As churches continue to remain closed amid COVID-19, free resources are offered by Tyndale Bible and the Institute for Bible Reading (IFBR) for joint Bible studies.
“One of the things we’ve seen recently in the midst of all of this is that reading the Bible on your own can be lonely. You are there alone to struggle with your questions. And so…we want to bring people together,” said IFBR Senior Director of Mobilization Paul Caminiti. The Christian Post.
Over the past few years, Tyndale, a book publisher, and IFBR, an activist think tank, have collaborated to produce the increasingly popular Immerse Bible Reading Experience.
The program includes a six-volume Bible aimed at providing the “best possible reading experience.” Each chapter of the Bible is displayed “according to its literary genre” and devoid of annotations, section headings, and chapter and verse numbers. Additionally, the scripture is formatted in a “single-column frame.”
Amid stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19, the organizations decided together to launch a new 10-day virtual Bible “book club,” called Immerse From Home. The program offers online community Bible study of the books of Luke through Acts.
“This initial engagement with scripture would center on the great stories of the first century: the life of Jesus and the birth of the early church,” Caminiti said.
The program includes a free copy of the initiative book Immerse the Messiah, which tells the stories of Luke through Acts in narrative novel form. The initiative also provides many digital resources for users to organize their own book club sessions with other church members, friends or family members.
“We had created a brand new Immerse Audio. There are several videos that are kind of like trailers of what people are going to read that week.
Users of the initiative can conduct studies via video conference from home with others while they discuss the text. The free resources include instructions on setting up Zoom video conferencing accounts as well as prompts for open-ended questions.
“We always invite people to read on their own, but then get together at least once a week,” Caminiti said. “And you know, what we’re hearing is that some bands are now doing this in four weeks instead of two weeks. And they still read substantial amounts.
“The way the two-week plan is set up is that people read about eight or nine pages a day,” he added. “If you listen to the audio version, the average is 29 minutes a day. And it’s a five-day-a-week plan.
Caminiti noted the benefit the program offers in keeping people together, whether in small church groups or among close friends or family members from across the country.
“So we really urge people not to do this solo,” he said.
As a former Bible editor for Zondervan, Caminiti noted that many who have championed the Bible publishing movement experienced a “crisis of conscience” about 13 years ago over the number of Bibles in niche published and consumed by modern church culture.
“As we started researching our Study Bibles and Devotional Bibles, we discovered to our chagrin that people were reading the Notes, Prayers and Devotions, but very little reading the text,” he explained.
“And so that sent me and several of my colleagues kind of on a tour of thought leaders and Christian scholars to ask the question, ‘How is it that when access to the Bible skyrocketing (the average household in North America owns four and a half Bibles), why is Bible reading plummeting? »
He said he was concerned about “a culture of scripture abuse” that is evident in the modern church.
“In our Western individualism, Bible reading has become a solitary sport, even among devotees,” he said. “We spend years at a time, getting up in the morning, going to our private space and reading. It’s us and the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. It’s just far removed from the intent of the scriptures at the beginning.
Caminiti noted that in the early centuries, “faith communities” read the Word together.
The IFBR and Tyndale are encouraging churches across the country to facilitate what they call “Ezra moments,” or opportunities to engage in “community Bible reading in this time of crisis.”
Caminiti went on to explain how in the Bible when the people of Israel returned to their homeland after being held captive, some still felt like something was broken. In response, Ezra organized a group scripture reading.
With that in mind, Caminiti shared, “Shattered by our usual routines and frenetic pace, the coronavirus has given us the opportunity to refocus on our foundational story told in scripture; to observe a modern-day Ezra moment.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.