How has closing the Bible improved our congregation's engagement with Scipture? Well, the journey began as we started this church when a mentor and friend asked why white people don't believe the Bible. "What??" I asked, certain that I had misunderstood what was being said. "We take the Bible very seriously" I shot back in defense. "But you don't know the stories," my friend replied. "You open the book, read them. Then close the book, and forget them." And a seed was planted in my heart and mind that I have tended now for 7 years.
We have done many things over those years to think about how one gets scripture inside of us in a way that make evident that this story is the story that shapes our every moment and that is available to shape your story in every moment. Some have met with some success. Others have been abysmal failures. This journey has been further guided by the reality that literacy levels in our community are low to begin with and in any gathering there is a very wide range of comfort with print media.
So, as pastor, I have given up preaching in favour of recovering the oral tradition of scripture itself. Well, not totally given it up. I preach in a very dialogical format once a month. The rest of my time I have committed to teaching scripture by hearing and sharing what you have heard.
Currently we use a method of scripture study called, "Simply the Story" and use it as the teaching tool for our House Church gatherings.
It is a method of learning the story of scripture by hearing not seeing and then passing that on to the group as a way of getting the story "in" people's hearts and minds. One of the guiding ideas being that one need not be literate to be a disciple of Jesus and even a teacher of the word. Our culture, however has gotten so print focused that we have unwittingly excluded many who do not learn well in that way.
For those of us with higher levels of literacy it has been a challenge to abandon comfortable and familiar ways of learning and communicating. And we find ourselves engaging scripture anew as we learn these new (but very old) skills.
Our prayer and conviction is that God's Word never returns void.