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Bible Engagement Blog


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Thinking About Our Thinking

This post is compiled with Bible ministry colleagues in mind. It’s for people working in the fields of Bible preaching, Bible translation, Bible publishing, Bible storying, Bible study, Bible teaching, Bible resource development, and Bible engagement.

Here are ten primers to get us thinking about our thinking:

  1. The entertainment industry thrives on the power to distract and hypnotize. What are the Bible engagement strategies, methodologies and technologies that are required to capture the attention of people caught in the grip of an alluring hotchpotch of images and fragments of visual stimulation?
  2. Biblical scholarship requires a major paradigm shift. The perception and interpretation of the Scriptures must shift from engaging with silent print to engaging with the Bible in the context of electronic media. What are the implications of this premise?
  3. Since the majority of people hear the message of the Bible rather than read it for themselves, greater attention needs to be given to the importance of communicating the message with dialogical language (vs. dialectic language). What adjustments in our Bible delivery systems/methodology need to be made to help people hear the Word in more relational and dynamic ways?
  4. In recognizing that there are more people outside than inside the church, it is imperative that intralingual translations (e.g. English to English) of Bible versions/paraphrases are developed to better enable people to relate to the Word. How might a multi-media rich environment help or hinder intralingual translations?
  5. There are multiple tools, forms and avenues available in the sciences and arts through which connections with the Bible may be made. How might the sciences and arts be more creatively accessed to help people see, imagine, contemplate, tell, hear, remember and share God’s Story?
  6. It was mainly Christians who pioneered the transition from orality to literacy. Now that Western cultures are more abstract, wouldn’t it be great if Christians once again pioneered the transition to secondary orality? So what are we presently doing, and what should we be doing, to communicate and invite interaction with the Bible in the context of a more deliberate self-conscious orality?
  7. Robotics and artificial intelligence are going to dramatically alter the landscape of society in the coming years. What impact might the changes in technology have on how we provide access, develop approaches/methods, and invite engagement with the Bible?
  8. Social networking sites have changed the way we communicate. The linear reasoning that’s been nurtured by print culture is being augmented or replaced by non-sequential thinking stimulated by visual effects, wired to sound bites and punctuated by the exchange of one-liners. With this in mind, what are the implications for discipleship, given that Bible reading/reflection (drawing on linear reasoning skills) has been the primary means of nurturing mature believers?
  9. What can we learn from the past that can help us in the future? The biblical texts were originally recorded to assist oral presentation and the development of a communal piety. The spoken and rhetorical features of the biblical text have been largely overlooked or ignored by commentators, pastors and teachers for hundreds of years. How can electronic media be harnessed to recapture the original oral underpinnings of the Bible?
  10. What new thinking, arrangements, reorganization of translation processes, and development of production and delivery mechanisms are required to enable people to engage with the Bible in a way that they can encounter God and live lives that bring honour and glory to Him?

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Trends Impacting Bible Engagement in Canada

Bible engagement, as with everything, is impacted for better or worse by a variety of structures, beliefs, factors and norms. Understanding the culture we live in is vital if we’re to effectively connect Canadians with Jesus and His Story.  So what are some of the trends impacting Bible engagement in Canada?

Individualism and Relativism

Canada is a “Me” society. Autonomy is the measure of most things. The majority of Canadians are focused on their personal aspirations and absorbed by their pleasures. What’s “right” is largely determined by “my point of view” and “what works for you”. Personal preferences and opinions trump truth. No single viewpoint is considered superior to another.

Church Attendance

Church attendance continues to decline. Weekly church attendance in Canada has fallen dramatically since its heyday in the 1950’s (53% in 1957, 24% in 1990, 21% in 2005). Only one in three young adults who attended church as a child regularly attend church now. Church attendance and Bible engagement rise or fall together.

Trends impacting bible engagment - religious attendance graphic - rev1

Atheism

Atheism has become a significant option to religion. In the 1960’s it was frowned upon by society, but today 15% of young Canadians classify themselves as atheists. Atheists are organized and connected. When the article, “Bible Reading in Canada” was published on the jumpintotheword blog, the Society for Atheists and Agnostics, as well as other atheists, tweeted the article to their networks. In just 36 hours more than 5,500 atheists downloaded the article! Why? They were celebrating the news about the decline in Bible engagement!

Immigration

Nearly 21% of the Canadian population (6.8 million people) are foreign born. In some cities visible minorities are actually the majority. More than 50% of the population of Canada’s largest city, Toronto, were not born in Canada. Most newcomers to Canada come from Asia. The largest visible minority in Vancouver, with 28% of the population, are from Chinese descent.

Community Cohesion

Ethnicity, divergent interests and different worldviews are increasingly isolating Canadians from their neighbours. Individualism is fostering private life at the expense of the community. Canadians are not really expected to know one another. Technology supports this trend. We read about the “gathering” of communities via the Internet, yet in most cases these people never meet in person.

Affluence

Canada is ranked sixth in the world for the highest quality of life and ranked ninth for purchasing power per capita. Since 1990 there has been a rising income inequality in Canada. Thirty-four percent of Canadians saw their wealth increase last year by about 14% while 38% of Canadians saw their wealth decrease by an average of 23%.

Trends impacting bible engagment - income inequality grahpic - rev1Rise of the “Nones”

Many Canadians are leaving religion in favour of a more individualized spirituality. The fastest growing “religious” group in Canada are people who identify their religious affiliation as “none”. The percentage of Canadians who identified themselves as having no religious affiliation is 24% (2011). In 1971 just 4% of Canadians were religiously unaffiliated. The rise of the “nones” cuts across all demographic groups and is evident among all age groups in all regions of the country. [Note: While “Nones” say they’re not affiliated to a religion, they’re surprisingly religious. Most of them do not identify themselves as agnostic or atheistic, 40% believe in God, 20% of them attend religious services annually, and more than 10% pray weekly]

Other Religions

Since 1981 there has been a 7% increase in the number of Canadians who belong to other religions – Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism. Taken together, one in ten Canadians adhere to these religions. Before 1950 there were virtually no Muslims in Canada (less than 0.01%). In 2011 there were more than 1 million Muslims (3.2%).

Trends impacting bible engagment - population by religion graphic - rev2Mainline Protestant Decline

Reshuffling of dominant denominations has occurred over several decades. Mainline Protestants (Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United) are no longer in the spotlight. Eastern Orthodox Christianity is growing. Protestant Evangelicals and Catholics, though polarized religiously from society, occupy the religious centre stage.

Worldview

Canadians value peace, order, tolerance, good government, healthcare and social equity. In large part Canadians have a strong liberal tilt on ethical matters and define morality by what justifies their lifestyle. Increasingly, and usually without the guidance of organized religion, Canadian society is dramatically reinventing, refining, or undermining (depending on your point of view) morality.

Technology

While Canadians have a love hate relationship with technology, 86% say technology makes them more efficient in the workplace and 74% say technology improves their quality of life. Eighty-three percent of Canadian households have home access to the Internet (2012) – nearly double the worldwide average.

Religious Behaviour

There is a widening divergence of religious behaviour between Canadians born inside and outside the country. Canadian born persons who do not attend religious services increased by 15 percent between 1985 and 2004 whereas there was no decline in attendance at religious services among first generation immigrants. Attendance at religious services is higher among Canadians born outside the country than among those born inside the country.

Education

In the 1970’s, by an eight point gap, Canadians with higher levels of education were less likely to have a religious affiliation than Canadians with lower levels of education. In 2011 this had narrowed to a two point gap – 23% of college graduates had no religious affiliation verses 21% of those without a college degree.

Social Media

On a per capita basis Canada has the most social networking users in the world. Nearly 50% of Canadians use social media at least once a month. Facebook has cornered the market – signing up 93% of Canadian social media users. Social media is changing the way people interact, but the implications and impact of these changes are not yet known.

Have your say. What would you add to the above list?

 Sources:

Angus Reid

eMarketer

Canadian Bible Engagement Study

Canadian Internet Use Survey

Forum Research

Fotolia Research

Gallup Poll

Gini Coefficient

God and Society in North America

Haemorrhaging Faith Study

Human Development Index

Parliamentary Information and Research Service

Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Statistics Canada General Social Survey

Statistics Canada 2011 National Household Survey

World Bank 

© Scripture Union Canada 2014


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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