How to Invite People into the Bible’s Story

Four tips for authentic engagement

Research shows a marked increase over the last seven years in Americans rejecting the Bible. We need to be better at inviting people to engage with the Bible’s story. Here are four tactics we can use to increase Bible engagement.

1. Admit Your Faults

Hypocrisy is one deep-rooted reason many people object to Christianity. They see Christians living hypocritical lives and simply refuse to believe. People think, “If it doesn’t transform them, why would it transform me?”

This hypocrisy is then compounded with legalism. All too often, the face of Christianity is one that judges other people—proclaiming their lifestyles to be wrong. And this is a major problem.

I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t have moral values or standings—we should. What I’m suggesting is that when the face of Christianity seems judging rather than loving, Christianity is easy to reject. We must approach the world with grace and love—gladly admitting that we are all sinners saved by the grace of God (Romans 3:23–24).

Love is the way people will recognize a transformed life (1 John 4:8; 1 Corinthians 13; John 13:34–35). It will be what leads people to become part of the Bible’s story.

2. Admit the Mistakes of Christians at Large

Over the years, Christianity has been appropriated in some terrible ways. It has been used to justify the Crusades, slavery, and segregation. But when the Bible is understood contextually, it is clear that it doesn’t justify any of these terrible acts.

There is a cultural memory at work when it comes to the Bible. People view the Bible as a text that has been used to justify atrocities. We need to admit these mistakes of Christianity and confront the sins of history head on. We need to notify the world that the Bible has been used for horrible purposes, but we will not stand by while it is misused again. Instead, we proclaim that the Bible’s message is one of mercy, justice, and humility (Micah 6:8). We will live the Bible’s message of authentic love, equality, and advocacy for the downtrodden and marginalized.

3. Authentically Live the Bible’s Message

When people only experience a version of Christianity that judgmentally objects to people and ideas, they never get to experience the beauty of the Christian message. Jesus called us to live in an authentic and meaningful way—to be honest about our faults and to live the message of self-sacrificial love, for our neighbors and even our enemies (Matthew 5:43–48; 22:36–40).

The Bible measures authentic Christianity by how far we are willing to go for another person (Matthew 7:21–23; 25:31–46; Luke 10:25–37) and how well we love the powerless (James 1:27). If we want to see more people engaging the Bible’s story, then we must really live the Bible’s story.

4. Be Open to Difficult and Honest Questions

We must also be open to the questions that will naturally emerge about the Bible. Jesus was a big fan of questions (Matthew 16:13; 21:24–25). We should never fear questions about the Bible but instead welcome them. Inquiry is the beginning of faith.

It seems to me that many Christians are afraid to dialogue about the Bible because they fear not having the right answers—especially in front of people who do not believe in the Bible. Instead of being afraid, we should welcome the opportunity to learn together. Time and time again I have seen this to be an effective method. There is something very exciting about exploring difficult questions together. It draws people together and reveals something truly appealing about the Christian faith: It is not a closed religion, looking to enforce a set of beliefs. Instead, it’s a faith about choice and freedom—asking people to embrace relationship with God, in all its difficulties, through the salvation of Jesus Christ.

Difficult questions lead us on an exciting journey—one where we can really examine our faith, understand it, and live it. The Bible’s story is one worth living. We cannot expect people to desire to be part of the Bible’s story until they see just how amazing it is—through our example.

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John D. Barry
John D. Barry

John D. Barry is the Editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the CEO of Jesus' Economy, an innovative non-profit creating jobs and churches in the developing world. At JesusEconomy.org, you can create jobs for the impoverished by shopping fair trade and give directly to a cause you're passionate about—such as creating jobs, planting churches, or meeting basic needs. 100% goes to the developing world. Join the movement at JesusEconomy.org.

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