JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


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Pastor Alert!

Studies by the Barna Group, Gallup Poll, and others, reveal that regular Bible reading in North America is in sharp decline. There are approximately 25% fewer people than a generation ago who would be characterized as even occasional Bible readers, and about 700 people in the USA quit Bible reading every day!

The drop in Bible reading contrasts sharply with the finding that 87% of church attendees want practical help in understanding the Bible. Unfortunately only 20% of churches offer the help required.

Pastor, are you giving God’s people what they need to understand the Bible? Scripture Union can help equip your congregation with the means to read the Bible with understanding. Here are some proven resources you can recommend to your church:

  • Encounter With God, Daily Bread and Closer to God are excellent Bible reading guides for adults. These guides take the reader through the entire Bible in about four years. Many Christians testify to how they grow in understanding and meet with God daily through the use of these resources. Billy Graham, among many great examples of faith who use Scripture Union reading guides, says, “I am totally, completely and forever a Scripture Union man.”
  • Essential 100 Challenge is based on carefully selected short Bible passages – 50 from the Old Testament and 50 from the New Testament – that helps Bible readers grasp the essence of the text. The E100 Challenge is the systematic Bible reading challenge your congregation will love to complete. Consider doing it together as a congregation
  • theStory™ – a free daily online adult Bible reading guide that emphasizes the biblical narrative, utilizes a chronological reading plan, engages the mind and ignites the soul. One of the great features of theStory™, apart from the fact that it’s free, is software that tracks with each individuals progress – allowing a person to read and reflect on the Bible at their own pace. Available at: theStory.scriptureunion.ca

It doesn’t take a great deal of effort to give your congregation the help they require. Here are a few suggestions to get the ball rolling:

  • Feature the above information in newsletters, bulletins, PowerPoint announcements, your facebook and church website
  • Preach on the importance of connecting with God’s Word. Emphasize how Bible reading and reflection is the primary catalyst in spiritual health and growth. Apply the teaching by inviting the congregation to join you in doing the E100 Challenge or asking them to turn on their phones and sign up for theStory™. [Note: Scripture Union will send you logos and promotional jpg’s, slides, banners – everything you need to promote the E100 Challenge or theStory™. Simply e-mail us at: info@scriptureunion.ca]
  • Invite a member of staff from Scripture Union to set up a promotional display of Bible engagement resources with free samples of Encounter With God. Phone (905) 427-4947 to book one of the SU staff to present the latest research on the Bible and culture or share an inspirational and invitational message on Bible engagement

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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When the Going Gets Tough

TOUGH goingSomeone recently said to me, “I’m embarrassed to say this, but I have to admit that my Bible reading’s dry – I’m getting nothing out of it. I’ve been reading the Bible for fifty years and for the past two years it’s been a grinding routine.” “I know”, I replied. “Sometimes it can be a tough slog. I’ve had times when it feels like there’s nothing fresh.” We chatted for some time . . .

So how do we turn it around when we’re struggling to meet with God through His Word? What do we do when our expectations of hearing God speaking through the Scriptures are at an all time low? Here are some suggestions:

  • Mix it up. Sometimes we get in a rut. We read the same version of the Bible over and over again. Why not try a different version or a paraphrase? There are more than 800 English versions to choose from!
  • Connect with others. Personal Bible reading and reflection must be balanced with communal reading and reflection. Why? Because two are better than one. When one falls down the other can help pick him/her up (cf. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
  • Open up. The Bible is good news for our lives. Are we reading it as such? Let’s be careful not to tame the Word or reduce it to the scale of our own ideas. Before reading the Scriptures we should ask God to unlock our minds to His transforming power (cf. Romans 12:2).
  • Use a reading guide. Be alert to the insights that come through others. Yes I know the Holy Spirit is the Teacher and instructs us directly from the Word, but He also works through human teachers to unpack the meaning of a text, challenge our prejudices and expose our blind spots.
  • Linger longer. We’re more likely to encounter God when we slow down. Most of us live with the tyranny of the urgent, but not God! To meet on His turf we must “be still” (cf. Psalm 46:10), which in context means “Enough! Stop trying to have control over things!”
  • Focus. There’s a tendency to read the Bible almost exclusively to find out what to do. We should rather read it to find out who we are and who we ought to be. Interact with the Bible like you would with a mirror. Look into it and ask, “Who am I? Who do You want me to be?”
  • Live it. God’s Word has a claim on our lives – a purpose. We should be living epistles. The litmus test of Bible reading is whether or not we’ve acted on what we’ve discovered. Bible reading must translate into a response. Imitate Jesus (cf. Philippians 2:1-11). Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (cf. Micah 6:8).

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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Reading the Whole Story

How do you read the Bible? A little bit of this, a little bit of that? A verse here a verse there? Some folk slice and dice it – treat it like a piecemeal diet. What about you? Is your Bible reading just the bare necessities – a text with a blessed thought that’s easily digested in two-minutes?

Scripture should be read holistically. The Bible shouldn’t be reduced to a depository of spiritual truisms or selected nuggets we occasionally mine. When we read the Bible we must read texts in their contexts and stories within the framework of the grand Story. Why? Because the meaning of the texts and stories are accurately gleaned only when we read with a clear understanding of the larger context and themes of the books and Bible as a whole.

God speaks to us through His Word. When texts or stories are read in isolation they can be interpreted with meaning they were never meant to convey. God wants us to know truth. When we de-contextualize Scripture or read passages divorced from the overarching narrative we may miss out on what God is really saying. So let’s make sure we don’t short circuit the process of God speaking to us – let’s read the whole Story.

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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New Year Resolutions

The beginning of a new year signals a new start. Many of us get freshly motivated to do better than we did the year before. Christians often think about how they can improve their Bible reading. The trouble is they tried that last year, and the year before, and when they hit Numbers their days were numbered! March comes and goes and our good intentions to read through the Bible are nothing more than a distant memory.

So what can we do this year so that our resolution to read the Bible doesn’t fizzle out? Here are three practical suggestions:

1. Get connected. Don’t go it alone. When we read the Bible in isolation we’re more likely to run out of steam. So invite your spouse, one or two friends, or a sibling to join you in 2013. Work together to set goals, figure out how you’ll be accountable, find times to chat about what you’re reading and spur each other along.

2. Be realistic. Sometimes we set ourselves unreachable goals. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s better to read shorter portions of Scripture that you ponder on than read lengthy sections that go in one ear and out the other. So read less and meditate more. And, most importantly, read only what you can absorb and apply.

3. Use resources. Bible reading coupled with reflection is the primary catalyst in the development of our spiritual health and growth. If you’re a newbie to Bible reading consider using the E100 Challenge to get an overview of the major themes of the Bible. If you’re a veteran Bible reader consider using one of Scripture Union’s Bible Reading Guides – Daily Bread, Encounter With God, Closer to God. You can also download the eDaily Devotions for free.

Now onward and upward with this year’s Bible reading resolution!

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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Hemorrhaging Faith

According to Rick Hiemstra, Director of Research for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, young Canadian adults who have left the church by 25 years of age are unlikely to return.  Hiemstra’s comment is informed by the recent findings in Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying and Returning to Church, a ground-breaking Canadian study of 2,049 young people between the ages of 18 and 34.

Other troubling revelations in the study include:

  • Two in three young adults who attended church weekly as a child don’t do so today
  • Three out of five young adults who stop attending church reject their Christian identity
  • More young adults checked out of church between grades 8 and 9 than between high school and post secondary education/careers

Why are most churched Canadian young adults leaving church? One of the significant findings of the study is the direct correlation between hemorrhaging faith and the spiritual disciplines of Christian parents. When mom and dad are seen by their children to read their Bibles, pray and go to church regularly, then the children will more than likely continue in the faith as adults. But when parents inconsistently or almost never read their Bibles, pray, or attend church, their children usually stop attending church just as soon as they can.

Parents, you are the most important spiritual influence in your children’s lives. Do your children see you regularly reading your Bible, praying and going to church? More is caught than taught. When you aren’t practicing basic spiritual disciplines your children ultimately view your Christian faith as inauthentic or hypocritical.

The study is a wake-up call. The disengagement and attrition of young adults from church and faith must be stopped. Something more than another book, purpose driven programs or parenting workshops is required. Sending our children to Christian schools or improving the youth ministry in local churches won’t make a huge difference. What’s needed is parents being spiritually responsible. We must do what we’re not doing. Regular Bible engagement and prayer coupled with faithful weekly church attendance should be normative for every Christian mom and dad.

© Scripture Union Canada 2013