A freeing yet challenging way of engaging the Bible

Jeryl Hollinger, pastor of Mountain View Mennonite Church, Kalispell, Montana

In the fall of 2018, our Sunday school class discussed what we might study for the next quarter. Someone had seen an advertisement for The Bible Unwrapped: Making Sense of Scripture Today, by Meghan Larissa Good. Others had read some good reviews of this new book and some were acquainted with author Meghan Good, who had previously been a pastor in our conference.

So without seeing the book, we decided to use it for our study and ordered copies for the class. We have been having a good experience with it, focusing solely on reading and discussing the book without drawing on other resources.

We divided the book into 13 sections of chapters, the number of Sundays we are dedicating to it. This plan was given to class members who can read ahead of class time if they desire to do so. But we give part of each class period to reading, and then discussing what we have read. We don’t have the time to read together the whole section of chapters assigned for each Sunday, so the facilitator briefly summarizes parts we haven’t read in class so that we keep moving along and can finish it in our allotted three-month Sunday school quarter. This moves us along quickly but feels a little rushed.

As the group reviewed our experience with this book, it was agreed that it is easy to read and engaging while at the same time quite informative. It is “relevant to our culture,” “down to earth,” and “a wonderful tool.” The humor is appreciated. At the same time, we have discovered that we do not all think about the Bible in the same way, and these differences test our ability to listen to one another and be respectful of points of view different than our own. Some of the discussions have troubled us, others have been affirming for us. This is a valuable discussion to be having together.

We have not yet completed our study of this book, so we don’t have a full picture of where it is leading us. But we have observed that some people may need to find a way to place this kind of study and information in the context of their reverence for the “Word of God.” We recognize that the Scriptures are ultimately meant to lead us to God and God’s way and not just to some philosophy about the texts themselves. And so we want to be able to set aside our inhibitions and engage the Scriptures with humility, allowing ourselves to be molded in God’s way. But this is more of a challenge for some than for others.

Throughout the book, the author illustrates her creativity in engaging the Scripture by inserting “story time” passages with an application. We have enjoyed these sections. Her approach has been new to many of us, who have been accustomed to a more modern literalistic approach to the Bible. Her approach seems freeing and life-giving but challenges our ability to let go of other ways of thinking and reading. And so we often find ourselves saying, “yes, but . . .”

This past Sunday, we had a class discussion about what we are going to study when we finish with this book. There was a broad interest expressed in keeping this book beside us to use as a resource for further study of Scripture--a testimony to the value we find in its pages. We are now in the process of deciding what portions of Scripture we would like to study together, referring back to the perspectives and tools suggested in The Bible Unwrapped. We find it hopeful that others will pick up this book and, like us, find their study and reading of the Bible enriched.

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