You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19 NRSV)
Dear Beloved Friends and Family,
In what ways do you engage with God’s Word from day to day? Do you talk about God’s Word at home? These are questions that are on the hearts of Josh and Amy Bartlett. Ellie first met Josh in Brisbane during swing dancing classes several years ago. He has remained a friend and was our student a couple of years ago, and his wife, Amy, completed the SILA summer semester this year. They have joined Wycliffe in order to partner with Australian churches and organisations to help Christians here engage more fully with God’s Word.
While many Christians do read the Bible during the week for their personal devotions, Josh and Amy have been surprised to discover that most Christians in Australia are not talking about God’s Word at home. This has been on our hearts too. How can we normalize Christians talking about God’s Word at home?
Here is a model we hope will be useful to you. Scripture engagement, according to T. Wayne Dye, means that Christian faith is growing as the Bible is ‘understood and its teaching brought into daily life’ (2009, https://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/26_2_PDFs/89-98_Eight%20Conditions.pdf). Dye proposes that there are 8 conditions that influence how readily people use the Scriptures in their daily lives, and these can be used by churches and Christian leaders to assess where to focus energy in walking alongside others in faith.
1) Appropriate Language, Dialect and Orthography –to convey God’s Word
2) Appropriate Translation – understandable and dependable
3) Accessible Forms of Scripture – written, oral, artistic
4) Background Knowledge of the Hearer – understanding of the historical and cultural context of the Bible
5) Availability – ability to read or hear God’s Word
6) Spiritual Hunger of Community Members – desire to learn from God, ability to see the relevance of God’s Word for daily life
7) Freedom to Commit to Christian Faith – social acceptability of following Jesus, freedom to turn away from practices that conflict with God’s Word, freedom to seek God’s Word for solutions and to obey its teaching
8) Partnership – cooperation among Christians, churches and agencies to promote access to God’s Word and encourage others to live for Jesus
We’ve found this model helpful in our own ministry, and we believe it can be helpful for many ministry contexts.
For example, when we worked in Indonesia, we could see that in order for our friends’ faith to grow, they needed God’s Word in their own language. But even before we got to this point, we needed to walk alongside them to meet condition 1 – encouraging them to begin using their language with God in prayer and in worship. But thankfully, condition 6 already existed among our Papuan Malay (PM) speaking friends. They loved to study God’s Word with us and quickly passed on and lived out whatever they learnt. We praise God that the Papuan Malay team is now working on conditions 2-5, and people are growing in their faith as a result.
Here is a story we just heard from the PM team that illustrates how a Scripture story appropriately translated and in an accessible oral story form can be transformative.
Ike, who is a member of the Papuan Malay translation team, was on an airplane when bad turbulence struck. She remembered the Bible story of Jesus calming the storm, which she had worked to translated into story-form in her own language. She immediately sensed God’s peace as she cried out to the Lord, knowing that he was the Master of the winds.
When she arrived at her destination, she noticed a woman at the airport who look distressed. The woman had been on the same plane and was quite shaken by the rough flight. Ike told the woman the story of Jesus calming the sea. She did this in their shared language, with an appropriate translation, in an accessible form of an oral story (Conditions 1-3). The Bible story Ike shared helped the woman to calm down, and she felt such peace as she listened that she put her trust in Jesus.
Here is another example. In the church we worked in when we lived in Brisbane, we noticed that the English translation being used was not well understood by the congregation. So we suggested another translation – we have such a wealth of Bible translations in English – that the whole group could readily understand (Conditions 1-3). We noticed though that background knowledge, especially of the Old Testament, needed to be worked on (Condition 4) and that for some members, spiritual hunger was lacking (Condition 6). Some were studying sciences at university, and were being ridiculed for their faith, and others were not free to share Christ in their families and workplaces and did not know how to talk about their faith (Condition 7).
Among our responses to these needs, one thing we tried was adding what we called a ‘Making it Real’ time to follow the sermon. During this time, the congregation formed smaller groups of 3-5 people. We provided usually 3 questions and asked each person to answer at least one question and share their answer with the group. We gave some thinking time, and then time to discuss the questions. The group came to love this time.
Another thing we tried was to provide booklets to go with our sermon series. In the booklets, we gave some background material to help the group build their historical and cultural knowledge of the Bible. We also included devotional and Bible study materials to give them the best possible chance of growing their faith during the week. While not everyone grew as quickly in their faith as we may have hoped during our time in Brisbane, we give thanks to God that we generally saw good spiritual growth in that context.
We are so grateful for people like Josh and Amy who have the needs of the Australian church in their hearts. And we are so grateful for your partnership with us, which frees us to equip people like Josh and Amy and encourage others to engage with God’s Word.
How is your church or community situated when you consider the 8 conditions for Scripture engagement proposed by Dye? How might this be used to think through evangelism and spiritual growth strategies in your context? We’d love to hear your thoughts! We’d love to hear ways to engage with God’s Word that you have found helpful, and especially ways you have found to talk about God’s Word at home. As you share these with us, we can pass them on to others like Josh and Amy.
Thank you again for your partnership with us. Your prayers and gifts to us enable us to help others walk with communities who need an appropriate translation, who need access to God’s Word, and who want to live in ways that show their commitment to Jesus. May God use our partnership to help us all to more deeply engage with his Word and encourage others to do likewise. We pray that God will bless you and guide you as you seek to do this in your context.
Graham and Ellie
Please join us in praising God for:
- answering your prayers regarding the summer semester – staff and students finished well and were very positive in their feedback, and we had no issues with bushfires despite record-breaking extreme temperatures
- good student numbers for first semester, and the semester is off to a great start
- a communications and promotions officer who is starting work in the office, which should help to reduce some of Graham’s workload
- the improvement in Graham’s ankle and that Ellie’s breathing remains well-controlled.
Please join us in praying for:
- safe travel for Graham as he attends Asia and Pacific area meetings in Indonesia March 10-15, and encouragement for him and those attending as they discuss direction and implementation of strategic planning, and as Graham meets with others to discuss potential training opportunities for SILA
- Josh and Amy as they raise funds needed to enable them to fully focus on the vision for ministry God has given them
- our continuing PhD studies – Ellie has transferred to a Melbourne-based institution to provide more support and better supervision for her project Graham is struggling to find adequate time to make significant progress in his study
- continued healing for Graham’s ankle and patience – it will be at least another month before he is able to run again, and he misses it so much that he keeps having dreams about running.
How to Donate to Our Ministry
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Monthly pledges also can be set up at https://wycliffe.org.au/member/graham-ellie/
Australian cheques can be sent to Wycliffe Australia, 70 Graham Rd, Kangaroo Ground, VIC 3097, with a note that it is for “Graham and Ellie Scott.”
By check in the USA: Wycliffe Bible Translators P.O. Box 628200
Orlando, FL 32862; include a note that it is for us, ID#281522.
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