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Bible Engagement Blog

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Breathe Scripture

I wonder what 16th Century Protestants would think of today’s church if they could drop in for a visit. Sola Scriptura was the rallying cry during the Reformation and many fought and died for the Bible to be pre-eminent over church traditions or practices that were un-biblical or extra-biblical. In varying degrees it seems like something of the Sola Scriptura focus has been lost in the 21st Century Church. While the Church generally uses the Bible to provide an underpinning for teaching and life instruction, the Scriptures aren’t always the primary authority in directing all we say and do.                                                                              

So why should the Scriptures be interwoven into everything we say and do in the local church? The REVEAL study, conducted by Willow Creek Community Church (USA), suggests one exceptionally good reason – to nurture spiritual maturity.

In the REVEAL study book, MOVE: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth, Hawkins and Parkinson say that embedding the Bible in everything is one of the top four practices of disciple-making churches. In fact the top five percent of churches in the REVEAL study who successfully nurtured spiritual maturity were churches who “breathed Scripture”. When churches breathe Scripture they’re asking, “What does the Bible have to say about that?” The answers to this question inform and direct every activity of the church.

Breathing Scripture . . . how many churches apply the Bible to everything they say and do? Looking at some of the things done, or not done in our churches, I wonder . . .

Is your church breathing Scripture? If not, maybe it’s time to take up the ancient rally cry of Sola Scriptura. David’s oft repeated proclamation was, “I have chosen your precepts” Psalm 119:173 (NIV). Pray that the church in our day will come to be known for its total allegiance to the Scriptures.

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2012

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Defining Bible Engagement

Building on biblical, theological, historical, and cultural insights, and utilising relational and interactional language, here’s a working definition of Bible engagement: 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.                                                   

To elaborate; Bible engagement is the process (that which occurs in and through the stages and courses that mark the journey of our lives) whereby people are connected with the Bible (reciprocating with the Story) such that they have meaningful encounters (significant meetings that involve coming together with and developing a vital relationship) with Jesus Christ (the One who by grace and through faith saves us from sin and sanctifies us by the Spirit) and their lives are progressively transformed in Him (marked by evident ongoing obedience and life-change that takes place individually and in community).

One word in the above definition of Bible engagement requires illumination – the word ‘transformed’. It refers to the process of change whereby a person becomes progressively more Christ like (cf. Galatians 6:15). That is not to say that transformation is something that people can do to themselves. Transformation does not happen naturally and it does not come easily. The prophet asks, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” (Jeremiah 13:23). There is no outside force that can change people to become more like Christ. Something internal is required. Transformation begins when a person realizes that “the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint” (Isaiah 1:5) and proceeds when forgiveness for sin is sought and received (the heart is changed, Psalm 13:5), and by faith in Christ being “the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2), a right relationship with Christ is formed (the heart believes and is justified, cf. Romans 10:10) and love for Christ ensues (cf. Mark 12:30). This is not of a person’s own doing but comes from the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:8-9), that is, transformation cannot happen apart from Christ. Thus transformation is being shaped by Christ and living out lives that imitate His life. It is refusing to “be conformed to this world” and is the change that comes “by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

© SU Canada 2011

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The Stakes are High

The stakes are high. Every year since 2008 nearly 6,000 American elementary and high school children have pitted themselves against each other in a spelling-bee-style competition known as the National Bible Bee. For several months students participate in online tests and exams in the hope of being selected as one of 300 children and youth to compete in the Nashville, Tennessee, November finals. The hugely popular Scripps National Spelling Bee awards the national spelling champion $35,000. Prize money at the National Bible Bee outstrips this award. Top place in the senior category of the National Bible Bee is $100,000 and total prize money at the event is $260,000.

Imagine being a ten year old contestant: You walk up to the microphone and look at the moderator who asks you to recite 1 Timothy 2:9-11. You have more than 2,000 memorized verses buzzing through your mind, but you can’t stall. You know if you pause for longer than ten seconds, you’ll be eliminated. One wrong word when you recite the text – eliminated. So you recite the text slowly and clearly, take a deep breath, and wait for the judges to nod. If you get the nod you’ll return to your seat with the other finalists and prepare yourself for the next round . . .

Many are asking why the organizers of the National Bible Bee are doing what they’re doing. Phil Vischer, a Bible Bee presenter and co-creator of the Veggie Tales cartoons says, “These kids are learning the Bible so they can live Christianity well.”

Some of my Christian peers can recite, from memory, several texts from the Bible. Many Christians I know can only recite a verse or two. Nine year old Olivia Davis, winner of the 2011 primary division says, “If young people all did Bible Bee, we could change the country forever!” Can memorizing the Word of God lead to cultural change from sea to sea? Maybe! The Bible teaches us that when our hearts and minds are full of good things, then our words and actions will be good (cf. Luke 6:45). So I’m with Olivia; dreaming about what could happen if people, both young and old, started memorizing Scripture.

[Source for information on the National Bible Bee: The Globe and Mail. Monday, November 21, 2011]

© Copyright Scripture Union Canada, 2011

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