Groups

Getting together with a micro-community of believers to read/hear God’s Word is an effective way to get to know God and understand how to live in a vibrant relationship with Him. Here are ten ways to strengthen Bible engagement in small groups:

Bathe everything in prayer. Pray before, after and during the time spent together. When you begin, pray something like, “God we’re going to be reading your Word. Help us to engage it actively, but also to listen attentively. You are the Teacher and we’re your students. Please convict, guide and transform us. Amen.” For the duration of the gathering be prepared to stop the dialogue to pray the Scriptures into personal needs or situations. When you close, pray something like, “Thank you Lord for the way we’ve met you in and through your Word. Help us apply your Word in everything we say and do. For your honour and glory. Amen.

Get to know each other. Create time and space for building relationships. Strong relationships are needed for heartfelt/meaningful dialogue. Foster an environment that’s friendly, respectful, and builds trust. Look for practical ways to love, encourage, and celebrate life together.

Read the Bible in multi-sensory ways. Be creative and three-dimensional, i.e., move beyond the printed page. For example, when reading about the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist/Communion in 1 Corinthians 11, have a fresh loaf baking in a bread maker so that the smell pervades the air. When you finish reading the passage, eat the bread while discussing the text.

Teach public reading of Scripture. When we read the Bible together we should aim to read it well. Some basic instruction will help people read more confidently and meaningfully. For more information check out the Bible Engagement Blog post, Reading the Bible Publicly.

Don’t reduce the Bible to a sourcebook for finding the right answers. The purpose of a small group Bible study should never be ‘knowledge about the Bible’. Bible knowledge isn’t an end in itself, nor is it a means to an end. The aim isn’t right answers, it’s knowing the One who is the answer. Interact with God’s Story in ways that our stories (as individuals and as a group) are formed and transformed by His Story.

Use open-ended questions. Allowing the formulation of any answer, rather than a selection from a set of predetermined possible answers, will help people press into God’s Word. Ask questions like, “What stood out for you?”, “Did it raise any questions for you?”, “Do you see the Father, Son or Holy Spirit in the text?”, or “Why is this in the Bible?” As a discussion progresses, direct people back into the Word. Ask, “Where do you see that in Scripture?”, or “Is there something in the text that informed your perspective?”

Make the main thing the main thing. Spend more time reading the Bible than reading books, commentaries, curriculum, or study guides about the Bible. It’s not a Bible study if the main thing is reading someone’s book about the Bible, listening to someone preach/teach on a topic from the Bible, or watching a video series about the Bible! God’s Word, read/heard, should be the primary text/content, and the Holy Spirit should be the ultimate teacher.

Discuss the uncomfortable/difficult passages. Be prepared to struggle with the ‘hard’ Scriptures, even when you don’t find satisfactory explanations. Wrestle with different points of view in a respectful and mature way.

Aim to read/hear the Scripture through the voices/ears of the whole group. Recognise how your own view of Scripture is limited, and that the fullness of Bible reading comes into its own when God speaks through different people.

Listen beyond your traditional theological grid. Allow God’s Word to challenge your presuppositions. Be humble. Be aware of the limitations of your insight and understanding. Be open to how God works mysteriously and powerfully, in and through His Word, to redeem and restore your life, and the lives of everyone in the group.

Using different methodologies may also be helpful. Try implementing one of these strategies:

The “Book Club” approach. Ask group members to read a whole book of the Bible prior to getting together, or read a big chunk when you are together (an entire story). Then open it up for dialogue. Discuss the writers intent, themes, plot, characters, what people liked or didn’t like, and so on.

The “Visual Arts” approach. Read a portion of Scripture, then view art forms (from different cultures and centuries) such as ceramics, drawings, paintings, sculptures, stained glass, wood carvings, and such, that illustrate the text. Discuss the artists context, how s/he interprets the biblical narrative/event, and how it may or may not be true to the text.

What would you add? Share your tips for strengthening Bible engagement in small groups.

© Scripture Union Canada 2017

2 Corinthians 4:5