Institute for Bible Reading Officially Launches – Read the Full Release

As of November 15, the Institute for Bible Reading is launched! Although we have been existence for several months, we’ve been busy behind the scenes finding partners, putting together our Board of Advisors, and designing a strategic plan for launching a movement toward better Bible reading.

We are excited to begin bringing you more unique content and tangible resources to help your Bible reading. If you haven’t already, take a look at the new Resources tab on our website, which will be continually updated with new tools for you. Also keep an eye out for more frequent blog posts, including new video and audio resources. As always, we’d love to know what you think of our perspective and if you have specific questions about the Bible you’d like us to address.

Read the full release, as published on Religion News Service, below:

Veteran publishers launch a movement toward better Bible reading

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.– A team of executives from the Bible publishing industry has come together to form the Institute for Bible Reading (IFBR), an organization focused on combating the silent crisis of Bible disengagement. Research continues to confirm that meaningful Bible engagement is declining despite greater Bible access than ever. The group is committed to changing the prevailing assumptions and practices around Bible reading, which they claim perpetuate a hyper-individualized and fragmented Bible-reading experience.

The team, comprised of Scott Bolinder, Paul Caminiti, Alex Goodwin, and Glenn Paauw, has over 75 years of collective experience in Bible publishing and Christian ministry at Biblica, Zondervan, and Christianity Today. This, they say, has given them a clear glimpse of the gaps and shortfalls within the current Bible paradigm. The team is already developing its first major campaign to introduce new Bible reading practices for the church, with a major announcement to come soon.

“Christians know the Bible is important, but most of them have trouble actually reading and understanding it. Lots of people are simply giving up on the Bible.” says Paauw, author of Saving the Bible from Ourselves (InterVarsity Press, 2016), “We are going to give people tools and frameworks that fundamentally change the way they read the Bible so it can achieve its mission and become the story that defines their lives.”

During their years at Biblica and Zondervan, the team created resources like The Story, The Books of the Bible, and Community Bible Experience to give people fresh experiences with the Bible. To date, over six million people have participated in these programs. Now as a new independent group, they plan to build and expand on their past work while maintaining a spirit of continual learning. The Institute for Bible Reading will have three core functions:

Convene conversations with Bible scholars, church leaders, and influential thinkers to explore what it means to read and live the Bible well.

Inform the church by sharing their perspective and new learnings about good Bible reading, including the results of their own research.

Create new resources for the church that introduce fresh forms of the Bible and new Bible reading practices, all designed to help people read and live the Bible well.

IFBR’s Advisory Board already includes well-known Christian thought leaders Andy Crouch, Carolyn Custis James, Meritt Lohr Sawyer, Efrem Smith, and Philip Yancey. “Our world is saturated with words,” says Crouch. “And in one sense we’ve never had more access to the Word—on paper and on screens. But that very saturation makes the challenge of encouraging true reading and transformative engagement with Scripture far more complex than it has ever been. The leaders of the Institute for Bible Reading are among the most restless, insightful, and creative people I know. Anyone who cares about Bible engagement should beat a path to their door.”


About the Institute for Bible Reading

The Institute for Bible Reading is catalytic think tank uncommonly focused on providing people tools and frameworks that fundamentally change the way they read the Bible so it can achieve its mission and become the story that defines their lives.


Efrem Smith Joins Board of Advisors

Efrem SmithThe Institute is pleased to welcome our first pastor to our Board of Advisors! Reverend Efrem Smith joins Andy Crouch, Meritt Lohr Sawyer, Philip Yancey, and Carolyn Custis James on our board. We continue to be humbled and honored by the kindred spirits who are joining the movement toward a new era of Bible reading.

Efrem currently serves as President and CEO of World Impact, an urban mission organization focusing on evangelism among the unreached urban poor, leadership development, and church planting. He is also a Teaching Pastor at Bayside Midtown Church in Sacramento, California. He consults on issues of multi-ethnicity, leadership, and community development, and he speaks and preaches internationally, equipping people for a life of transformation.

Previously, he served as Founding Pastor of The Sanctuary Covenant Church and President of The Sanctuary Community Development Corporation in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as well as Superintendent of the Pacific Southwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church.

Efrem has also written several books, including “The Hip Hop Church”, “Jump”, and “The Post-Black and Post-White Church

“The Bible is where we first lose ourselves in the story and discover God’s compelling love for us that transcends economic, social, ethnic or any other status. Then, we are invited to find ourselves in the Bible, to discover our role in God’s great restoration story. The Institute for Bible Reading is doing important work to give us the tools to read the Scriptures well so we can live them well. Furthermore, the leaders of the Institute love the local church and are dedicated to serving pastors and their congregations for the long haul. Their focus, diligence and innovation are ushering in a new era of Bible reading that I believe might just bring about needed revival!”

We are excited to have Efrem as another great voice speaking into the work we are doing to help people connect meaningfully with the Bible. His perspective as a pastor and his expertise in the process of transformation will help us craft great resources that can be used in churches and communities around the world.


Meet Meritt Lohr Sawyer, Our Newest Advisor

The Institute for Bible Reading is gaining momentum! We are very excited to welcome Meritt Lohr Sawyer as the fourth member of our Board of Advisors.

Meritt Lohr SawyerMeritt most recently served as Executive Director for the Paul Carlson Foundation affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church, an organization dedicated to medical and economic development in the Congo – DRC. She has given executive leadership to non-profit organizations for over thirty years as the International Program Director for Langham Partnership International, Vice President of John Stott Ministries, and co-founder of FACT (global leadership), managing programs in almost 70 countries.

She is personally active in a far-reaching series of local and global endeavors including the boards of Fuller Theological Seminary, Development Associates International (DAI), Able Works, and Scholar Leaders.

We look forward to Meritt sharing her international expertise with us as we work to begin a truly global movement toward a new era of Bible reading.

“For 500 years, the biblical word has been in our hands, galvanized by the Protestant Reformation. Yet the artificially-inserted chapters and verses have distorted the biblical narrative. I was naïve to this reality until the leadership of the Institute for Bible Reading placed their work in my hands.” Meritt said, “Consequently, I have been drawn into the purest, deepest connection with the Lord, Our God knowing I was reading the text in its original form. How can one not be compelled? A new reformation is upon us!”


The Institute Welcomes Carolyn Custis James to Board of Advisors

Carolyn Custis JamesThe Institute for Bible Reading is delighted to announce Carolyn Custis James as the newest member of our Board of Advisors. Carolyn joins Philip Yancey and Andy Crouch on our growing advisory team.

Carolyn is an author, activist, and speaker who researches and writes about the intersection between Christianity and twenty-first century questions facing women and men globally. Her 2015 book Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World won the Christianity Today 2016 Book of the Year Award in the Her.meneutics category, and was named to the Best 10 Books of 2015 list by Missio Alliance.

Carolyn also serves as an adjunct faculty member at BTS (Biblical Theological Seminary) in Pennsylvania, a consulting editor for Zondervan’s Exegetical Commentary Series on the New Testament, and a contributing editor for Leadership Journal. In 2013, Christianity Today named her one of the 50 evangelical women to watch.

Upon joining the Board of Advisors, Carolyn was asked to comment on the Institute’s work. “Like electricity, running water, well-stocked grocery stores, and endless miles of smooth paved roads, easy access to the Bible and the ability to own a copy are privileges we take for granted. We’ve lost sight of what it took to write this much-neglected book and the price many paid to get it into our hands.” She told us, “We’re missing out on the life-transforming wisdom and the hope-filled good news it proclaims. Nothing should hold us back from diving into the grandest and best story ever told and to discover afresh the God who loves us and draws us into his story. I am grateful to be part of a movement that aims to help us do exactly that.”

Carolyn blogs at, Huffington Post/Religion, and as a Leading Voice at


The Institute Hosts Our First Pastors Gathering

A few weeks ago the Institute was privileged to host our first pastors gathering in Monterey, CA. We have hosted three gatherings of Bible scholars in Chicago and Cape Town, South Africa over the past couple years, but have always wanted to have small, intimate conversations with pastors – the folks on the front lines of seeing people struggle with the Bible – and talk with them about what good Bible engagement in the church looks like.

Pastors Gathering Monterey CA

The event was put together by our friend Kevin Harney, lead pastor at Shoreline Church and author of, among other things, the Organic Outreach series. Twelve pastors from the surrounding area joined us for several hours to talk about questions like, “How do people in your congregation approach the Bible?” and “As a pastor, what types of resources would you like to have to help people read the Bible?”

Sherry Harney and Paul CaminitiAfter describing our perspective on Bible reading and our vision for creating resources to help people read the Bible better, we were excited to see nodding heads and smiles from many of the pastors. “I’ve been so busy preparing sermons, I haven’t read for breadth in years,” one pastor admitted, “If you can get pastors to believe in reading big, that’s huge.” Another pastor told us, “A lot of people are scripturally schizophrenic – this whole idea is a huge mindset shift.”

Having perspectives, challenges, and encouragement from pastors is extremely important and helpful for us. If we are going to give people brand new Bible reading experiences, we want to make sure with pastors first that what we’re doing will work well in a church environment. We are looking forward to having more of these conversations with pastors all across the country.

Are you a pastor? Would you like to help put together something similar to this? Contact us, we’d love to talk!