Dig In: The Bible at its Best

The Bible is a curious thing, isn’t it. Inimitable among texts. As ancient as they come. And yet each time we look at a text, fresh insight awaits.

For five years I worked as managing editor of our Gather ’Round Sunday school curriculum. Working on Bible outlines and writing story summaries allowed me to examine afresh well-known texts such as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) and really read for the first time some lesser-known texts such as the story of the Daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 27).

If all the stories in the Bible are important, how do we decide which stories are the most important—ones that deserve our utmost attention, discernment or devotion? This is a hard question, with no easy answer, but one that we as publishers wrestle with all the time.

Right now Mennonite Church Canada is engaged in a process called Being a Faithful Church. This process is designed to help congregations study and discern Scripture for our time. It looks at both helpful and unhelpful ways Christians interpret the Bible.

And Mennonite Church USA congregations are undertaking a Year of the Bible. Rather than falling into one particular calendar year, congregations are asked to devote a year to biblical study, with each congregation setting its own design and schedule.

At MennoMedia, the publisher for these two denominations, we asked ourselves how we might create an effective resource to engage the Bible during these study periods.

The result is Dig In: Thirteen Scriptures to Help us Know the Way. This new, 13-session print and video curriculum focuses on 13 core Scriptures for Anabaptist-Mennonites. (Why 13? Because that makes for a convenient quarter.)

DigIn_RGBHow did we come up with 13 core Scriptures? The process was not easy, for sure. I brainstormed possibilities with Byron Rempel-Burkholder as MennoMedia’s managing editor for books, Dave Bergen from Mennonite Church Canada and Terry Shue from Mennonite Church USA.

What are the most loved texts? Should we include just one text from the Sermon on the Mount? What should be the balance of Old and New Testament texts? Anyone’s list of 13 top Scriptures will undoubtedly be different. But here’s the list for our curriculum:

  1. John 1:1-18
  2. Deuteronomy 6:4-9
  3. 2 Timothy 3:14-17
  4. Isaiah 53:1-12
  5. Mark 8:27–9:1
  6. Philippians 2:1-11
  7. Romans 12:9-21
  8. Matthew 5:1-12
  9. Matthew 5:38-48
  10. Matthew 25:31-46
  11. Matthew 28:1-8, 16-20
  12. Acts 2:1-4, 14-28, 41-47
  13. Colossians 3:1-17

Each Dig In session asks participants to engage in Bible study first from their own context. What does the text mean to me? What does the text mean in my context? Participants then think and discuss more broadly how the text has been applied in the church. Each session also includes about five minutes of video, with two people in each video who share how they view and interpret the text in their own contexts.

Check out the video component for session one, focusing on John 1:1-18. And then look for Dig In by early June.

—Amy Gingerich, editorial director

Amy Gingerich

 

 

 

 

Inspiration for Holy Week

A few weeks ago some of our MennoMedia staff met to do some strategic planning. It was an energizing experience and a fruitful time. One thing we all felt was that we needed to tap into an entrepreneurial spirit, both among us and in the broader society. As I contemplated how to put some of that into a post for this week, I came across an announcement in Sojo Mail: Gordon Cosby had died.

Gordon Cosby was probably the most influential religious leader in America that most people have never heard of. The founder some 60 years ago of Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C., he spent his life building and living in small communities, serving the poor and trying to figure out how to “be” the church in modern, consumptive, busy and individualistic,  America. His life of service to the church scattered seeds far and wide.

I first heard of Gordon in 1980, shortly before I went to the Baptist seminary in Louisville, Ken., the same place Gordon had gone (as had Clarence Jordan, founder of Koinonia Farm before him). I was living outside of Washington, D.C and teaching elementary school. I spent my spring break week going into the city and one day decided to stop at the Church of the Savior headquarters, near DuPont Circle, where they held weekly worship services. I was unimpressed, and rightly so. See, the Church of the Savior’s purpose was not about being in a certain place, at a certain time, which is what most people think of when they “go to church.” Instead, the Church of the Savior was about the “inward and outward journey” of its members: personal, inward transformation; building community, doing “mission” where they lived; seeking to build a more just world, helping the very poorest in particular. It was a profoundly simple concept, one that would prove fairly simple to replicate.  While some of the work of its “mission groups” was to create concrete and tangible (yet small) institutions such as Potters House or Christ House, perhaps the most enduring legacy was the way in which one “mission” would inspire and spawn another, such as Jubilee Housing, Jubilee Jobs, and Columbia Road Health Services. Without using the term, it was a precursor of the “Missional Church” movement of our time.

After my wife and I moved to Louisville, we quickly became involved in a storefront church that was modeled after Church of the Savior. My guess is that there are probably hundreds of such churches, in the U.S. and around the world, doing faithful Kingdom-building work, inspired by Church of the Savior. We moved on from there to become involved in a Christian intentional community, and over the years repeatedly noted the influence of Church of the Savior (with its inspired books of Elizabeth O’Connor) wherever we went, even as megachurches grew to dominate the spiritual landscape of America.

How interesting then that a recent Washington Post interview with Cosby noted a certain irony: “Megachurches, now struggling to manage their size, have come to [Church of the Savior] for guidance on how to be small…This form is dying, and whatever new form will happen is vague,” he said. “We are wary of people who say they already know what that will be.”

All of which brings me back around to our strategic planning. Gordon Cosby was a person with an entrepreneurial spirit, which came from God’s Holy Spirit, even if he would not have quite called it that. Our work here is in publishing and media, but it is also work on behalf of the church. I hope and pray for us that we can be energized and inspired and entrepreneurial in our day, and that with humility and God’s guidance, scatter the same sorts of seeds far and wide.

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~Russ Eanes