I hear people bemoaning biblical illiteracy. It’s true that many children, youth and adults in today’s culture have a poor understanding of what’s in the best-selling book of all time.
How did we get here? What’s to blame? Perhaps it’s our secularized society. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of the shrinking American church. Or maybe we, the more biblically literate, have unintentionally scared people away from the Bible.
Many people are simply intimidated by this ancient 1,000-page volume filled with hard-to-pronounce names and places. The church, knowingly or not, has often portrayed the Bible as a complicated text that requires professionals to decipher it for the common people. It’s treated as part of an academic endeavor. That’s why we use vernacular such as “text,” and “Bible study,” and “Bible school.”
When we gather around the Bible it’s usually seen as a rudimentary teaching time–rather than a time of enjoyment, adventure, wonder or intimacy.
My wife Joani belongs to a neighborhood book club. Their get-togethers are highly relational times of discovery and fellowship. They don’t gather to study their book of the month. They come together to enjoy the writing, seek understanding of the author’s intent, and converse about how the literature might apply to their lives.
Maybe it’s time to consider presenting the Bible more like a book club selection, and a little less like an obtuse academic lesson.
That’s what we set out to do with a creative team from Group Publishing. We wanted to create a biblical experience to draw adults and youth into the essence of God’s Word–to see or recapture the notion that the Bible isn’t a stuffy textbook. It’s a colorful intertwining of stories that exhibit a God who pursues his people with relentless love.
The result is a new book titled Eyewitness: The Visual Bible Experience. We took major stories from the Bible and told them from a first-person perspective. So, Adam and Eve tell their stories of temptation and regret. Joseph tells about spurning a powerful man’s wife, and finding reconciliation with his brothers. Esther tells her story of sticking up for her people. Jonah describes his arguments with God, who loved him through it all.
I’ve recorded portions of the Moses story from Eyewitness to give you a taste of this project. Hear it on the Holy Soup podcast here. Or, experience it with visuals here:
Then, knowing we live in a very visual culture, we commissioned original fine artwork to illustrate these stories. Eyewitness features the work of 16 artists from around the world. We gave them the original scripture and the new first-person stories. Then we asked them to depict these scenes in fresh ways to capture the visual drama of these true stories.
For example, see these scenes from Nathanael’s account of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of 5,000, and Noah’s heart-rending account of an impending flood:
It’s been gratifying to hear back from people who had been reluctant to pick up the Bible. But the art and first-person stories in Eyewitness drew them in, and now they want to dig in to the rest of story in the Bible. They’ve come to see that the scriptures tell the stories of real people, just like them, who experienced the unstoppable love of a forgiving Savior.
Thank you so much for this. I’m excited to check it out. As the chair of our church’s Faith Formation & Fellowship Team I have just recently experienced the very problem you are describing. Church folks are intimidated by our “Bible Study” classes and one leader said that their small group wanted to study an inspirational book (instead of the Bible) because attempting to do a Bible study was just too daunting.
Thanks, Debbie. Right now, during COVID times, people are hungry for hope. And they’re wondering where God is during this time of hardship. We can help them find God’s presence and message of hope—in the Bible. Again, not so much as something to study, but as something to absorb.
Dear Thom. I LOVED LISTENING to you read about Moses. I think you should do an entire audio Bible of this book (hint hint). Your dear little grand is so blessed to have you read to her. You have such a wonderful way of communicating. Thank you for your leadership and visionary production of resources to help more and more people know and become friends with Jesus. You bless us. Heidi Lewis
Thank you, Heidi. You reminded me that Jesus challenged us to “turn and become like children.” He did not say, “Become like pupils.”
Tom, I couldn’t agree more. In my 30+ years of ministry, the people who I watched grow and mature, had one thing in common – they were “in the word”. Luke 10:38-42 is the summation of all the things Jesus said regarding His word (salvation, sanctification, loving God, bearing fruit, and evangelism). It is a picture of what it means to be a disciple and a true believer. I have to ask myself, if He really meant what He said, “but one thing is necessary”, what is everything else?
I LOVE my EYEWITNESSES!! It brings the people–and the message–in the Bible to life with their perspectives and thoughts. The artwork is amazing–and adds so much to the richness of the stories. You are right in that it helps us see, read and experience the Bible in a new and refreshing way. THANKS Group for this gift.
Thom, you are right on! My wife and I started doing informal Bible Hangouts with friends late last year. We would have the dining room table covered with different bibles, reference books, articles, and maps. As COVID hit, we started doing the hangouts more regularly on Zoom. Two or three hours seems to go by in a flash as we explore, mingle and pray. We have all learned a lot from in-depth exploration of verses in context. Everyone likes the focus instead of the typical verse jumping often done in traditional studies.