Scripture Engagement is Different than Bible Study – An Interview with Phil Collins

Has anyone ever taught you how to read the Bible so that you grow spiritually? Do you know how to come to the Scriptures in a manner that promotes a thriving, living relationship with Christ? For many, the guidance ends with someone telling you to “read your Bible and pray every day.” Too many people have come to the Bible with an inadequate approach, flounder around, get distracted and then stop coming to the Bible; thinking that something was wrong with the Bible or with themselves.

In The Abide Bible Course, a professor and a pastor – Dr. Phil Collins and Randy Frazee – walk through five transformative Christian practices for reading the Bible. In this Q&A, Bible Gateway interviewed Dr. Phil Collins about the 6-session video Bible study, The Abide Bible Course, (HarperChristian Resources, 2022).

What is The Abide Bible Course?

It’s a six-session small group video curriculum designed as a very practical training tool to help people learn how to engage Scripture – how to read it in a way that’s vibrant and life changing. Each session has a set of opening questions for discussion, a 20-minute or so video, notes for the video teaching, directions for activities and discussion questions.  One of the great things about the sessions is that each one has a series of personal studies for individuals to practice between sessions.  Our friend, pastor, and author J.R. Briggs, did an amazing job developing the written materials.

How did the Abide Bible Course come about?

It’s really been a collaborative process between the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement, Randy Frazee, Bible Gateway, J.R. Briggs, and HarperChristian Resources.  We all deeply believe that the Scriptures are at the center of the discipleship process.  That it’s through God’s Word that we primarily learn to love Christ and are transformed into the image of Christ.  It was the good people at HarperChristian who brought us all together on the project.    

What are the six sessions in the Abide Bible Course about?

The first session is about Scripture engagement and why the Bible is so important to our abiding in Christ.  The other five sessions are about the following specific Scripture engagement practices and how to do them, 1) praying Scripture, 2) engaging Scripture through art, 3) journaling Scripture, 4) picturing Scripture, and 5) contemplating Scripture.  The sessions are all fun, collaborative, and very practical.

Are those the only Scripture engagement practices that exist?

Not at all, but they’re a pretty good place to start.  You can read about others in the Scripture engagement section of Bible Gateway.  We believe there isn’t just one right way to engage with Scripture. In the same way that there are many ways to exercise that lead to being healthy, there are a variety of ways to engage Scripture that lead to spiritual health.  Different people seem to be attracted to different Scripture engagement practices. There doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all way of coming to the Scriptures, the spiritual life is more personal than that.

Learn More about the Abide Bible Course and pick up a copy of the Study Guide + Streaming Video from our friends at ChurchSource today.

What do you mean by “Scripture engagement?”

Did you know the Bible tells us how we’re to read or listen to it?  It uses words like   

“abide” (1 John 2:14) “meditate” (Ps. 1:2Josh. 1:8), “consider” (2 Tim. 2:7), “look into” (James 1:25), “dwell” (Col. 3:16), “see” (Jer. 2:31), “bind” (Deut. 6:7), “receive” and “search” (Acts 17:11), “hide” (Ps. 119:11), “hold fast” (1 Cor. 15:2), and even “eat” (Jer. 15:16).  Those are all words of deep engagement.  Too often we come to the Bible and just skim it.  You might say we tend to be fast food consumers of the Bible when we really need to slow down and take our time so that the truths of Scripture sink into our very souls.    

Isn’t Scripture engagement the same thing as Bible study?

No, it’s a complement to deep study of the Bible.  We study to discover what a passage means.  We must know what the Bible means if we’re to have an accurate understanding of God as we meet with him.  But just studying the Bible isn’t enough. It’s possible to study the Bible so that it becomes a mere academic exercise, studying in a way that ends up not impacting spiritual growth. Scripture engagement calls us to having knowledge of a text along with a personal insight about that text. Scripture engagement encourages us to listen with our minds and with our hearts. The ideal process is to come to the Bible by first working hard to study what it means. The next step is to reflect, in the power of the Holy Spirit, on the meaning of the passage for your own life and community. Reflection will bring up more questions about the meaning of the text and drive you back to study, which will then lead to the need for more reflection. A cycle of study-reflection-study-reflection, which leads to a deepened relationship with God and a changed life, is the most powerful process for developing spiritually.

Why do you think so many people find Bible reading to be so hard?

A few reasons come to mind.  First is that most Christians report that no one has really taught them how to read the Bible to grow spiritually.  We value Scripture reading, we just don’t know how to do it. 

A second reason is that people have a natural tendency to avoid anything that will cause them to change. Meeting and knowing God is always a life-changing process and is always for our good. However, it involves a death to ourselves, which can be intimidating (Matthew 16:24). Studying the Bible for information can be done in the spirit of trying to master the text so that we are the ones who control the Bible instead of putting ourselves under the authority of God’s Word (think of the Pharisees). Meeting with God will change our lives. Being willing to admit that we need change (Mark 2:17) is a critical first step in Scripture engagement. Our sinful, prideful nature fights against yielding to God’s renewing work in our lives.

Lastly, people don’t tend to think of the Bible as a relational book.  It’s a book about God revealing himself to us.  He’s telling his story of salvation, through Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  There is nothing better than knowing God (Jer. 9:23-24)!  It is through the Scriptures that we meet Christ (John 5:39-40).  No wonder the Bible says that we are to delight in the God’s Word (Psalm 1:2)!

Our hope is that The Abide Bible Course will help people with each of these concerns; that it will equip people to read the Bible, it will encourage them to yield to God’s work in their lives, and that it will inspire them to come to the Bible with delight because that’s the place they’ll meet God.  Like the Ethiopian eunuch, we often need a “Philip” to come along side of us to help us know what to do when we come to the Bible (Acts 8:26-40), someone who can model the process. 

Is it significant to have a pastor and professor work together on this project?

We hope so – if nothing else, we sure have had fun on this project!  Bringing together the pastoral and academic worlds has helped keep us grounded in both the practical day-to-day lives of real people and in the latest cutting edge thinking and research on Scripture engagement. 

Learn More about the Abide Bible Course and pick up a copy of the Study Guide + Streaming Video from our friends at ChurchSource today.

The post Scripture Engagement is Different than Bible Study – An Interview with Phil Collins appeared first on Bible Gateway Blog.

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