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Bible Engagement Blog


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International Day of the Bible

International-Day-of-the-Bible-Info-1

Celebrate the Bible! Today is the International Day of the Bible. You are invited to take a few minutes to share with others, face to face or screen to screen, how much the Bible means in your life.

You can read, sing, act out, draw, paint, organize a flash mob, or do whatever you like to creatively express your love for the Word of God. Do you have a favorite psalm or proverb? Or a life verse or special passage? Or a biblical text that’s carried you through tough times? Share the Scriptures with your friends and family. Let the world know how much the Bible means in your life.

The International Day of the Bible is sponsored by The National Bible Association. Organizations like The American Bible Society, YouVersion, Bible Gateway, Scripture Union, and Bibles for the World are encouraging participation within their own communities.

Use the links below to share and connect:

Hashtag: #BibleCelebration
Twitter: https://twitter.com/IntlDayofBible (@IntlDayofBible)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/internationaldayofthebible
Instagram: @IntlDayofBible
Website: www.internationaldayofthebible.com

 

© 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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Ten Things You Can Do To Improve Your Engagement With The Bible

To know God and be godly, we must know God’s Word intimately.

Here are ten things you can do to improve your engagement with the Bible:

Use reading plans. “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” Benjamin Franklin. Check out Bible Gateway for a great selection of reading plans. If you want to read through the New Testament in a year, try the free 5/52 Reading Plan from SGM Canada.

Use reading guides. Informed commentary that helps you explore the wonders of the Word and apply it to life are invaluable. If you want to grow in godliness and intimacy with God, try the Scripture Union printed or online Bible reading guides for all ages.

Join a Bible study group. We need the help of others to better see and hear from God’s Word. Bible study with a group of like-minded believers will strengthen and enhance your Bible engagement.

Listen to expository Bible preaching. There are pastors, teachers and authors who you can learn from. Sites like Sermon Index provide a great selection of audio sermons by gifted speakers.

Take notes/journal. Writing down what you’re learning about God and yourself helps formulate your thinking, clarify the fuzzy, and aid your memory.

Slow it down. The Scriptures are best digested if we “eat them” slowly. Take your time. Masticate on each word. Listen for what God is saying. Enjoy the moment. Open your heart. Pause to pray.

Help others. A deeper level of Bible engagement comes when we help others engage with the Bible. Teach the Scriptures to your children, family, or friends and you’ll find that it “forces” you to go deeper in your own study of the Scriptures.

Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day and a transformed life doesn’t happen overnight. Changes in your attitude, outlook and behaviour happens indiscernibly over years of reading and re-reading the Bible.

Be realistic. Don’t expect to master the Bible in a month, a year, or a decade. There are depths to the Scriptures you will never plum, mysteries you will never understand, and contents that will leave you puzzled (cf. 2 Peter 3:16).

Be heavenly focused. Read the Bible until you can no longer read it, then when you close your eyes for the last time, know that you’ll open them to see the Word of God in the flesh!

Have your say. Add your suggestions by making a comment.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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The All-Consuming Concern Of Engaging Canadians With The Bible

Despite our high view of Scripture, Evangelicals are trending away from reading and reflecting on God’s Word. That may be an issue for some, but for Scripture Union, it’s an all-consuming concern.

Scripture Union’s mission is to connect Canadians with Jesus and His Story. logo2TheStory-250-e1364843137630That’s what we endeavour to do, every day of every year. But with fewer and fewer people engaging with the Bible it’s increasingly more challenging to invite people to immerse their stories in God’s Story.

So the question is, what do we do? How do we help people find their way into the Word? And how do we help the Church find its way out of the present decline in Bible engagement? These, and many other related questions, weigh heavily on our hearts and minds.

There are no easy answers and no quick fixes for the decline in Bible engagement. But we’re learning things that may contain their own seed, their own lessons for how we might help people engage with the Bible.

One obvious lesson we’ve learned is that the decline in Bible engagement isn’t just a Bible agency problem. It’s a problem for the whole Christian community. We all suffer, all struggle, all experience loss when we drift away from the Word.

Another lesson we’ve learned is that we’re better together. It’s going to take all of us, united in purpose, to deal with the decline in Bible engagement. Going it alone is not an option. Each one of us has to play a part. Collaborations and partnerships are crucial for success.

These two lessons, in part, informed the birth and development of theStory™ – a free online Bible reading guide in French and English. (A Bible reading guide is different to a Bible reading plan. A Bible reading guide provides textual commentary, teaching, insight and reflection).

Everything about theStory™ smacks of community and collaboration. The writers of theStory™ are some of Canada’s leading evangelical teachers, preachers, communicators, and authors. They come from different denominations, different provinces, and different walks of life. While they are different, they have a common objective – to help individuals and communities engage with God’s Word.

Partnerships power theStory™. Ligue pour la lecture de la Bible does the translation of the writers reflections, the Canadian Bible Society provides the online Scriptures, and Deeks Insurance are the sponsors.

All told, theStory™ is a wonderful testament to how Bible engagement can be advanced when we work together. It takes more than 120 writers, translators, editors, copy editors and administrators to publish the daily posts. The outcome? Since May 2013, when the first post was published, there have been more than 150, 000 distinct downloads. People from every province and territory are reading the Scriptures, reflecting on the texts, and responding in prayer.

While theStory™ is only one of many good Bible reading guides, it’s unique because it’s a great expression of Canadian Evangelical unity.

Who would have thought that Pentecostals and Plymouth Brethren could have back-to-back reflections on the Scriptures in the same publication. Amazingly, the Calvinists, Arminians, Charismatics, Wesleyans and other writers all collaborate. How do they do it? They choose to be kingdom minded. They agreed to avoid discussion of contentious or divisive theological issues and refrain from taking sides on issues over which Christians legitimately disagree … and that’s the spirit that may help people trend back to reading and reflecting on God’s Word.

Faith Today Blog, March 27, 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Ten Ways To Help Children Engage With The Bible

“Point your kids in the right direction – when they’re old they won’t be lost” Proverbs 22:6 (Msg).

To help children be on the right path and stay on it we must teach them the Scriptures (cf. Deuteronomy 6:7).

Here are ten ways for parents to help children engage with the Bible:

Do it together. Talk about the Scriptures at home (cf. Deuteronomy 6:7). The Bible is about relationships (with God and others) and well suited to family settings. Take turns reading it. Fix a regular time for doing it (e.g. supper). Make it interactive.

Make it appealing. Children draft off the emotions of their parents. Read the Bible with excitement, wonder and passion. Be dramatic. Be expressive. Add fun elements.

Connect it. Relate the Scriptures to real life events that are happening here and now. Capitalize on teachable moments. Form links to your children’s interests and experiences. Think like a boy/think like a girl. Show children the bigger picture.

Apply it. Find practical ways to enable children to live what they learn. For example, if you’re reading about loving others; take your children to the local soup kitchen to help out.

Talk about it. Encourage children to share their thoughts. Facilitate dialogue and discussion. Foster an environment for asking questions and making comments. Keep it conversational. Help them reflect on their interpretations and perceptions. Chat about your own experiences and insights. Use illustrations, testimonies and stories.

Be creative. Sing the Scriptures. Act them out. Use finger puppets. Make things. Write a play. Dress up. Speak with accents or different voices. Play experiential games. Eat what biblical characters ate (e.g. matzos when reading about the Passover in Luke 22).

Go visual. Check out The Bible Project and Max7. Download the free Bible App for Kids.

Be realistic. Don’t expect too much. Don’t settle for too little. There will be stops and starts, set-backs and victories. Roll with it. Pray. Encourage your children to persevere.

Use age appropriate resources. Check out Scripture Union’s Bible reading guides at http://www.scriptureunion.ca/bookstore-1/bible-guides/children?Page=1&Items=9 and Scripture books for children aged 4-8 at http://www.scriptureunion.ca/bookstore-1/books-children/rhyming-books And a shout-out for Phil Vischers What’s in the Bible? DVD series – it’s an excellent resource for elementary age children.

Do it yourself. More is caught than taught. Children learn to value what you value. Model a love for God’s Word. When children see you regularly reading the Bible, it helps them develop a Bible reading habit.

Make a contribution. Share your comments, guidelines or practical suggestions to help children engage with the Bible.

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Outliers

Today, for the first time, November 24, the National Bible Association, in partnership with YouVersion, American Bible Society,  Bible Gateway and Scripture Union, has suggested we celebrate the International Day of the Bible. Organizers are encouraging people to find ways to honour, show appreciation for God’s Word, and to use #BibleCelebration when posting online comments, videos, photos and creative expressions. [Click here for Twitter and Facebook]

So here’s the jumpintotheword Bible Engagement Blog contribution:

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success*, argues that success is due to much more than intelligence and ambition. According to Gladwell there is one very important factor that enables people to be extremely successful – the amount of time they spend pursuing/practicing a specific activity or pursuit.

In a study of college music majors, Gladwell discovered that students who had practised for 4-6 thousand hours on their instruments usually become music teachers, those who had practised for 6-8 thousand hours usually became music performers, and those who had practised for 10,000 hours had the potential to be world-class musicians. The 10,000 hour plateau also applies to writers, painters, football players, astronomers, gymnasts, researchers, sculptors, actors – to everyone in the arts, academics or athletics.

If Bible engagement was our college major, then to become Bible teachers we would need to read/reflect/practice it for 4 hours every day for 365 days of the year for 3-4 years. To go to the next level (maybe a teacher of teachers) we would need to read/reflect/practice the Bible for 6 hours every day for 365 days of the year for 3-4 years. To be world class we would need to read/reflect/practice the Bible for 8 hours every day of the year for 3.5 years.

Most of us aren’t able to commit 4-8 hours a day over 3-4 years to Bible reading/reflection/practice. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible for us to attain a level of engagement with the Bible that would, by Gladwell’s measure, be considered world class status.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Ten-thousand hours is attainable when it’s accrued over a longer period. If one goes to church every week for 2 hours, attends a weekly Bible study group for 2 hours, and reads the Bible for 1 hour every day; it takes about 17 and a half years to attain world class status.

Of course it requires much more than time spent reading/reflecting/practicing the Bible to become mature in the Word. We should probably add that to attain world class Bible engagement status we need the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and minds (cf. Psalm 119:36Romans 12:2), the recognition that we can’t do it in the flesh (cf. Galatians 5:17), a willingness to hear the word of God and obey it (cf. James 1:25), and the desire to see our lives becoming more and more about Jesus (cf. Colossians 3:1-3).

* An outlier is a statistical term referring to an extreme observation, i.e. an observation point that is distant from other observations or belonging to something different to the rest of a sample set.

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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Discipleship and Bible Engagement

What we say and what we do, don’t always seem to line up. While 66% of churchgoers say they want to “honour Jesus in all I do” only 11% read the Bible daily – this according to the October 2011 LifeWay Research, Transformational Discipleship Study, of more than 4,000 American and Canadian churchgoers (Evangelical and mainline English, French and Spanish Protestants).

Bible engagement should be intrinsic to being a disciple. “There would be no sense in saying you trusted Jesus if you would not take his advice” C.S. Lewis. In order to learn from Christ and do what He commands, one has to read the Bible. “Faith is good only when it engages truth . . .” A. W. Tozer. Yet 34% of churchgoers rarely or never read the Bible outside of church and just 27% say they read it a few times a week or once a month.

How do we make disciples if people aren’t reading and reflecting on the Scriptures? Alarmingly, most churchgoers don’t feel bad about not connecting with the Bible. A whopping 62% say they don’t feel “unfulfilled” if they “go several days without reading the Bible”.

New Testament disciples were people who increasingly, and with growing intentionality, reflected the character and ministry of Christ. The first century disciples aligned their hearts and lives with Christ, over time looked more and more like Him, and most importantly, reproduced disciples who in turn learnt to be like Christ and do what He did.

In the Western church we seem to be content with calling a person a disciple if they pitch up to church, occasionally volunteer, put something in the offering plate, and do some good things . . . a far cry from the lives and ministries of the first century disciples.

LifeWay’s research reveals that only 3% of churchgoers do Bible study on a daily basis and 53% rarely or never study the Bible. This is hugely disconcerting. If Christians aren’t learning about the life of Christ, how can they become like Christ?

Something’s lost that needs to be found. Do we want to see disciples forged in the character of Christ, exercising the power/authority of Christ, and exuding the grace of Christ? If we do, then our first priority must be to equip and encourage churchgoers to regularly read and reflect on the Scriptures.

Recommended Bible reading resources:

  • Scripture Union: theStory™ – http://thestory.scriptureunion.ca/; E100 Challenge – http://www.e100challenge.ca/; Reading Guides for all ages – http://scriptureunion.ca/bible-guides
  • Bible Gateway: http://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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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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A Pivotal Point

Bible engagement is at a pivotal point. With the help of smart phones, tablets and other devices the Scriptures are more accessible than ever before. We live in exceptional times. Digital technology provides proximity and unprecedented connectivity to the Bible.

New technologies and social media make it possible to dream about doing things that would have been beyond reach some years ago. Since we crossed over from Gutenberg to Google there are tremendous opportunities to retell the Story in creative new ways. Imagine an online game enabling children or youth to develop avatars, enter a virtual world, and as part of the action, engage with the Scriptures – it’s coming. Imagine the Bible in 3D – it’s coming. Imagine interfacing with a hologram of David as he slots a stone into his sling and begins to run toward Goliath – it’s coming!

Imagine interactive technology prompting you to reflect on the Scriptures daily, tracking your progress and facilitating sharing via social media – it’s come! Scripture Union Canada has developed and published theStory™ – an online Bible reading guide emphasizing the biblical narrative. Features of theStory™ are:

  • connects our stories with God’s Story
  • a chronological plan
  • free sign up at http://thestory.scriptureunion.ca/subscribe
  • unpacks the Bible in 4-5 years
  • the 3R’s methodology
  • trans-denominational and Evangelical
  • global audience
  • geared for millennials
  • suitable for adults of all ages
  • distinctive partnership of writers
  • flexible and shareable format
  • networking and promotional features
  • invites you to “write” yourself into it

theStory™ has just begun but we’re continuing to dream about what we can do to enhance it. What if we added an audio version, film, multiple languages, or provided a blog that enabled subscribers to chat about the biblical reflections with the writers and other readers? What if we could add family, youth, children’s and small group versions of theStory™? What if . . . we could help this generation become the most biblically engaged of all time?

© Scripture Union Canada 2013


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Opposition to Bible Engagement

Many Canadians reject the Bible because they distrust it. The reason why many Canadians distrust the Bible is because they do not believe in metanarratives*. Distrust in metanarratives has arguably done more to alienate people from the Bible than any other aspect associated with culture.

In an online survey inviting feedback on why people think the Bible is not relevant, some of the remarks were:  “The Bible is one gigantic anachronism”, “It’s a book – nothing more!”, “It cannot be accepted as a reliable document”, “It reflects a worldview out of date with scientific advances”, and “There is more than one holy book, more than one religion.” [Source: June/July 2009 online survey conducted by SGM Canada with 66 Canadian humanists, atheists and agnostics]

Coupled with the distrust that many Canadians have for the Bible is the popular notion that there are no absolutes and no objective or exclusive truth. There is also the view that reality is unknowable, language does not convey reality, and everything is therefore open to the interpretation and perspective of the individual. As a direct and indirect result of these ideas many Canadians have typically adopted pluralism and multiculturalism. The outcome of adopting pluralism and multiculturalism has been the elevation of tolerance as a prime social norm.

Distrust in metanarratives places popular culture in direct conflict with Christian faith. The clash is fiercest over the Christian belief that the Bible is truth (the belief that the Bible is truth because it agrees with God, who is absolute, and describes who He is – the Truth). Based on the conviction that the Bible is truth, Christians believe that the Bible is authoritative. This explains in part why, when Christians try to gain an audience for Bible engagement, they are labeled as intolerant, ignorant or arrogant.

How is the church responding to people who are alienated or in conflict with the Bible? Some elements of the church (Conservative Catholics, Conservative Evangelicals and Fundamentalists) adopt a defensive attitude (isolate/insulate themselves) or go on the offensive by working hard to make the Bible available and accessible (mostly using approaches developed more than 50 years ago). Making the Bible available has not helped stem the decline in Bible engagement. Other elements of the church (Liberal Protestants and Liberal Catholics) are generally not concerned. They have little interest in functioning as conduits for Bible engagement and do next to nothing to promote the Bible or invite interaction with it. In practice they accommodate popular culture by favouring a broad humanism and acquiescing to the deconstruction of the Bible.

So is there any hope for Bible engagement? Yes! There are elements of the church (mainly Evangelicals) attempting to creatively re-imagine and critically re-form their faith and practice around what Marcus Borg describes as a “transformation-centered paradigm”.  Within this paradigm Christians are re-conceiving, articulating and embodying the Story in contextually meaningful ways. This includes efforts to restore the message of the Bible (e.g. SU Canada’s  theStory™), invitations to read the Bible as a narrative of faith (e.g. SU Canada’s free e-book – Taste and See: An Invitation to Read the Bible), re-imagining language and relationships (e.g. SGM Canada encourages the development of relationships and companionship as the primary catalyst for Bible engagement), and inviting people to participate and enter into conversations/dialogue with the narrative of the Story in communal and inclusive forums. Added to this is the understanding that our invitations to engage with the Bible will be fruitless if we attempt anything without grace, vulnerability and humility.

*Metanarratives are defined as narratives about narratives that give a totalizing, comprehensive account to various historical events, experiences, and social, cultural phenomena based upon the appeal to universal truth and values.

© Scripture Union Canada 2013