From “No Bible” to “Know Bible” Part 2: Feasting on the Bible

Editors Note: From “No Bible” to “Know Bible” is a 6-part series on the path toward great Bible engagement. Click here to read Part 1.

What does it mean to receive the Bible on its own terms? Dynamic, living Bible engagement happens when a community:

  • has good access to a well-translated text presented in its natural literary forms,
  • regularly feasts together on whole literary units understood in context,
  • understands the overall story of the Bible as centered in Jesus, and
  • accepts the invitation to take up its own role in God’s ongoing drama of restoration through the power of the Spirit.

When the Scriptures are received on their own terms like this they can once again become God’s speech act—instructing, revealing, convicting, judging, comforting, healing, and saving with all their intended power.

Part 2: Feasting on The Bible

As we explored last week, the first step to deep Bible engagement happens when a community has good access to a well-translated text presented in its natural literary forms. The first half of this statement is now true for a fair part of the world (though the translation need remains for many). The second part of this statement is becoming a reality for more and more people as publishers increasingly realize the immense value in Reader’s Bibles.

Elegant reader’s editions give people the opportunity to regain something that’s been missing from our Bible practices for nearly five centuries: reading the Bible in its natural, uncluttered form. Reader’s Bibles reintroduce us to Bible feasting.

Bible feasting is reading whole books, taking in the literary units that the Bible’s first authors and editors created and intended for their audiences to read as complete works.

Bible feasting is reading the Scriptures as the kind of literature they were inspired to be.

Bible feasting is reading the Bible without distractions and interruptions. It is reading deeply, at length, and with more understanding.

Bible feasting recognizes the natural literary breaks that existed before chapter and verse numbers inartfully imposed their foreign structure on the Bible. The best kind of in-depth Bible reading is not just reading more (though it is that too!) — it’s reading better because we are seeing what the Bible really is.

Bible feasting is reading all those long-overlooked books like Judges, Zephaniah, Philemon, and Habakkuk and discovering the crucial pieces they contribute to the overall biblical narrative. Bible feasting is taking 35 minutes to hear the entire crashing chord of Paul’s anguished plea for suffering, servant leadership in 2 Corinthians. Bible feasting is seeing a whole sequence of parables in a Gospel and asking why they were put together that way. It’s reading all five of those sad songs of devastation and loss in Lamentations, allowing those few words of hope right in the center to hit us with their full force:

Yet I still dare to hope

when I remember this:

The faithful love of the LORD never ends!

His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness;

his mercies begin afresh each morning.

In short, Bible feasting reacquaints us with an undiminished Bible. Eating the Bible whole is essential to receiving the Bible that God actually gave us. Feasting is the thing that gets us back on track to big, deep Bible engagement. If the Bible is going to be our story and form our lives the way it was meant to, then there is no shortcut to simply reading more of it.

So long as we merely snack on the Bible, taking preselected bits and pieces out of their bigger literary settings, we will never know the real Bible nor receive all its intended gifts.

Snacking on Bible verses allows us to set our own agenda, to hear only what we want to hear. Feasting introduces us to the complete message—good encouraging words and good hard words—that we so desperately need.

Snacking on Bible verses allows to set our own agenda, to hear only what we want to hear.Click To Tweet

There is a crisis in Christian identity in the world today. Too many who claim the status of Christ-follower allow this or that ideology to be the primary force that shapes and forms them. Too many Christians are getting the story of their lives from somewhere other than God’s Scriptures. If we are to know who we really are, and the story we are supposed to be living, then we have to re-immerse ourselves in these holy words—songs, stories, letters, and prophecies—that God gave us for a purpose.

There is a complete meal for us in the Bible. Feasting is the only way we’ll ever discover it.

Continue to Part 3: Reading Together

Our Interview with Christianity Today on the Museum of the Bible

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the Museum of the Bible, which opens on November 17 in the heart of Washington, DC. The 430,000-square-foot space three blocks south of the Capitol building will be a sight to behold, boasting technological spectacles like a 140-foot overhead LED screen, a performing arts theater with 17 4K resolution projectors, handheld touchscreen “digital docents,” augmented reality games for kids, and more.

The 140-ft LED ceiling displays 5 different scenes (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

Christianity Today’s November cover story is on the forthcoming opening of the museum, so they reached out to us and hosted Glenn Paauw on their “Quick to Listen” podcast with assistant editor Morgan Lee and editorial director Ted Olsen. They unpack what it means to have a Museum of the Bible, what it means to engage the Bible, and what role our experiences with the Bible play in our understanding of God’s Word.

Check out Glenn’s interview with CT and let us know what you think.


Youth Pastor Helps Students Immerse in the Bible

Soft-spoken, studious and philosophical, youth pastor Jesse Bolinder understands the importance of the Bible in the spiritual formation of kids and teenagers. So when Jesse approached us this spring (before Immerse: The Reading Bible was complete) and asked if we’d give him pre-published files to begin testing Immerse with his youth group at Harbert Community Church in Sawyer, MI, we knew he was a great fit.

I sat down with Jesse to talk about his work with young people and how he sees the role of Scripture playing out with Generations Y and Z.

Recent data shows 40—50% of Millennials are leaving the church. This includes kids that faithfully attended youth group and went on missions trips. Does that weigh on you and shape the way you do youth ministry?

Definitely. James Emery White in his book Meet Generation Z unpacks what the world might look like to the first generation of young people born into the post-Christian era (1995—2010). For this generation it will be crucial that we get the Bible right—that we stop treating it like a user’s manual or reference book. I’m hesitant to give my students a reference Bible because I want them reading the story, not just looking up verses on what the Bible says about anger.

Immerse represents a new approach to reading Scripture. What caught your attention and attracted you to it?

I’ve really bought into IFBR’s concept of full meals versus Bible nuggets. And the book club model is perfect for young people. We don’t give them enough credit. If we invite them to read the Bible and express their opinions honestly, they’ll respond. We have to stop trying to control the conversations or thinking that honest opinions are dangerous. We’re starting to use IFBR’s book club model for more and more of our conversations.

Can you share a little about the group’s experience?

We only had pre-production scripts, but there were some immediate takeaways. For me personally, I found myself reading more. I’d read for a while, and because there were no chapter breaks inviting me to stop, I kept reading. It was only when I finished that I realized I’d read the equivalent of four or five chapters.

For the young people, the text was less intimidating. And reading whole books was a new experience. When we finished reading Mark, one of the girls said, “Is this actually the Bible?”

In addition to our group experience, I had a serendipitous experience with my nephew who’s a junior in high school. Our families were on vacation together and he saw me reading a book about the Bible. I was just finishing the book and offered it to him. But he said he’d actually never read the Bible himself and thought maybe he should read it first. By this time I had a published copy of Immerse: Beginnings and asked if he’d like to read it. That began a summer-long conversation. At one point he said to me, “Sometimes God seems to be the antagonist in the story. The people are building these cities but God steps in and messes things up.”

On another occasion, he expressed annoyance that the story of the construction of the tabernacle was repeated four times! Later he softened and remarked that it must have been very important. Here’s this junior in high school, seriously reading the Old Testament and going from annoyance to insight.

Anything else you want to add?

It’s sobering that 85% of young people today believe the church is hypocritical (I think I got that from the book UnChristian). I don’t blame them for this. This is more on us—your generation and mine. We’ve put stumbling blocks in front of them. This is why I’m a fan of Immerse—reading the bigger story and the more authentic conversations. The Bible isn’t Google! We’re definitely using Immerse more.


Media Favorites 2017

Over the course of the year, IFBR staff have had the opportunity to be featured in a number of different media outlets. So we gathered together a few interviews and articles from 2017 (so far) that we feel best reflect our mission, philosophy, and vision for the Bible Reading Movement.

If you’d like to set up an interview or have us write for you, contact us to set something up. Podcast

Glenn Paauw and Paul Caminiti joined Jason Daye at to talk about the current epidemic of Biblical illiteracy, and how tracing the problems back to their roots 500 years ago can help us create solutions for our churches today.

Interview with the Bible Buying Guide

Randy Brown at the Bible Buying Guide published a comprehensive interview with Glenn Paauw in which they discuss the Institute for Bible Reading and our work to pioneer a Bible Reading Movement. They talk at length about the importance of form and design in our Bibles, and how Immerse reflects many of the changes that are necessary for a great Bible reading experience. If you you want an in-depth look at IFBR and our work, this 4000+ word interview is a great resource.

Backstage at Q Nashville

Paul Caminiti was interviewed during this year’s Q conference in Nashville. He shares IFBR’s story and talks about how we’re working for a better future for the Bible.

Q Backstage: Paul Caminiti

Premier Christianity Magazine Article

Glenn Paauw wrote an article for UK magazine Premier Christianity about how snacking on “Scripture McNuggets” is a misuse of the Bible. He then lays out a series of steps we can take to receive the Bible on its own terms and recover deep Bible engagement.

From “No Bible” to “Know Bible” Part 1: Form Matters

The Bible is a library of books that do things. These books instruct, inspire, reveal, convict, judge, comfort, heal, and save. This means that the Bible is not merely a collection of static words. The Bible is rather a divine speech act.

The Scriptures promise that they contain the power to change things, to actually move the creation in the direction of God’s ultimate purposes for the flourishing of life. For this promise to be fulfilled, however, the Scriptures must be received, understood, and lived on their own terms.

But what does this mean—“to receive the Bible on its own terms”? What does that look like?

Reading and living the Bible well—what we could call dynamic, stellar Bible engagement—happens when a community:

  • has good access to a well-translated text presented in its natural literary forms,
  • regularly feasts together on whole literary units understood in context,
  • understands the overall story of the Bible as centered in Jesus, and
  • accepts the invitation to take up its own role in God’s ongoing drama of restoration through the power of the Spirit.

Over the next six editions of this series we’ll be unpacking some of the major elements of this view of Bible engagement in order. Welcome to a whole new Bible, making a whole new kind of difference in our lives.

Form Matters.

The first step in this process involves a paradigm shift in our thinking about the form of the Bible. We’ve all gotten used to seeing and using the Bible in the modern reference book format. For most of us, it’s the only Bible we’ve ever known.

But this format is of course our own creation—something we’ve done to the Bible long after the Bible itself was written. For the first millennium and a half of the Bible’s history there was no chapter-and-verse system laid over top of the text. It was in the sixteenth-century that the Bible was transformed into a standardized, numberized, two-column tool for looking things up.

Rather than reading.

So—no surprise—that’s what we’ve been doing. Using the Bible rather than receiving it. Looking up little pieces of the Bible rather than diving in and immersing ourselves in it. The modern form of the Bible itself tells us to do this. When you see a dictionary, do you sit down with it in a cozy chair and settle in for the evening?

But now imagine this. Imagine seeing the Bible as a library of books that looks like a library of books. Letters that look like letters and stories that read like stories. Nice, comfortable type, set in a single column so there’s no guessing about what is poetry and what is prose. And no additives! No numbers, notes, or nagging distractions. Just well-designed, inviting, easy-to-read, pure text.

Those chapter and verse divisions we added do not reflect the original divisions of the text. They don’t show us Matthew’s five natural sections—a new Torah. They don’t show us the three parts of ancient letters. They don’t show us the parallel structure in Luke–Acts of Jesus journeying to Jerusalem and then the gospel journeying to Rome.

And so on, through all the books in the Bible.

Because here’s the thing: all the books in the library actually have natural literary forms. The Bible’s authors and editors chose particular literary genres to say what they wanted to say. Sometimes they wanted to sing, so they wrote lyrics and set their words to music. The prophets collected their strong, emotional, poetry into stanzas. The apostles used the ancient letter form to instruct distant congregations. Storytellers, well, you know what storytellers do. Because different kinds of writing do different kinds of things well. And the Bible has a lot it wants to do.

This is the literary Bible God inspired.

This is what the Bible actually is.

And our Bibles should show us what the Bible actually is.

So we’ll read it on its own terms, the way it was intended.

We’ve now had a five-hundred-year-old history with the modern reference Bible. The evidence is overwhelming that most people don’t know it. Even people who say they like it often don’t actually read it. Pollster George Gallup was fond of saying the Bible is the best-selling, least-read book in America.

It’s time for a Bible reformation. We can do better by the Bible. It’s trying to be God’s speech act, his living and active word announcing his kingdom and transforming people. Rethinking how we format the Bible can welcome people back into good, deep reading.

The launch of a worldwide Bible reading movement starts with a Bible makeover. It begins with what we see when we look at a Bible. Fresh new Bible presentations embracing the original elegant simplicity of the Bible are the order of the day.

Maybe then the Bible can do more of what it’s trying to do in our lives.

Continue to Part 2: Feasting on the Bible