Posted by: alisonwalley | 16 August 2009

The challenges of writing notes for Bible readers

Mostly in these blogs I talk about different sorts of Bible reading notes, what are good things to look out for and so on. But have you ever considered the difficulties of trying to write some notes?

Just suppose you were asked to write the comments for a day’s notes. Let’s assume that you know lots about the Bible, have read lots of commentaries, heard lots of sermons, and so on, so you’re not disqualified from that point of view. Maybe you’ve prepared Bible studies or something like that. So you should be able to do this task. Shouldn’t you?

Here’s the passage you’ve been given. It’s Mark’s gospel chapter 2 verses 1 to 11. You look it up and find it’s the story about Jesus healing the paralysed man who was lowered down through the roof by four friends. A great story, and very well known. It’s not one of those difficult stories which doesn’t get taught to children – on the contrary, it’s one that gets taught a lot in Sunday school (or young church or whatever you call it these days). And it has that great bit where Jesus tells the paralysed man that his sins are forgiven.

Now, what are you going to say to your readers about this passage in about as many words as this blog? Wait, who are these readers? Do you know anything about their numbers, age range, background, level of understanding of the Bible, how long they’ve been a Christian?

Hmmm, ok let’s say that the notes you are writing for have a thought-out reader profile. (If you look at the reviews I’ve done of various notes you’ll see that most do.) You know that the majority of your readers have been Christians for some while and read their Bibles fairly regularly. Now, what can you say about this well-known passage which will engage the reader? How can you get him or her to look at the text afresh in a way which will encourage, challenge and strengthen them in their Christian life?

See what I mean? It’s not easy is it? If you’re preparing a Bible study you can be sure for any point raised, different members of the group will bring a different perspective, and you can learn from these. You don’t get that interaction when you’re writing something.

What might you do? Pray? Yes of course. Ask that what God shows you will also be helpful to those who read. Pray that you won’t come out just with some cliché or on the other hand try to be too clever. Write clearly, write passionately, write acknowledging that our words are weak but you want others to engage with God’s precious word at a deep level.

And so… pray for those who write Bible reading notes.

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