Introduction to Scripture Engagement Practices
Having a foundational understanding of Scripture engagement is critical, but just as critical is developing the skills necessary to actually be able to better meet God in His Word. 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.
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. The church throughout its history has used and taught a number of ways to help people reflect on Scripture. 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. It is probably best to use a variety of Scripture engagement practices over time, though there may be some that each person will tend to be drawn back to over and over. The basic “ingredients” of Scripture engagement are:
- Preparation of the heart to listen to God
- Reading/Listening to God’s Word
- Reflecting/Meditating on God’s Word
- An openness to the Holy Spirit
- A community to talk to about what is being learned/experienced
- Commitment to obey
These basic ingredients can be mixed and matched in different ways using different practices based on the needs of the learner. But in general, each ingredient is needed for the best results.
What follows is a more detailed description of the five specific Scripture engagement practices used in The Abide Bible, with video descriptions of each presented by Dr. Phil Collins from Taylor University’s Center for Scripture Engagement. These five are not the only five that exist, but they are five foundational practices that probably every follower of Jesus should be exposed to and experiment with.
Read with a holy attention, arising from the consideration of the majesty of God, and the reverence due to him. This must be done with attention, first, to the words; second, to the sense; and, third, to the divine authority of the Scripture, and the obligation it lays on the conscience for obedience.
Journaling Scripture is not the same as keeping a personal journal or diary of daily events. Rather, a Scripture journal helps you reflect on a passage and concentrate. Just as taking notes during a class or sermon helps most of us remember the information, writing your thoughts about a passage helps you engage more deeply in the Bible.
You might tend to think of prayer and Bible reading as separate spiritual practices (e.g., first pray, then read the Bible). But they can be even more powerful together. What do we mean when we say to “pray Scripture”? Evan Howard in his book Praying the Scriptures writes, “To pray the Scriptures is to order one’s time of prayer around a particular text in the Bible.” To do this, you might use the prayers of the Bible word-for-word as your own prayers, personalize portions of the Scriptures in prayer, or pray through various topics of the Bible.
Imagination isn’t child’s play; it’s a God-given gift along with logic and reason. The Picture It method of Scripture engagement (also called the Ignatian method, Imaginative contemplation, “if-you-were-there,” etc.) gives you the opportunity to engage your imagination and connect with Scripture by placing yourself in the stories.
All too often in prayer and worship, we talk to God but don’t give Him a chance to communicate back to us. The 4-step Contemplate process–reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation–is a tool to help us use God’s Word to have a personal conversation with Him.
From the very first verse of the Bible, God reveals Himself as the Creator, an Artist. Everything within the universe is a magnificent part of His masterpiece. As works of art created in God’s own image (Genesis 1:27), people are endowed with the ability to create as well.
Since visual art–including stained glass, sculptures, and paintings–is often complicated and takes time to understand, it can help you slow down and meditate on a passage. In the presence of the Holy Spirit, you can combine a piece of art and the inspired words of the Bible, helping you to encounter the God of the Bible in a new way.