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Our go-to questions for Scripture engagement

In 2010, Tamie and I were introduced to some new habits through an international dinner party meeting weekly in Melbourne. These things have since become second nature to us and we find ourselves passing them on, so it’s about time I shared them here.

After hearing a story from the Bible, the questions go something like this:

  1. What do you like about it?
  2. What don’t you like about it?
  3. What does it tell us about people/humanity?
  4. What does it tell us about God?
  5. What will you change as a result of it?

You can see a variation on these questions below, but the point is to move from response towards impact or obedience. This is reading for discipleship: someone can immediately begin interacting with Jesus and/or God regardless of their background or religious identity. It’s an approach that can be used by anyone with anyone who is interested.

When we first encountered this approach, it came along with another practice, ‘storying‘: the leader doing a Bible storytelling from memory, the group retelling the story to one another, and the time concluding with an intent to retell the story during the week. But even if you’re not doing this kind of thing, the aim is generally to work with larger chunks of the Bible (as with manuscript discovery).

Here’s a similar set of questions, this time from Community Bible Experience. I love the way that Glenn Paauw and Biblica have been leading the way on these things. Here the impact questions are framed in terms of Jesus’ love-ethic.

  1. What’s something you notice?
  2. What questions do you have?
  3. Is there anything that bothers you?
  4. What do you learn about loving God?
  5. What do you learn about loving others?

These sets of questions can be seen as having just two elements: (1) What strikes you? (2) How does this change you? In fact, those two questions are enough to start with. One way or the other, it affords plenty of time for reading/hearing big blocks of the Bible.

Why Scripture engagement?

‘Scripture engagement’ is an idea I’ve intuitively gravitated towards and started using through my interest in spiritual formation, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the phrase used in Australia. Although it’s become commonplace elsewhere, it seems like it’s almost a technical term and it’s not immediately clear what it’s meant to mean: why ‘Scripture’ instead of just ‘Bible’? and why that famously fluffy word, ‘engagement’?

Personally, I find it helpful to distinguish between ‘study’ and ‘encounter’. Both practices are good and necessary, and should feed into one another, but for those of us highly accustomed to Bible study, we often need to become more intentional about moving into personal encounter — and those of us not acquainted with Bible study need a more straightforward path of approach. ‘Scripture engagement’ is a way of capturing this focus on personal encounter. A great explanation of this difference is provided by Phil Collins at Biblegateway, and the whole Biblegateway resource on Scripture engagement is worth a look.

Image credit: Raul Petri at Unsplash

Categories: Written by Arthur

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Arthur Davis

Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

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