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.
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.
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:
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.”
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).
Although there are many ways in which people interact with the Bible, it is helpful to distinguish five categories of Scripture engagement:
Through Scripture engagement, we can be lead to: