I am seeing increasing signs of the coming together of currents in the body of Christ that are often divided. Those committed to meeting God through thoughtful study of Scripture are cross-pollinating with contemplatives and Holy Spirit-focused charismatic Christians in a powerful confluence that is gradually reversing Jesus’ reproach to the Saddusees: “You do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matt 22:29). This reversal is desperately needed today, as people need the message and preaching of Jesus Christ to be “demonstrated by the Spirit and power of God” (1 Cor 2:4).
On Thanksgiving Day I flew home from Paris after a rich 10 days of teaching and ministry in France. The first five days were in Alsace at Scripture Union’s French retreat center Rimlishof. There, Tierra Nueva intern Troy Terpstra and I met with some 50 Scripture Union workers from 22 European countries for five days of presentations and conversations. Most of the people had read my book, Reading the Bible with the Damned in preparation for discussions on how to effectively engage people in liberating reading of the Bible.
People from different European countries presented their research on many topics related to Bible engagement. Andrey Cherniak of Scripture Union Russia spoke on Lectio Divina and then led an optional contemplative reading of a Bible passage that many attended. David Pritchard from Madrid sat us all down like children to show us how to engage little kids in an approach called “godly play.” He told us the story of Abram and Sarai’s journey of faith and then had us respond with colored paper, pens, crayons or however we felt led. Others spoke on how to effectively engage grade school children, teen agers, traditional church goers or secularized European adults in transformational Bible study. Others presented their expertise on websites, interactive electronic gaming systems and contextually sensitive publications of various sorts. I was inspired and amazed by people diverse approaches and giftings.
Every morning I led a Bible study to demonstrate ways of reading the Bible that I’ve found effective both in the jail and among mainstream Christians. People responded enthusiastically to these Bible studies and bibliodramas. I shared about my growing desire to be continually filled with and led by the Holy Spirit and the anointing in my reading of the Bible and in my ministry—rather than depending upon my education, experience and natural abilities. Jesus himself emphasized this when he said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor.” If Jesus himself needs the Spirit upon him and the anointing “today” and every day, we too need God’s continual Presence upon, in and before us in everything we do. People seemed inspired to seek more of this anointing that John talks about, the chrisma that abides in us and teaches us about all things (1 John 2:20, 27).
People were interested in talking further about this vast theme of Word and Spirit. I witnessed people’s spiritual hunger firsthand when some 25 came to an optional soaking prayer time one evening. God’s Spirit came very beautifully, bringing comfort, encouragement and healing.
I was excited to learn that these leaders together will be training some 10,000 Bible study facilitators in the months before summer to work with children, youth and adults throughout Europe. Let’s keep these many Scripture Union workers in our prayers: that the Spirit would guide them in their announcing of good news to hungry people throughout post-Christendom Europe (see www.su-international.org). I will write again in a few days about my time in Paris.