Bryan Moyer Suderman believes that paying attention to Jesus as interpreter of Scripture can transform how we, too, engage Scripture and each other.
The singer-songwriter and Bible teacher from Kitchener, Ont., experiences this firsthand as he leads interactive “Reading the Bible with Jesus” workshops for congregations across the U.S. and Canada since 2016, as a teaching associate of the Church Leadership Center of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS).
In the workshops, Moyer Suderman facilitates a process of exploring how the New Testament gospels portray Jesus as interpreter of Scripture as he taught and healed those around him and joined in the hot-button conversations of the day.
“It’s often an aha moment for people when they realize how much Jesus draws upon what we call the Old Testament—constantly, and in all kinds of ways,” he says. “There can be a kind of stereotype about the Old Testament: ‘We’re so glad we have Jesus and don’t need to bother with all that Old Testament stuff.’ Well, if you pay attention to Jesus as interpreter of Scripture, you’re very hard pressed to make that case.”
A shared process of discovery
The workshops bring together Moyer Suderman’s passion for biblical scholarship, creative musical expression and contextual ministry. He has spent the last 25 years finding creative ways to engage diverse communities in what he likes to call “the ongoing scriptural story of God’s love for the world.” Having worked in various ministry roles with churches in Colombia and Canada, he has focussed on writing Scripture-based songs for people of all ages since 2001. Songs from his eight studio albums have found their way into curricula, conventions and congregational singing throughout North America and beyond.
During the workshops, he leads participants in mapping out Jesus’ interactions with those around him in a selected gospel story. He then invites them to observe how Scripture is coming into play in the conversation, and together they flip back to the corresponding Old Testament texts and spend time exploring them. After that, they return to the gospel story and consider how what they’ve learned informs their understanding of the text.
“It’s fruitful to have people in the group approach the text in different ways,” he says. “When we express the experiences we bring to the text, we can approach the process together with trust and confidence that God has something here for us.”
The interactive process can also connect people who might not agree theologically, focussing on their common desire to grow as disciples of Jesus and helping equip them for the ongoing interpretive task.
Jewel Gingerich Longenecker, AMBS’s dean of Lifelong Learning, is excited about the seminary’s partnership with Moyer Suderman. “Bryan’s teaching ministry connects biblical scholarship with the life of the church and fits well with AMBS’s mission of preparing leaders who are rooted in the Word and growing in Christ,” she says.
Since 2016, Moyer Suderman has led experiences of “Reading the Bible with Jesus” with communities in eight states and two provinces. In April 2018, he’s planning a trip to Oregon in the Pacific Northwest Conference, followed by a retreat with Central Plains Mennonite Conference pastors and leaders in Schuyler, Neb. He is also scheduled to lead a workshop with pastors of Mennonite Church Alberta in mid-September.
He notes that when congregations invite him to lead a workshop, he has also often participated in Sunday morning worship and given an all-ages community concert, offering the congregation and community multiple ways to engage Scripture together.
See also “The Bible says what?”