Ervin R. Stutzman, the new moderator of Mennonite Church U.S.A., loves the Bible. He recently shared his passion for knowing the Bible and its story with John Longhurst of Mennonite Publishing Network.
Longhurst: Why is it important to know the Bible?
Stutzman: The Bible provides both a window and a mirror for us.
Through the window of Scripture, we see God’s will and purpose, both for the world and for God’s people.
In the mirror, we see reflections of who we are. The Bible stories do not shrink back from reflecting the reality and shortcomings of our human state, but they also hold up hope for what we could become in Christ.
Without continually being exposed to God’s revelation in Scripture, we will lose a biblical worldview. Unless we gain biblical literacy, we will eventually lose our way as a people of God.
Longhurst: What’s been your experience with Bible study?
Stutzman: My experience of Bible study has been shaped by my role as a dean at Eastern Mennonite Seminary for nearly a decade, and as an ordained minister and preacher for more than 30 years.
But another very important way it has been shaped for me is by teaching a Men’s Bible study at Park View in Harrisonburg, Va. We meet weekly on Tuesday mornings for breakfast and a Bible study from September through May. The group averages about 60 men who come from a number of different congregations.
The goal of the group is formational: to help men be formed in the image of Christ. It creates a space for men to examine their relationship with God and others, and invites them to listen for God’s voice and to move toward God.
Longhurst: What is needed to help people learn more about the Bible?
Stutzman: We need a curriculum to guide our study, but we also need teachers and mentors who can make the Scriptures come alive under the guide of the Holy Spirit.
We also need to change the way we view Bible study. Some only see the Bible as something to be discussed, debated and conquered through knowledge. I favour a formational approach that moves us toward seeing the Bible as an instrument in God’s hand to help us become different people, growing into the image of Christ.
Longhurst: Are you hopeful for the future of Bible study?
Stutzman: I am encouraged to see that some congregations take seriously the task of engaging their youth groups in Bible study, and I sense that many churches are eager to be guided by Scripture. The recent experience of “Dwelling in the Word” in congregations and conferences across Mennonite Church U.S.A. is very encouraging to me.
And yet there is much more we could do. We need a comprehensive plan for study that involves our schools, churches and homes—a plan that keeps us engaged with, and learning from, Scripture over the whole span of life. I pray that God will show us new ways to teach the biblical story to our children and to let it guide our lives.