How often do you read your Bible? How often do you hear a Bible verse?
I don’t ask these things to call you out, but because that’s what scripture engagement is. The amount of time or ability one has to engage with scripture.
Scripture use (slightly different than scripture engagement) is everywhere in the USA. We see scripture everywhere. First, we have the Bible, then we have bible studies, we have commentaries. Church, sermons, podcasts, and books written by pastors. We have home decor, signs, tapestries, towels, floor mats, shower curtains, car decals. Bracelets, necklaces, socks, t-shirts. I even bought an egg carton once with a verse printed on it. These are all ways that we use scripture here. And, therefore, they are all ways that you can engage with scripture.
But this is natural. We’ve had a Bible in English for longer than any of us has been alive. We’ve had wars and splits and unions because of it. Our nation was founded on ideas from it. It is ingrained in our culture (maybe not 100% accurately, but it is still there.)
This is not always the case. This is not always the culture. This is not always the reality.
I recently visited a country in central Asia where the main religion is Buddhism. I got off the plane and into a car and the first thing I was greeted with was an idol sitting on the car dash. As the day progressed, I saw wild cattle roaming the streets, living off street trash like a wild dog because it’s against their religion to keep and kill cattle. One day, we’re taking a taxi and the driver pulls the van over to the side of the road where a little hut with a large idol is sitting inside. He goes up to it, prays to it, takes some ashes out of a little tray and proceeds to rub them on his forehead and the hood of the van. I remember waking up in the morning praying against evil spirits and inviting angels to surround me, not out of habit, but because I could feel the evil near. One local friend told me that he was terrified of his family’s religion. The Evil that he encountered at home made him tremble.
In other words, there is practically no scripture use in this country in public. Which means that scripture engagement has a whole different look to it. In fact, if someone wants to engage with the Bible, they have to actively go against their native culture.
Now imagine that for your entire lifetime, you grew up without a Bible. No Bible culture, no verses hanging around town, no old ladies shouting Bible threats to you. (Still shouting threat, just not Bible ones) And then all of a sudden, these nerds come to your town, start handing out a book and telling you to read it. Why would you read it? Think about it, why? It goes against everything you know.
That’s a real issue Bible translation faces.
“Cool. You wrote a book in a language I use. Have a nice day.” -Native Speaker with a new Bible
I’m not an expert on Scripture Use/Engagement, but it has become a part of my job. And what I’ve learned so far is that we need to learn more about how to make Scripture Engagement and Scripture Use a more realistic part of a community’s daily life if we want our translations to have a hold and reach hearts.
So, the definition of Scripture Engagement is fairly easy – being involved with and using scripture as a part of your regular life. But being able to get someone to that level, much harder.
(Disclaimer: Scripture Engagement in spoken languages is lightyears ahead of where it is in signed languages. Like I said, I’m not an expert, and I can’t speak for spoken languages, but signed languages need more Scripture Engagement/Scripture Use work, pronto.)
P.S. I had a great time visiting this country. The people were fantastic and I made a new good friend. Also, I felt closer to Jesus than most other places because I had daily reminders of my need for him. Don’t not go somewhere just because their culture is different. Use their perspective to grow closer to Jesus. I would hate for you to read my description and then be scarred. The same power that rose Jesus Christ from the dead lives inside of YOU. Use it and go forth.