7 Practices to Foster Scripture Engagement
So, what can we do to foster Scripture engagement in our churches? Here are several practices to try.
1. Write out Scripture by hand.
Have people write out entire chapters or even books of the Bible. This can be painstaking, but it slows us down to savor each word. I’ve engaged in this process by slowly writing out the book of Matthew. I was forced to focus on each word and phrase, allowing me to discover fresh insights. I could only write out a handful of verses at a time, so it kept me from “speed reading” or skimming the passage. Instead of water skiing on the surface, I went scuba diving in the text.
2. Ask questions—even tough ones.
Read a passage, and then ask people to write out 10-to-15 questions about the passage on a piece of paper. Why did the woman ask that of Jesus? What was running through Abraham’s mind when he was walking up the mountain to sacrifice Isaac? Allow people to interact with the text by courageously wrestling with tough questions.
3. Put yourself in the story.
Read a narrative passage of Scripture with a group of people. Then, divide the room into quarters and assign people different characters in the story you just read. Ask them to imagine themselves in the story as if it were happening. Then read the story again and have them answer the questions, “If you were that particular person, what would you feel, think, or consider doing?” and, “What would you want God to do for you in that situation?”
4. Practice Lectio Divina
Lectio Divina—“sacred reading”—is a way to prayerfully read a passage of Scripture, slowly and repetitively, inviting the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to us through four movements: reading, pondering/meditating, praying, and living. While this is practiced most often individually, it can be just as powerful with an entire church.
5. Read the Bible communally and ask five simple questions.
Gather a group of people together, and have someone read a large chunk of Scripture. Then follow up with questions for interaction. For years our church has given people these five questions to encourage deeper interactions with the text.
- What’s going on in the story/passage?
- What excites, inspires, or encourages me about the passage?
- What challenges, jolts, confuses, or even offends me about the passage?
- What does this tell us about the essence of God or the nature of Jesus?
- What will we do with what we just heard/learned in the next seven days?
6. Memorize Bible stories together.
Many of us grew up memorizing verses, but when was the last time you memorized an entire Bible story? Stories grip up, shape us, move us, and inspire us. Gather with a group of people and commit to memory the Parable of the Prodigal Son or the story of Jesus healing Bartimaeus, and then take turns recounting the story to each other.
7. Utilize art and Scripture.
Through the centuries, artists have painted beautiful renditions of biblical accounts. Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son, Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, and Eugene Burnand’s The Disciples Peter and JohnRunning to the Sepulchre on the Morning of theResurrection are great places to start. For a longer list of resources, visit Art and the Bible at artbible.info. You can also lay out art supplies (colored pencils, markers, paper, paints, canvases, clay), read a passage aloud, and ask people to draw or sculpt the story. Then, invite people to share their creations with others to stimulate conversation about the passage.
There are countless ways to invite people to engage with Scripture together. As pastors, may we model this love, delight, and passion for Scripture, showing others how our own relationship with Christ is deepened by our engagement with the Bible and inviting others to participate in the process with us.
BY J.R Briggs