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What is Scripture Engagement?

by John Oo

Sometimes Translation is Not Enough

One difficulty which most Christians face is how to study and interact with the Bible. Often, Bible translators face a situation whereby a new Bible translation has been completed and launched, but few of the native speakers of the language use this new Bible. In order to encourage more Bible owners to engage with the Word of God, Scripture Engagement methods were developed.

In technical terms, Scripture Engagement is simply the facilitation of access and life-changing encounters or interactions with the Bible and through that, with God Himself. Hence, if you are thinking of developing a Scripture Engagement programme, you will need to consider providing access to the Scriptures, facilitating encounters with the Scriptures, and creating a climate of receptivity to God and the truth in His Word.

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Providing access means that the local Christian community has physical access to textual print of the Scripture text (i.e. printed Bible) or downloadable free digital Bibles via a smartphone app (e.g. YouVersion, Biblegateway, etc) or an audio recording (e.g. or a video composition of the Scripture text into handphones or tablets or computers. Scripture Engagement specialists normally assess and determine what distribution media formats (whether printed, digital or audio) would work best for the specific community and formats that would enrich Scriptural truths.

In some cases, it may well involve a combination of media formats for distribution of the Scripture text. In other cases, the translated Scriptures are released in printed text form together with an audio recording to help promote fluency in reading the Scripture text as a read-along program. In a most recent development, an audio recording is synchronized with a copy of the digital Scripture text in a smartphone app called Scripture App Builder. As the text is read out by the audio recording, the text verses are highlighted.

Photo by Rodney Ballard

But providing access to translated Scripture is only part of the process that encourages interaction with the translated Scriptures, it is by no means a sufficient factor to encourage Scripture Engagement. So you might ask what more is needed?

The Role of Scripture Engagement Specialists

Scripture Engagement specialists advise on the production and use of appropriate Scripture products in multilingual settings. They can also advise on ways other communities have effectively used Scripture texts to address everyday concerns (illness, interpersonal conflict, life transitions) as well as more pressing ones such as HIV-AIDS, trauma due to conflict or natural disasters. Music and songs, drama and the visual arts can play a powerful role in helping people engage with Scripture.


Facilitating encounters with the word of God could be in some form of activities that foster interaction with the translated Scriptures. This could take the form of devotional reflection or a bible study or a thematic study on a relevant topic to the community. Take the trauma healing course for instance, this course takes the participants through a reflection process of thinking through their own areas of hurts and traumatic experiences and to reflect on what God says in Scriptures about their response to these felt areas of hurt or trauma.

Scriptures could also be presented visually in some form of a cultural dance or sung to the tune of an ethnic song or in an oral style thus engaging the intended audience in a communication style and form that is meaningful and understandable for them (EthnoArts Scripture Engagements). Scripture engagement activities need to be packaged in such a way that has clear instructions on how to use the program or activity as a group or individually or how it may fit into the regular activity as part of the target audience’s church experience or ministry. Scripture Engagement essentially involves some form of teaching, or preaching or discipleship process that helps to shape the truth in the life of the listener.

It also needs to be presented in a usable format that the target audience will engage with. So yet again the Scripture Engagement specialist will need to determine what communication technology is prevalent in the target community print media, digital media, oral and / or audio format. Similar to the Scripture App Builder is an app called the Reading App Builder of which a bible study or a devotional may be uploaded in digital format for use in a smartphone. Bear in mind that the way questions are asked or presented to the target audience may differ from group to group in accordance to cultural values and methods in which the community will ask questions. These questions need to be presented to the community in such a way that makes sense to them or else the interaction with Scripture will remain superficial.

Photo by Elyse Patten


The third factor for Scripture Engagement is to create a climate of receptivity. By this we mean that we need to build a bridge of relevance or connectivity to the lives of the target audience. This is done in order to show them the relevance of Scriptures to everyday living and to life’s challenges. It is also to build trust in the Word so that the target audience come to appreciate the relevance of the truth of Scriptures in their lives. As we do more of this, a greater amount of interest will be created in the community and their receptivity of the translated Scriptures as relevant to their everyday living will also increase. Teaching materials based on hygiene and health issues with quotations from relevant Scripture verses could be developed. Similarly, issues in physical abuse and mutual respects for each other as upheld by the Lord’s word can also be developed and distributed.

Defining Scripture Engagement

The term Scripture Engagement is now widely used throughout the mission agencies, in particular with mission agencies that deal with Bible translation ministries and Bible use and distribution ministries. Each agency however views Scripture Engagement with a slightly different emphasis.

Scripture Engagement specialists help language communities consider and plan for access to Scripture in the languages and media that serve them best. As appropriate to the context, they assist churches and other interested individuals and agencies that wish to facilitate access and life-changing encounters with the Bible.