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Bible Engagement Blog


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How to Measure Bible Engagement

 

Since Bible engagement is crucial to the spiritual health and growth of individuals and communities (churches, schools, Bible agencies, ministries), it is helpful to understand “the conditions necessary for such growth to be sustained – to become permanent – and to continue” (Mark Forshaw, Global Scripture Impact).

Here’s how some key organisations/groups/agencies are measuring Bible engagement:

Barna Group – Collects data for the ABS State of the Bible study by using a four-part typology based on people’s view of and level of engagement with Scripture. A person is categorized/described as Bible engaged, Bible friendly, Bible neutral or Bible skeptic.

Biblica – Is initiating the development of a tool that will measure the Bible engagement elements of translation, access, literary form, reading holistically, context awareness, narrative understanding and story activation.

Canadian Bible Forum – A quantitative survey conducted by Angus Reid Strategies and a qualitative study conducted by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada to measure why Canadians do or do not connect with the Bible. Findings reported in the Canadian Bible Engagement Study.

Center for Bible Engagement – Uses surveys to gather data from individuals to measure life transformation levels of weekly Bible engagement. It goes beyond simply usage statistics to consider attitudes and behaviors that significantly impact spiritual growth and a person’s relationship with God.

Global Scripture Impact (American Bible Society) – Seeks to measure Bible engagement by measuring the behavioural signs of ‘willingness’, ‘understanding’, and ‘action’ as indicators of people moving toward spiritual maturity/embodying Christ.

LifeWay Research – Conducts quantitative and qualitative research utilising question samples from the Transformational Discipleship Assessment (TDA) and the Transformational Groups (TG) research projects.

REVEAL – Researches the role of Scripture engagement in catalyzing spiritual growth. A set of survey items is used to look at what motivates people to engage with Scripture and how people are affected by their exposure to Scripture.

Scripture Union Canada – Uses the quantitative Measure of Reading/Connecting with the Bible literacy gauge and a qualitative assessment of how people are connecting with, coming alive to, are investing in, being submitted to, are reliant on, are receiving from, and acting in line with Christ and His Word.

Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement – Conducts quantitative and qualitative research to measure frequency of interaction with the Bible, the extent to which a person has the Bible as a focal center in their spiritual life, the breadth of contexts whereby a person interacts with the Bible, kinds of interactions a person has with the Bible, and the views people have of the Bible. The tools used for the research are the Christian Life Survey, Christian Identity and Scripture Engagement Survey, Scripture Engagement Interviews, Scripture Engagement Field Interviews.

If you know about Bible engagement research that hasn’t been mentioned in this post, please share what you know.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Defined

Bible engagement defined by agencies, forums, societies, centers and research groups has many shades of meaning. Here are some definitions:

Scripture engagement is an identity-forming, learning experience, rooted in the Scriptures and practiced throughout the history of the church, involving the whole person, in which the Word of God, mediated in culture, restores, renews and equips people-in-community, enabling them to embody Christ authentically in the world as His agents of reconciliation and social transformation. American Bible Society

Scripture engagement is encountering God through the Bible to become faithful followers of Jesus Christ. American Bible Society

Bible engagement includes action, whether people are intentionally and frequently engaged in using Scripture (either reading or hearing it read) and attitude, whether people believe the Bible to be the inspired and authoritative Word of God. Barna Group

An encounter with God/Jesus/Holy Spirit that is a motivated/inspired interaction with God’s Story that includes various media that involves an individual or communal activity/response/application that cultivates/results in transformation. Bible Research Summit (compilation of group definitions)

The Bible is well-engaged when a community: has access to a well-translated text in its natural literary forms, feasts on whole literary units read in context, understands the overall story and accepts the invitation to take up its own role in the great drama. Biblica

Bible engagement is the act of receiving what the Word of God has to say by reading or listening to the Bible, reflecting on the Scripture, and responding to the biblical truths in your daily life. Center for Bible Engagement, Back to the Bible

Scripture Engagement is encountering God’s Word in a life-changing way. Forum of Bible Agencies International

Bible engagement is peeling back the covers of God’s Word to discover the hopes and promises of the Bible and discovering what God has to say to you, no matter what your situation; that results in hearts changed, lives transformed and an unrelenting drive to be like Jesus to this broken world. Forum of Bible Agencies – North America

Bible engagement is allowing God, through His Word, to lead and change an individual’s life – one’s direction, thinking and actions. LifeWay Research

Scripture engagement is frequency of engagement in the spiritual practice of reflection on Scripture. REVEAL

Bible engagement is the process whereby people are connected with the Bible such that they have meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ and their lives are progressively transformed in Him. Scripture Union Canada

Bible engagement is the process of taking in and living out God’s Word for the purpose of knowing him better and experiencing him more. Scripture Union USA

Scripture engagement is a way of hearing and reading the Bible with an awareness that it is in the Scriptures that we primarily meet God. It is a marinating, mulling over, reflecting, dwelling on, pondering of the Scriptures, resulting in a transformative engagement with God. Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement

Scripture engagement is interaction with the biblical text in a way that provides sufficient opportunity for the text to speak for itself by the power of the Holy Spirit, enabling readers and listeners to hear the voice of God and discover for themselves the unique claim Jesus Christ is making upon them. Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement

Scripture engagement is facilitating life-changing encounters with God through His Word. Wycliffe Scripture Engagement Forum

Please make a comment to share your definition of Bible engagement.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Working Definitions of Bible Engagement

In ongoing efforts to understand the nature and scope of Bible engagement, researchers and practitioners at the recent Bible Research Summit drafted the following three working definitions:

1. Bible engagement is encountering God/Jesus through a process/lifestyle of quality interaction in/with the Story as part of a lifestyle of living in and living out of the Story so that individuals and communities are transformed. [This is a cyclical process. That is, individuals and communities continuously reengage/encounter God/Jesus through a process/lifestyle of quality interaction in/with the Story as part of a lifestyle of living in and out of the Story].

2. Bible engagement occurs when the big Story of God/Jesus/humanity, motivated by its authority or its potential relevance (passion vs. scepticism), occasionally or through some habitual practice, which includes various media (e.g. reading, audio, groups, etc.) that contain Scripture content and an application of/resulting in a response to the Word which cultivates transformation in individuals and communities.

3. Bible engagement occurs when circumstances or posture inspired by the Holy Spirit combine to create desire to discover/explore the story of how God engages humanity through habitual seeking of the Word through various mediums (individual, group, audio, visual, written) resulting in transformation that is Christocentric/Christ-like.

Taken together, and simply stated, the three definitions identify Bible engagement as:

An encounter with God/Jesus

that is a motivated/inspired interaction with God’s Story

that includes various media

that involves an individual or communal activity/response/application

that cultivates/results in transformation

 

* The Bible Research Summit was hosted by the American Bible Society

* The goal of the Summit was to discuss the history, current practices and future needs of measuring Bible engagement

* The researchers and practitioners were:

Chris Armas – Code for the Kingdom

Lizette Beard – LifeWay Research

Steven Bird – Taylor University

Chad Causey – OneHope

Mark Forshaw – Global Scripture Impact

David Kinnaman – Barna Group

Nancy Lewis – REVEAL

Jason Malec – American Bible Society

Lawson Murray – Scripture Union

Pam Ovwigo – Center for Bible Engagement

Glenn Paauw – Biblica

Tyler Prieb – OneHope

Angela Rogers – Connection Media

 

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement and Evangelism

In Canada in 2002, 34% of 15-29 year olds said religion was important to them. Seven years later it had dropped to 22% and continues to decline (Statistics Canada General Social Survey). This isn’t something new – faith in Canada and the USA has been on a significant downturn since the early seventies. In fact disaffiliation by generation continues to rise exponentially. The painful reality: 29% of Canadians born in 1987-1995 say they have “no religion” compared to 4% of Canadians born in 1946 or earlier (cf. Canada’s Changing Religious Landscape, Pew Research Centre).

I wish the news was different. For decades I’ve prayed for a revival of faith. My heart yearns for the salvation of the lost. But as the years march on the ranks of secularism swell.

So for those of us who long for a resurgence of faith, is there something we can do? Well that depends on when you ask me! On my down days I tell God it’s not my problem, it’s His! He’s sovereign. He’s the only One who can incline people to know and love Him. But there’s more to it than that. There’s the Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). I have a part to play. “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:14 (NIV).

“Someone preaching to them”. We rarely do this outside our church buildings and sometimes don’t do it inside! Alarmingly, evangelism seems to have fallen on hard times. Our churches elevate preachers and teachers, but where are the evangelists? We say the Gospel is important, but who are we evangelizing? We have marriage seminars, pot-luck suppers and fun events for youth, but to whom are we proclaiming the Good News of salvation?

Questions are vital precursors to dealing with problems. Why is it that only one in three young people, who attended church as children, still do so today? (cf. Hemorrhaging Faith Report, 2012). Ed Stetzer says, “The young adults who do drop out of church often lack a firsthand faith – a faith of their own – and a relationship with Christ that matters deeply in their own personal life apart from their parents’ pressure.” (cf. The Real Reason Young Adults Drop Out of Church, LifeWay Research)

A “firsthand faith”. While there are other reasons for young adults leaving church, this must surely be the one that demands our immediate attention.

So how do we help children and youth take ownership of a “firsthand faith”? If I understand the essence of Douglas Hall’s theology (cf. Thinking the Faith), faith isn’t faith unless it’s an informed faith. Faith that is Christian must begin in, live with, and be nurtured by the Scriptures. In order for children and youth to take God seriously, to own their faith, they must connect with the Word.

The biblical mandate is explicit: “Impress them (the Scriptures) on your children” Deuteronomy 6:7 (NIV). Or, as Eugene Peterson puts it: “Get them (the Scriptures) inside of you and then get them inside of your children” (Msg).

Whatever way we look at it, Bible engagement is integral to evangelism and evangelism is integral to Bible engagement. To embrace a relationship with Christ that matters deeply requires a deep commitment to the Scriptures. Simply stated, if children and youth are going to develop a faith of their own, we must do everything we can to help them listen to and submit themselves to the Scriptures.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


1 Comment

Nurturing Bible Engagement

How do we nurture Bible engagement? Are there things we can do to facilitate, encourage and help people grow in the discipline of Bible reading and reflection?

Research presented by Rick Hiemstra and Ed Stetzer at the December 2013 Forum of Bible Agencies – North America meeting in New York identified several factors that promote the growth of Bible engagement.

Hiemstra, Director of Research at the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, suggests that the findings from the Canadian Bible Engagement Study (yet to be published), reveal that the drivers of Bible engagement are:

  • Confidence – What people believe about the reliability and trustworthiness of the Bible, whether or not they feel the Bible is relevant to modern life, and what they think about the uniqueness of its teachings, are important. People with higher levels of confidence read the Bible more frequently.
  • Conversation – Whether or not we talk about the Bible with our children, spouses and others is significant. The more we discuss the Bible, the more we read it. The more we read the Bible, the more we discuss it.
  • Community – Church service attendance is strongly correlated with Bible engagement. When church attendance falls, so does Bible engagement. When people view the church positively, they are more likely to read the Bible.

According to Stetzer, LifeWay Research, Bible engagement grows when people:

  • Confess sin and ask for forgiveness
  • Believe in Jesus
  • Choose to obey God
  • Pray for others who are not Christians
  • Read Christian books
  • Are mentored by a mature Christian
  • Memorize Scripture
  • Attend a Bible study/small group or Sunday School class

Bible engagement is intimately tied to relationships (vertically and horizontally). The degree to which people believe in Christ, obey Christ and seek to live for Christ correlates with the degree to which they’ll engage with the Bible. Similarly, the degree to which people connect with a community of faith correlates with the degree to which they will confidently connect with the Bible.

The research also points to the link between Bible engagement and discipleship. To make disciples, we must foster Bible reading and reflection. To encourage Bible reading and reflection, we must work to cultivate disciples.

Have your say. What would you identify as catalysts/mechanisms/means that contribute to Bible engagement?

© Scripture Union Canada 2013