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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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Communal Bible Engagement

Most Christians in the Western world engage with the Bible mainly by themselves. We read it privately during a “quiet time,” interpret it alone, and experience it personally in the sanctity of our home.

Which is good and fine. Or is it?

Private engagement with the Bible isn’t the biblical norm. In most instances when the Bible mentions engagement with God’s Word it’s in the context of community. God’s people experienced the Bible as “we,” more so than “me.” People would gather together, often in someone’s home, and the Bible would be read aloud while everyone listened. Then, having listened to the Word they interacted with it, processing, digesting and acting on it together.

Hearing with others, rather than reading independently, was the biblical reality because it was an oral culture with very few copies of the Scriptures available.

So how did we get to where the plural focus of Bible engagement became more singular?

With the advent of the printing press in the 15th Century, engagement with the Bible became book focused. Books facilitated the shift from the Bible mainly being heard in community to mainly being read individually.

While some things are gained through the process of change, some things are also lost. The printing press shifted Bible engagement from something that was about communal formation to something that was, according to the author Glenn Paauw, more about a “private me-and-God book.”

So why is the privatization of Bible engagement an issue?

Privatized Bible engagement is problematic because self-directed connections with the Bible often lead to self-oriented responses to the Bible. And mostly serving personal needs is the antithesis of biblical faith.

All that to simply say that communal Bible engagement needs to be renewed. So how do we do that?

Renewal begins when we recognize that the Bible is primarily addressed to the community of faith, speaks to our shared actions and beliefs, and invites the people of God to work together to make disciples of all people. Then, with this understanding as our foundation; we imagine, explore and experience the Bible together. Experiencing the Bible together can take countless forms. It may be small groups of students gathering together on campus lawns to read the Bible, or a family discussing the Scriptures during supper. Regardless of the form, the way we experience the Bible together should include listening, learning and living out the Bible as “us.” This requires humility, grace, and an openness to hear from God through what others say.

Shifting from private to communal Bible engagement isn’t easy. New postures of thinking and acting aren’t formed overnight. For communal Bible engagement to thrive, we must intentionally make it happen. And this takes fortitude, prayer, wisdom, unity and hard work.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5