In recent years, the sales of DVDs for small groups have overwhelmingly outnumbered the number of Bible study participant guides, says Michael Cook, a marketing manager at the Baker Publishing Group. Most people today—jammed for time with work, family and their entertainment-driven lifestyles—simply want to talk about the DVD; and that’s part of the dilemma, Cook says.
“Jesus said, ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.’ The only things that are eternal will be people and the Word,” Cook says. “The Bible is a personal letter from God to His children—His creation. The church in the West has made it into a textbook filled with facts and data. But we have to look at it as a love story. It’s a story of redemption, mercy and grace. This is the plan for eternal life. It’s not just a book. It’s the Word of life itself.”
Creating an Appeal
In an effort to offer Bibles that appeal to a wider audience, publishing houses have in recent years released Bibles in a variety of creative formats.
In the mid-2000s, Thomas Nelson, one of the world’s largest and oldest Bible publishers, launched several “Biblezines” that present Scripture in a magazine-type format appealing to various audiences. In 2008 it also produced The Voice, which teamed artists and authors with Bible scholars to allow a new generation of readers to experience Scripture “in a fresh voice.”
Hoping to give time-starved mothers some biblical inspiration, Zondervan recently released the Busy Mom’s Bible, which is packed with one-minute “spiritual fuel for your busy mom-on-the-go lifestyle.”
“Each generation struggles with understanding the Bible, however, with all of the media opportunities through social media, phone apps and texting, it becomes even more challenging to gain their attention for biblical knowledge,” says Gary Davidson, senior vice president and group publisher of the Thomas Nelson Bible Group. “But God’s message will break through and I believe it’s only a matter of time before we see a renewed urgency for the things of God.”
In an effort to make the Bible easier to read, the full Common English Bible (CEB) will be released this fall (only the New Testament is available now). A bold new translation that took nearly 120 Bible scholars four years to complete, the CEB offers a “smooth and natural reading experience” and seeks to open up the Bible to a new generation of readers,” says Michael Stephens, a senior editor at Abingdon Press. Also, Bardin & Marsee Publishing just launched their “GIVE together” initiative to provide waterproof Bibles to the homeless.
The NextGen Bibles
Meanwhile, a rapidly growing number of people are reading and studying the Bible on Internet sites such as biblegateway.com or downloading applications such as youversion.com, logos.com/iphone and others onto their mobile phones and iPads. More than 13 million people have downloaded the free YouVersion Bible app.
Zondervan recently released the NIV Bible eBook, which quickly shot to the top of the USA Today, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble best-seller lists. Also, The Seed Company, a Bible translation organization founded by Wycliffe Bible Translators, has launched the Blank Bible Challenge—a 28-day devotional that delivers daily Bible story videos to people’s inboxes.
Through the related OneVerse program, a $26 sponsorship gift provides the resources required for translators to translate one verse of Scripture into their own language. It provides God’s Word to the more than 2,200 people groups who don’t have Scriptures in a language they can understand.
Taken together, Barry says he believes the new Bibles, eBibles and the various campaigns during the Year of the Bible are going to help ignite the next “Bible study revolution.” He says that in the same way America told Britain before the Revolutionary War that “we will not live like this anymore,” the church needs to do the same and strongly declare that the Word of God is the truth.
“We will not ignore the Bible anymore,” Barry says. “We will not be enslaved to what the world deems important. We won’t be enslaved to money, fancy cars and big-screen TVs anymore. Instead, we’ll pour our lives into the poor and hurting. We know that’s what the Bible says. There is a Bible-shaped hole in our lives and we have to fill that with the Bible.”
Troy Anderson, a writer and newspaper reporter, lives in Los Angeles.
Help—I’m Not a Scholar!
7 books every Bible student needs
1. MacArthur Topical Bible
2. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary
3. Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook
4. New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
5. MacArthur Bible Commentary
6. Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible
7. Complete Word Study Dictionary
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