1. BECAUSE SCRIPTURE ENGAGEMENT IS THE CUTTING EDGE OF EVANGELISM
Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17, NIV)
Through ‘Word Evangelism’ we can grasp the opportunities and meet the challenges confronting the churches today
- Mosaics (age 18-25) want to participate more in the process of Bible learning– American young adults, especially Mosaics, express a slightly above average interest in gaining additional Bible knowledge. The President of the Barna Group comments; ‘Perhaps young people want to participate more in the process of learning.’
- The Bible page on Facebook attracts 1.3 million fans, and is still growing – The Bible page on Facebook was founded in July 2009 by Mark Brown, Chief Executive Officer, Bible Society in New Zealand, and has become one of the fastest growing pages on the social networking site. Those who sign up (known in Facebook parlance as ‘fans’) have the opportunity to receive short portions of Scripture that are posted twice daily. Fans respond at the rate of up to 100,000 interactions per week, posting their comments on the site. ‘There have been days where these daily scriptures have been exactly what I needed to hear on that day. I never thought I would become close to God through a social network, but I have’ – One The Bible page fan, Jan 2010.
- Fewer Americans identify as Christians; more have no religious identity – Over recent decades the proportion of Americans identifying with a Christian faith is declining. In 1948, 91% of Americans identified themselves in this way. Twenty years ago, in 1989, 82% of Americans identified as Christians. Ten years ago, it was 84%. This year, 78% of all American adults identify with a Christian faith. The major reason for this decline has been an increase in the percentage of Americans claiming no religious identity, now at 13% of all adults. – Gallup Report, 24 December, 2009
- Young adults regard the Bible as less sacred– ‘Mosaics’ (aged 18-25) and ‘Busters’ (aged 26-44) regard the Bible as less sacred and less accurate than do ‘Boomers’ (aged 45-63) and ‘Elders’ (aged 64+). They are also less likely than average to have spent time alone in the past week praying and reading the Bible for at least 15 minutes. – Barna Group Report, The Bible and the Generation Gap, October 19, 2009
- The younger a person, the higher the incidence of non-Bible reading – Only 25% of teen-agers read the Bible weekly or more often, compared to 30% in their twenties; 37% in their thirties; 44% in their forties; 47% in their fifties; and 55% of those age sixty and above – Barna Update, Sept 24, 2003
2. BECAUSE ENGAGING WITH SCRIPTURE IS THE CATALYST FOR TRANSFORMATIONAL DISCIPLESHIP
Jesus said: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32, NRSV)
The Center for Scripture Engagement can provide churches and other bodies with key resources that would facilitate their response to the following signs of a growing recognition of the value of Scripture engagement:
- The Bible is the most powerful catalyst for spiritual growth – One of the two breakthrough findings from the 4-year Willow Creek research program involving 200 churches and 80,000 people is:
‘The Bible is the most powerful catalyst for spiritual growth. The Bible’s power to advance spiritual growth is unrivalled by anything else we’ve discovered. Reflection on Scripture is by far the most influential spiritual practice’ – Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson, Follow Me: What’s Next for You? (pages 105-6).
- Praying and reading Scripture a key contributor to high faith commitment – Establishing during teenage years the practice of praying and reading Scripture is a key factor in maintaining a high faith commitment into emerging adults (ages 18-29) – Christian Smith with Patricia Snell, Souls in Transition: The Religious & Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults, 2009, page 285)
- Scripture engagement correlates with moral behavior – ‘There is a significant difference in the moral behavior of someone who consistently engages (reads or listens to) the Bible four or more times a week compared to someone who doesn’t.’ – Bible Reading, Daily Triumphs & Daily Struggles: Research Synthesis, January 2009, Back to the Bible Center for Bible Engagement, Lincoln, NE.
- Over half of church attendees find the Bible difficult – 52% of regular church attendees in America find the Bible difficult, although 92% consider it interesting and 78% believe it to be true. – Thirsting for the Word: International Survey on Relationship with the Scriptures, Catholic Biblical Federation, 2008.
3. BECAUSE A NEW VISION OF THE POWER OF SCRIPTURE IS URGENTLY NEEDED
The word of God is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12, GNT)
In ‘Word Evangelism’ people enter the Bible Story and discover Jesus. By regularly engaging with the Bible, Christians grow in the ability to inhabit the Bible Story and discover its life-transforming power. The vision of the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement is to equip people to engage the Scriptures in ways that will drive personal discipleship, worldview formation, evangelism and church planting. Our dream is that the global Christian community during the second decade of the 21st century, Scripture engagement will be the idea whose time has come.