Posted by: alisonwalley | 3 May 2009

Encounters and Explorations

Where can you find Bible reading notes? A local Christian bookshop is a good start, where you might also get advice from real people.

If you type “Bible reading notes” into a search engine (well, let’s be honest, I just Googled it), you come up with the Bible Reading Fellowship, Scripture Union, and The Good Book Company in the top four (the other one is a bookshop that sells such notes, in case you’re wondering). Of these, Scripture Union is the oldest established: it was founded in 1867 and has been producing Bible reading notes since 1879 (read about it on their website under ‘About’). The youngest of the three is The Good Book Company, which is actually a publishing company but includes Bible reading notes among its resources.

We in the UK are blessed by God to have so many resources to help us study – and a bewildering array of Bible reading notes to choose from. So I thought I’d focus on just two this week. Not in great depth but to see how they fulfil the criteria I laid down in last week’s blog.

Encounter with Godexplore1Scripture Union produce a number of different notes for adults, one of which is Encounter with God. I’m looking at this one because I think it’s the best comparison with The Good Book Company’s Explore. Both take you through different books of the Bible systematically, usually with something slightly different on Sundays (often one of the Pslams).

Encounter with God also features short articles on current issues from a Christian perspective and profiles of key Christians past and present. So from that point of view it certain fulfils the ‘interacting with modern culture’ criteria.

Both sets of notes have comments on the passage, with attention to parts that may be hard to understand. They both challenge the reader to think about the passage by putting questions, and suggest points for prayer. But they do this in slightly different ways. I use Explore and I was very interested to find I’d got notes for the same passages covered in the downloadable sample of Encounter with God (they don’t quite divide the verses up the same though).

Luke 12:13-21, where Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool, who built bigger barns to hold the wealth he was accumulating, but then died. Government Health Warning/The Misery of Midas seem appropriate headings for this passage. I could pick the actual notes to pieces, but I’m not going to. It seems to me that Encounter with God presents a more sustained commentary on the passage, incorporating questions and challenges on the way. Explore breaks the passage up into smaller pieces and asks a series of questions of the reader before commenting. Both notes apply the text and if the reader isn’t challenged by he or she has read, then it’s the reader should pay more attention to what Jesus is saying!

I actually use Explore, but many people may prefer Encounter with God’s style more. One thing I have noticed (and like) about Explore is that they don’t assume anything about their readers’ spiritual state and keep challenging them as to whether they really belong to Jesus and if so, what they’re doing about it.

You can get sample copies of these notes: try them and see!



  1. I have been using ‘Encounter with God’ and am a bit disappointed in its failure to tackle some issues. I realise it must be difficult for the writers to choose among so many possible challenges, but I can’t be the only reader who finds the violence of the OT repulsive. I don’t expect answers from the notes, just an acknowledgement that violence and cruelty apparently encouraged by God might be a bit of a problem for the reader. Instead the writers ignore it, other than to point out that we should avoid the ‘false gods’ of materialism or we might be in as much trouble as the worshippers of Baal were long ago. Hmmm…. better cancel that shopping trip then!

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