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Students sitting outside Bockman

Story Magazine

Spring/Summer 2009

Notes from the Mission Field: The Book of Faith Initiative vs. the Bulletin of Faith Initiative

by Richard H. Bliese, President, Luther Seminary

The long-held tradition in my last congregation was to read the Word of God out of the bulletin, not the Bible. The reasoning seemed understandable. Congregants weren't bringing their Bibles to church,  church leaders wanted everyone reading the same translation and access to Scripture was easier.

This was devastating to the small congregation. These believers became less familiar with Scripture, had less confidence in their daily Bible use and started looking to the pastor as the only expert in interpreting Scripture. In short, the less they used their Bibles in church, the less they used them at home. The Bible was simply being opened less.

Once Bibles were provided in worship, instead of just individual Scriptures printed in the bulletin, the congregation came alive. They re-embraced Scripture and recommitted themselves to becoming a community centered in the Word of God.

A similar effort is being made throughout the ELCA today with the Book of Faith Initiative, directed
by Diane Jacobson, Luther Seminary professor of Old Testament. In this issue you'll read about the revitalizing effect this Initiative is having on congregations across the country. (See pages 8-11.)

At Luther Seminary we teach the Bible to our students so they become leaders who can then teach Scripture to others. You'll read about the unique ways faculty are incorporating the Word into students' daily lives. (See pages 6-7.)

Another hands-on way students are helping put the Word into the hands of the people? The Bible Initiative: Pass It On Project was started at Luther by donors David and Andrea Hayes in an effort to ensure Bibles would always be in the pews. Now that effort is moving beyond our walls into congregations ministered to by our students. It's a concrete example of our students taking what
they've learned here to those who need the Word. (See pages 4-5.)

The goal is always to build up the community by allowing the Word of God to become central to its life. How might we do this better within our congregations? To this complex problem, here's one simple suggestion: Use Bibles in worship. The vision of a whole congregation opening the Scriptures together week after week is a powerful one. Or as the Psalmist writes:

"Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
Or take the path that sinners tread,
Or sit in the seat of scoffers;
But their delight is in the law of the Lord,
And on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
Planted by streams of water,
Which yield their fruit in its season,
And their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper."

(Psalm 1:1-3)


Richard H. Bliese
Luther Seminary

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