A new study guide has been launched with the aim of helping people to engage with the Bible by talking out loud.
Talk the Word was developed by a team at Walk Through the Bible in partnership with Counties, Scottish Bible Society and Scripture Union Scotland. The new written resource has been created to run alongside talks that help Christians to engage more fully with Bible reading.
It is a different approach to making the Bible more accessible, helping people to dig deep and meet with God through his Word, while getting themselves involved in the Biblical narrative.
Evangelist Kevin Baldwin was part of an initial pilot group who trialled the programme and produced the resource book which includes six stories, studies and questions.
"[It is] is an excellent way to delve deeper into Biblical stories, which are full of images. Through telling and hearing we experience the Bible as it was given, heard and discussed in ancient times. It's a refreshing way of interacting with the word," he said.
Director of the project Paul Keeys spoke with Christian Today about the heart behind this new approach, and why so many Christians find it difficult to spend time in the Bible.
CT: How exactly does Talk the Word work?
PK: It works by the leader learning a passage before the meeting, and then giving that passage completely orally. Something like just three to five verses, followed by a short story. The group just listen, without looking at the passage, and the key is to use their imagination, to involve themselves in the story. Then, as a group, we go through it together: what do we know? We pull bits of information from people. Why did that character respond in that way? What do we know about them? What can we learn from them? It means that everybody makes contributions and hopefully is able to engage more easily.
CT: Why did you decide to create the resource?
PK: It started two years ago when I was asked to speak at Keswick, but to do it differently. I was then shown this method and I thought it was so simple yet effective. I tried it out myself and found that through learning key verses in context, I was able to take those passages with me in the week and be encouraged in my faith in whatever situation I found myself in. It's a really refreshing way of looking at the Bible, taking in the whole context and the whole passage. We've tried it out on all age services, and have had great responses from 5-year-olds and 90-year-olds. It's not just about understanding the Bible, teaching people the big picture or learning a memory verse – which is a great idea but doesn't always excite us - but when we look at a small section and we have a story, we can engage more easily and involve ourselves in the narrative.
When I did the talks in this way at Keswick, I was amazed by the number of people who said they listened to the talks in the morning, then they went back to their chalet in the afternoon and taught it to those who hadn't got up for the morning session! I don't preach like that, I don't preach effectively enough for people to be able to go home and re-preach it to people who missed the service, but these sessions allow people to do just that, to be able to remember the passage well enough to be able to say "this is where God's challenging me, and this is what I can share with you". I don't know whether there's a word to say it. The 'shareability', the way we can replicate it, is something that we haven't seen before.
CT: Why do we find it difficult to engage with the Bible?
PK: I don't really think it's a matter of not having enough time – it's about choices. We have so many choices and we can decide what we want to do and so people choose to do different things. And we do struggle to engage for any length of time. Church leaders are taught to preach in one particular way, but when I went to be a secondary school teacher, I was taught to change and develop and improve, to always be finding new ways of engaging the children. There's a willingness needed to find ways of developing and engaging people of this generation who struggle to listen for more than two minutes. We're hard pressed to find people who can listen for half an hour in one go.
CT: So what need is there for a new approach?
PK: When we can get people together talking about what the Bible says and discussing what they think, and we move away from simply 'my opinion of what the text says' to how it makes us feel and what it inspires us to do, it makes a huge difference. We used it on a church group yesterday, and found that they were saying they were amazed at just what they were able to remember and take away.
It's all about engagement and being involved, actually digging deep into the Bible and sharing the experience with one another. There's no complication, no difficult language, no science. It's refreshing, interactive and has transformed my own personal approach to Bible study, and I hope it will help others to do the same.
For more information on Talk the Word or to buy a copy of the resource book for the live talks, visit www.bible.org.uk