Scripture Engagement Defined
What It Is
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.
Every time we come to the Bible, we can meet and know God. Engaging the Bible is a relational process, the primary means by which God engages the believer. When it comes down to it, isn’t having a deep, meaningful, and engaging relationship with God what you want in life? It’s what we were created for.
Dr. Fergus Macdonald writes, “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.”
Underlying this definition of Scripture engagement are the following theological assumptions:
It is the Holy Spirit who enables the text to speak for itself.
When the text speaks it is the voice of God the Father that is heard.
It is Jesus Christ who through the text makes a unique claim upon readers and hearers.
The Bible itself teaches us how we are to approach God’s Word. Words the Bible uses include “meditate” (Psalm 1:2, Joshua 1:8), “reflect” (2 Timothy 2:7), “look intently” (James 1:25), “dwell” (Colossians 3:16), “ponder” (Psalm 119:95), “consider” (Jeremiah 2:31), and even “eat” (Jeremiah 15:16, Revelation 10:9-11). The phrase that summarizes this process is “Scripture engagement.”
Why It’s Important
In the book Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth,authors Hawkins and Parkinson describe research conducted on 250,000 people at 1,000 churches. The study looked at 50 different factors that impact spiritual growth (defined as loving God and loving others). Their findings?
“Nothing has a greater impact on spiritual growth than reflection on Scripture… If churches could do only one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ, their choice is clear. They would inspire, encourage, and equip their people to read the Bible – specifically, to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives…The Bible is the most powerful catalyst for spiritual growth. The Bible’s power to advance spiritual growth is unrivaled by anything else we’ve discovered.”
The key process in training ourselves and others to fulfill the Great Commandment is to grow in Scripture engagement.
Why are the Scriptures so vital to spiritual growth? They are living and active (Hebrews 4:12-13), give freedom (James 1:25), make truth known (Psalm 19:7-11), and equip for service (2 Timothy 3:16-17). All this and more is true, but perhaps the most important reason is based on the simple description that the Bible is God’s Word. As Timothy Ward says, “to encounter the words of Scripture is to encounter God in action” (Timothy Ward, Words of Life, 2009).
What We Can Do
Although there is an extensive range of the ways in which people interact with the Bible, it is helpful to distinguish five categories of Scripture engagement:
Personal – interacting with Scripture during one’s private devotions.
Small Group – interacting with Scripture along with others.
Liturgical – the public recital of Scripture during acts of worship.
Rhetorical – public proclamation of the message of the Scriptures.
Didactic – instructional learning from Scripture in an educational context
What It Does In Us
Scripture Engagement can lead us to:
Discover God – As we engage with the Scriptures, God – Father, Son, and Spirit – mysteriously and graciously meet us, speak to us, empower us and lead us into the next steps in our journey of faith.
Discover Our Mission with God – The world urgently needs to hear the biblical story of God’s mission to rescue and reconcile the human race from its plight of insurgency, brokenness, and self-absorption. By indwelling the biblical story and telling others about the story, we become an integral part of the very story we are invited to live and tell.
Discover Jesus Christ – the Bible is the means through which Jesus exercise his Lordship over us. The Scriptures testify to Jesus as the giver of eternal life (John 5:39, 6:66). Engaging with these Scriptures is a vital feature of Christian discipleship.
Discover the Mission of the Church – Scripture engagement transforms, inspires and enables the Church to express its life in vibrant ways and to accomplish its mission in the power of the Spirit.
Discover Values for Life – Transformational Scripture engagement by the Christian community is the most effective driver in advocating the adoption of biblical values in public life.