Scripture engagement is the foundation of the spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines are tools to help us grow in our relationship with God, to become like Christ. The disciplines are never the end goal, the Christian life does not exist to perform the disciplines. Instead, the disciplines are the means to the end goal; a joyful and growing relationship with God.
We perform the disciplines, and when and how God chooses, He meets us there. We can’t control God, making Him conform to our desire to meet Him when and where we want. The disciplines are like our setting up the sail on a sailboat. We work at setting up our sail (the disciplines), and when God’s chooses, He fills our sail with His wind, the Holy Spirit.
Spiritual Disciplines are Rooted in Scripture
The question is not whether one should engage the Bible, but how to engage it so that our lives are transformed. Our spiritual disciplines must be motivated by, informed by, and performed through a reflective approach to Scripture. Often the various forms of the disciplines are means to better saturate our lives in the Bible. As Eugene Peterson writes, engaging the Scriptures is our primary and normative access to God as He reveals Himself to us. Walt Russell, in Playing with Fire, puts it this way, “The main thing God uses to form us into the likeness of Jesus Christ is His Word – the Scriptures.”
How is Scripture Engagement Different?
Scripture engagement is not the same thing as studying the Bible. It is a complement to deep study of the Scriptures. In the process of promoting Scripture engagement, the last thing we want to do is detract from the importance of studying the Scriptures. Let’s be very clear here: Studying the Scriptures is absolutely essential to the Christian life. Second Timothy 2:15 tells us that we are to come to the Bible as a “worker who . . . correctly handles the word of truth.”
But just studying the Bible is not enough. It is possible to study the Bible so that it becomes a mere academic exercise, studying in a way that ends up not impacting spiritual growth. You have probably met people who have head knowledge of a topic without heart or life change, a kind of empty scholasticism.
Scripture engagement calls us to both analyze and apply the Bible—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. It is a process of discovery learning. 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.
We can learn about studying the Bible from good teachers and scholars; however, most of us have more to learn about reflecting on the Bible for spiritual growth. There are techniques and practices that the church has learned over the years that can benefit each of us. Think what it is like to play soccer (or “football” for much of the world). The basics of soccer are fairly simple: “Kick the ball in the goal.” Even children can play the game and, with practice and good coaching, those children can grow up to be brilliant World Cup–level athletes, masters of the game. It is the same with engaging Scripture. You probably already engage the Bible at some level, and with practice and coaching, you will grow in the life-changing skills of Scripture engagement.
How Can I Practice Scripture Engagement?
Spend the next 21 days in a deep, transformative experience with God’s Word. The 21 Days in John program is a free daily devotion series that was developed in conjunction with Bible Gateway and the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement.
Over the course of the series, you’ll discover how implementing long-established scripture engagement practices can help you experience, understand, and apply scripture in a powerful new way.
When you sign up, you’ll get:
- A daily email that will link to a roughly 15-minute devotional experience on a chapter of the beloved Gospel of John, hosted by Taylor University professor Dr. Phil Collins.
- A free pdf download of the Gospel of John from The Abide Bible to follow along.
We pray that this approach to Scripture will help open your spiritual eyes and ears to experience a more intimate, fruit-filled relationship with our heavenly Father.
The Abide Bible combines the unique Scripture Engagement practices developed by Taylor University in one Bible to help you experience the peace, hope, and growth that come from encountering the voice and presence of God in Scripture.
Learn more about the Abide Bible by clicking here.