JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


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Back to the Bible

Renewal and revival are desperately needed. The church is struggling and the world is carefree. Faith is luke-warm, beliefs are shallow and attendance at worship services is in decline. Moral relativism prevails, polytheism and idolatry is commonplace, and hedonism is thriving.

One of the reasons why the church is struggling is because Bible engagement has diminished. According to the Canadian Bible Engagement Study there’s a direct correlation between weekly church attendance and regular Bible engagement. When church attendance declines, so does Bible engagement. When Bible engagement declines, so does church attendance.

Spiritual health and growth will be restored when we get back to the Bible. As Bible engagement goes, so goes the nation. When our Bibles start falling apart, society will stop falling apart! If we want renewal and revival we must read the Word for all it’s worth and live it out for all to see.

Do we want to see sinners repent, love increase, justice triumph and righteousness prevail? If we do, then our hearts, minds, bodies and souls must be soaked in God’s Word. Bible engagement is not an option, it’s a necessity. When we feed on the Word, faith flourishes. When faith flourishes, God’s kingdom grows.

There are no shortcuts with Bible engagement. It requires inclination, time and perseverance. Here are ten practical tips for developing and deepening your personal engagement with the Word:

Choose an appropriate version. As a rule of thumb use a Bible that’s easy to read. Keep several versions on hand for comparison and contrast. You can use an online Bible like Bible Gateway to read different versions in parallel.

Pray. Bible reading and reflection requires illumination from the Holy Spirit. Ask God to be your teacher. Trust Him to open your heart and mind – to give you insight and understanding (cf. Proverbs 2:1-5).

Use a Bible reading guide. Bible reading and reflection is enhanced through the use of a reading guide. Scripture Union specializes in guides for all ages, helping people deepen their understanding and grow in their relationship with Jesus.

Consult commentaries and concordances. To help us read the Bible for all it’s worth we need to understand the original meaning of words, do word searches, appreciate the cultural setting of the text, and learn from gifted theologians.

Stick to a plan. Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Having a strategy in place, or a target to aim for, helps focus connections with the Bible. A simple reading plan like the Scripture Gift Mission free 5/52 Reading Plan will help you track your progress.

Mine the text. The Bible is a quarry full of precious gems. To find the gems you ‘dig’, ‘crush’ and ‘screen’ the text. Don’t leave a word unturned – examine it from every angle. Read and re-read until you find the treasure.

Open your ears. We can listen without hearing and hear without understanding (cf. Matthew 13:13). Sin closes our ears and dulls our spirit. Denial, pride, wrong attitudes, greed, selfish ambition, holding onto our own agenda and un-forgiveness all get in the way of hearing God speak through His Word.

Focus on Jesus. The entire Bible centers on Christ’s birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension. Read the Old Testament expecting the coming of Christ. Read the New Testament in the light of Christ having come and coming again.

Meditate on truth. “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 (NIV).

Do it! “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” James 1:22 (NIV)

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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What Bible Should I Read?

I’m often asked, “What Bible should I read?” Associated comments and questions include: “There are so many Bibles to choose from. I don’t know which one to pick. Why the different versions? Does it matter which one I read?”

I respond by asking several more questions:

What do you like to read? The intent behind this question is to try and glean a person’s level of proficiency with the English language. If you say you don’t read much, I usually suggest an audio alternative like The Bible Experience or The Listener’s Bible. If you like reading popular literature I may suggest the New Living Translation, Contemporary English or New International Version. If you’re more academic in your reading I might recommend the English Standard or Revised Standard Version. If you tell me your favourite author is Shakespeare, I’ll recommend the King James Version.

Why do you want to read the Bible? Some people want to read the Bible devotionally for their personal enrichment while others are more inclined to studying the Scriptures. Paraphrases like The Message, Easy Read Version, and Today’s English Version (Good News) make for a great devotional read. The Amplified, Life Application, New International, Holman Christian Standard and English Standard Version are popular study Bibles. For the really serious student, pastor or teacher, the Interlinear Bible may be the answer.

What version of the Bible is used in your church? If the preacher mainly preaches from his/her favourite version of the Bible it may be helpful to have that version in hand in order to better track with the exegesis of the text. There’s also the issue of communal Bible reading – when the Scriptures are read publically it can be more difficult to follow along if we’re not reading the same text.

Vocation is an additional dynamic to keep in mind. If a person is a college or university student, I may be inclined to recommend a reference Bible in the New International or New King James Version. For hunters and fishermen The Sportsman’s Bible is a good choice. If you’re an athlete I’d suggest God’s Game Plan. If you’re serving in the armed forces, the Military Camo Bible. There are many other vocationally focused Bibles.

Age and gender are also major factors to be considered. For children aged 6-10 the New International Reader’s Version Adventure Bible is a good option. The Manga Bible is great for older children because it utilizes an engaging cartoon format. The Women’s Devotional Bible may be an option for women and seniors are usually more comfortable with a Giant Print or Legacy Bible.

Finally, if you use an electronic reading device, tablet or smart phone, then you should consider downloading the YouVersion, Glo Bible, or Bible.is App. The Bible Gateway App is another option – it gives you a choice of more than a 100 English and 45 versions in other languages.

If you’re still not sure, you’re not alone. I’ve got nearly a hundred different printed Bibles in my personal library!

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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Pensees and Questions

What will the shape of Bible engagement be in the years to come? Here are some pensees and questions for consideration:

  • Are there imaginative new ways to fuse the dramatic and creative arts with the Word? How can artists who respect the power of truth be encouraged to give creative expression and visual beauty to the Word?
  • We have migrated from Gutenberg to Google. How do we continue to facilitate connections with the Bible so that engagement becomes more than words and images on a screen?
  • Should the Bible be liberated from the constraints of individualism? What new formats might better facilitate communal Bible reading, exploration and reflection?
  • What types of formats, presentation styles or delivery systems of the Scriptures are best suited to communal hermeneutics?
  • How can Bible engagement tied to screen to screen connexity be fused with face to face community?
  • What can or should be done to invite non-Bible readers, both as individuals and in community, to engage with the Bible?
  • How can the profile of the Bible be raised both inside and outside the church?
  • Is there a way to develop online contextualised illustrated display Bibles as public exhibits of how we value the Scriptures?
  • Should we be seeking progressive ways to promote the primacy of the Scriptures? What are the descriptors for this generation that best communicate a high view of the Scriptures?
  • How might hypertext be better used to invite engagement with the Bible? How can we leverge the internet so that more people engage the Bible in ways that result in meaningful encounters with Christ and life transformations?
  • What are the best ways, in today’s context, to invite children and youth to hook up and interact with the Bible so that they ultimately choose to hold a biblical world view?
  • Concerning the Western tendency to compartmentalize and dichotomize: How can we better develop resources to help people engage the Bible with both their heads and their hearts?
  • How can the Bible be shared in real time with suitable symbols and prophetic metaphor?
  • What improvements need to be made with delivery systems so that the Bible is accessed in more multisensory, interactional and user-friendly formats?
  • Would it be helpful to publish a Bible that shows by its formatting what literary genre is primarily being used?
  • How do we teach/educate people to read the Scriptures in context? Is there a way to wean people from manipulating the Bible for selfish or skewed agendas?
  • What are the ways to improve reaching anyone, anywhere, anytime with the Bible?
  • How can we do the above so that favourable conditions are created for divine-human encounters?

What questions or pensees do you have about the shape of Bible engagement in the future?

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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Family Faith Formation

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

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

© Scripture Union Canada 2013