An interpretative approach grounded in Jesus

Rod Stafford, pastor of Portland (Oregon) Mennonite Church

Last fall, the adult education committee at Portland Mennonite Church wanted to offer a class on the Bible. Not a Bible study class, but a class on the Bible itself (what it is, how it was formed, ways to read it). We had heard that Meghan Good had a book coming out. I think we must have received one of the first shipments.

Many people in our congregation grew up hearing Bible stories in Sunday school. Each week we read the Scriptures in our worship services. And when we find ourselves in theological conflicts, we appeal to the Bible to prove our argument. But a lot of folks don’t really feel like they understand the Bible. And others know very clearly that they no longer want to understand it in the ways they learned to read the Bible earlier on. I remember being taught as a teenager in another Christian tradition that the Bible was an owner’s manual, “like if you got a toaster oven.”

We used The Bible Unwrapped book for a seven-week adult class that met on Sunday mornings. The bookproved to be a very accessible and thoroughly Anabaptist overview of the Scriptures. Our goals for the class were to help people find a way to read that Bible that makes sense in our context, and to help people find a way to read the Bible that is meaningful in our life with Christ.

We had between 20-30 people each week. There were no shortage of questions, comments or stories. One question that came up often had to do with the connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament. I’m pretty sure every heresy in Christian history was floated as an option. Meghan’s book gave a nice way of shaping the discussion and moving toward a coherent response. A number of people newer to the Mennonite Church appreciated what was for them a different interpretive approach that is grounded in Jesus.

In addition to the book, we drew from the questions in the accompanying study guide, written by Matthew Shedden. We also supplemented the class with videos from The Bible Project. I think the biggest complaint at the end of the class was that we didn’t have more time. We happily recommend The Bible Unwrapped.

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