Immerse: Prophets Is Here!

Immerse: Prophets, the final volume to be released in the Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience series, is now available!

Add Prophets

This volume takes you through the prophetic words of the Old Testament prophets grouped together by four historical periods.

  • Before the fall of Israel’s Northern Kingdom:
    • Amos
    • Hosea
    • Micah
    • Isaiah
  • Before the fall of the Southern Kingdom:
    • Zephaniah
    • Nahum
    • Habakkuk
  • Around the time of Jerusalem’s destruction:
    • Jeremiah
    • Obadiah
    • Ezekiel
  • After the return from exile:
    • Haggai
    • Zechariah
    • Malachi
    • Joel
    • Jonah

Learn more about Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience

Find out more about the Institute for Bible Reading

5 Tips for Reading the Bible in Community

Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience was created to be read in community, but we are often asked “where do I even start?” Our friends at the Institute for Bible Reading share some tips on how to read the Bible as a group.

5 Tips for Reading the Bible in Community//

In a recent survey the Institute conducted, we asked our audience where they usually find themselves reading the Bible. While 92% of them said they read the Bible alone or during their quiet time, only 31% said they read the Bible during their small group or Bible study. Clearly, reading the Bible alone – maybe accompanied by a cup of hot coffee and a pen – is the way most people choose to engage with God’s Word today. There’s nothing wrong with this on its own, but there’s a whole new world of understanding and engagement waiting for us if we regularly experience the Bible in community.

For most of Christian history, the personal Bible did not exist. Reading the Bible was a group activity because most churches only had one Bible. Only with the invention of the printing press in the 15th century did we see the Bible make its way into the hands of individuals on a mass scale. Since then, Bible reading has evolved into a solo sport. And while it’s certainly nice to have Bibles around our house that we can call our own, we’ve unfortunately lost the ancient practice of reading and wrestling over the text together.

If you’d like to try reading the Bible with your community of believers, here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Don’t make it all about finding the right answers

Most group Bible study guides today take a question-and-answer approach to the Bible. How does Paul identify himself to the Corinthians? Why might he do it this way? What does the word “sanctified” mean? All you have to do is open up your Bible and find the answer to the question. This diminishes the Bible into a sourcebook for answering the right questions to grow your faith.

Unfortunately in many group settings this can also lead to the person who is most knowledgeable about the Bible – perhaps they know Hebrew or Greek – taking over and providing all of the “answers” to the study guide’s questions. Other people in the group don’t get a chance to participate in talking about the Bible because they don’t know as much and therefore don’t think they bring value to the group. This situation can be especially intimidating for new believers.

Instead, open the discussion up for opinions and questions about the reading. A question like, “So, is there anything that stood out to you?” opens the text up for discussion at all levels.

2. Read big portions of Scripture

Try modeling your Bible discussions after book clubs. When book clubs meet, they usually don’t only discuss one paragraph or one sentence of the book. While they may dwell on a short passage for a while, they’ve often read large chunks of the book and can talk about how the story is progressing or what shifts they’ve seen in the characters. They can pick out turning points in the story and discuss what they think might happen as a result.

When your community reads the Bible together, read and discuss big portions. Read an entire letter from Paul or an entire story from the First Testament. Don’t be bound by chapters and verses – look at the content itself and determine a good stopping place.

3. Avoid “application” as the universal end-game

Bible StudyMany of us have been conditioned to automatically ask, “Okay, now what does this mean for me?” as we read. If a story or passage doesn’t have direct application to our lives today in the 21st century, it can be difficult to know what to do with it. Large portions of the Bible end up ignored because it’s hard to find something we can draw from it that we can start practicing immediately.

When talking with your community about a passage in the Bible, if you’ve found something you feel speaks to you that you can apply to your life, by all means share it with the group. But if it’s not there, you don’t need to reach for it.

4. Talk about things that bothered you

There are a lot of things in the Bible that are hard to digest. When we read alone we don’t have anyone to process these unsettling passages with, and when we’re in a group setting we sometimes focus discussion on the easier, more manageable parts of Scripture. We have a hard time talking about parts of the Bible that bother us, so we usually try to just push it out of our minds.

Talking through these uncomfortable passages with your community can be extremely helpful and valuable. It will help your group grow closer, and somebody within the group may have some insights to the difficult passage that can help make it more understandable. Even if your group can’t come to a satisfying explanation of a hard passage, wrestling over the text together will bring you all closer to God.

5. Be open to disagreement

Part of the beauty of group discussion is the opportunity to wrestle together over a passage and work together to sort out its meaning. It’s almost inevitable, though, that at some point there will be disagreement about the interpretation of a passage. When this happens, we have the opportunity to learn to see different angles on a Bible passage by listening well to other members of our group. And while we may end up holding different opinions, it’s important for these differences not to become deal-breakers for our relationships.

If your community has been in the traditional “Bible Study” mode for a while, I encourage you to try this “Book Club” approach. Read big chunks of Scripture together, then just open it up for group discussion. I think the results will surprise you.

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Find about more about Immerse.


We Thank God for the Life and Ministry of Billy Graham

Billy Graham was a quiet man of God, but he was also a visionary. He led hundreds of thousands to a personal faith in God. His books influenced millions. Many ministries can point to ways in which their work was deeply influenced by Mr. Graham. That is certainly true for us at Tyndale House Publishers. When Tyndale House was still a kitchen-table operation, Mr. Graham began to promote Living Letters, the first part of what eventually became The Living Bible. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association gave away millions of copies of Living Letters and the subsequent books in that series. And when Mr. Graham insisted on paying Tyndale House a royalty for the copies that were given away, Ken Taylor, the founder of Tyndale House, used that royalty check to start Tyndale House Foundation. Mr. Graham was criticized for encouraging people to read a paraphrase of the New Testament, but he recognized the value of a translation that reads “like today’s newspaper.” We thank God for the life and ministry of Billy Graham.


Mark D. Taylor


Tyndale House Publishers

MDT headshot in suit

Communal Reading In the Time of Jesus: How Did the First Christians Learn the Bible?

So many of us are getting into the Word of God in personal study. This is important, but we often forget the importance of coming together as a community and reading God’s Word together like they did in the early church. Communal Bible reading is at the heart of Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience. Read what Glenn Paauw, Institute for Bible Reading, has to say about getting back to our early church roots and reading the Bible in community.

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How did early Christians learn and pass on their traditions about Jesus and his teachings? What did the first communities of Jesus followers do to maintain the authenticity of their understanding of the meaning of his work, and its continuity to new generations? Further, what place did the growing collection of apostolic writings to scattered churches have in first century Christian gatherings?

For some time the academic study of early Christianity has maintained an emphasis on the role of oral tradition and social memory in the initial spread and growth of the new Jesus movement. It was assumed that due to things like the scarcity of both writing materials and professional readers, actual communal reading from sacred texts must have been somewhat rare and limited especially to more urban areas, at least until later in the second century.

But now there is an increasing recognition that early Christianity, like the Judaism from which it was born, was a “bookish” religion through and through. (See our earlier article How the First Christians Challenge Us to Be Bible Readers.) Larry Hurtado, a New Testament scholar and historian of early Christianity, has been a key voice helping us explore the evidence for this more closely. His books Destroyer of the Gods (2016) and The Earliest Christian Artifacts(2006) have directly examined this theme. Brian Wright’s new book continues this effort to bring more clarity to our understanding of the place of reading in the earliest church.

Wright’s key point is that communal reading was geographically widespread and that such reading was a way of avoiding any serious alterations in the traditions and teachings of the first Christians.

There are two backgrounds to this: first, the fact that public reading was a common feature of life across much of the Roman Empire. Letters, proclamations, poetry, and the great literary sagas of the time were all frequently read in public places. These did have a kind of performance aspect to them, but the point is that they were not performed from memory, but rather read aloud from written texts.

The second key background is of course the Jewish matrix from which Christianity emerged. Just as the Jews met and read the Scriptures together regularly, so did the early Christians. (See the chapter “Sharing Our Synagogue Bible” in my book Saving the Bible from Ourselves.)

Wright’s book is an important piece of detailed, collected evidence from the first century, in both the broader Roman culture and in specifically Christian settings. He includes chapters on relevant social, economic, and political factors, arguing that all of these were actually conducive to the widespread practice of public reading, making it a familiar feature of life for everyone. In the case of the Christian communities, it’s more clear than we’ve realized that the New Testament documents themselves are filled with evidence that they were expected to be widely shared and then publicly read.

In short, a standard part of the experience of the first Christians was the public, out-loud reading of the founding documents of the faith.

Should We Recover Communal Reading Today?

Of course most of the first Christians didn’t have any opportunity to own a personal copy of the Scriptures, and the preponderance of evidence remains that most people could not even read or write. But they were experienced, focused listeners, and this served them well. Christian formation in the early church was centered on immersion in the story of God, Israel, and the world as found in the sacred writings, both old and new. This tangible, practical focus on the Scriptures also helped ensure the integrity of the message over time.

But what about us?

In the modern era we’ve largely turned away from the early Christian practice of communal immersion in the Scriptures. Reading and study of the Bible is largely done individually, surrounded by all manner of reference-type helps, commentary, and devotional aids. The research evidence is clear that this is not working as an overall strategy for Bible engagement. People report that reading alone in this way is complicated and overwhelming. In short, it’s hard. And as a result, folks admit they’re not doing it much.

What new kinds of communal encounters can we imagine? What new forms of public reading and dialogue around the text can we envision?

The consequences have been serious for both private and public expressions of the faith. Unfamiliarity with the Big Story has produced Christians who don’t really have a good chance of living into the story in our contemporary setting because they don’t know who they are or where they came from.

There is no shortcut to this biblical knowledge. It comes only from sustained attention to our founding narratives, letters, songs, and wisdom. It comes from reading big and reading whole, not piecemeal sampling.

So what if we were to reclaim the practice and simplicity of the early Christ-followers?

What if we were to rediscover the unique value of communal reading of the Bible?

There have been a number of shifts in the nature of congregational life in recent history. A new emphasis on small groups, a move toward contemporary music and worship styles, and others. Why couldn’t we commit to similarly shifting how and when and where we engage the Bible? What new kinds of communal encounters can we imagine? What new forms of public reading and dialogue around the text can we envision? There are lots of different kinds of churches, lots of different ways this might look.

A commitment to biblical fluency should be at the center of every church’s life.

We can all ask: What could my community do?

Open My Eyes

by Kevin O’Brien, brand manager for Study Bibles and Bible Reference at Tyndale House Publishers.

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Sometimes it all seems like too much. Life presses in, and I am going to implode under the pressure.

It’s not supposed to be like that.

I know better.

I mean, I really know better. Not sort of, not I think so. For real.

I was in church before I was a week old. Gave my life to Christ before I started school and was always the “good kid,” whatever that means. Sure, I had my doubts in junior high and was silently, scarily rebellious in high school. I am by nature a skeptic. Faith comes hard for me. And yet I believe. I went to a Christian college, changed my major to pastoral studies my freshman year, went on to seminary for two master’s degrees, and did some more grad school in theology after that.

Knowledge. Got it.

I’ve built my life on the Bible. On the idea of the Bible. On the knowledge that it not only matters, it’s true. Really true. Stake-your-life-on-it true.

Still, for twenty years I have been haunted by a question a professor asked after I had given a short sermon in a preaching class: “Kevin, you clearly have the text. My question is, does the text have you?”

How do you answer that question? How do you know?

Life, not the classroom. That’s how.

My second son was diagnosed with autism at 4 years old.

What do you do with that? Does the foundation hold? Do I really believe? Did I simply get over my rebellious phase and follow the path that a good firstborn child follows or did something capture me? I have asked myself that question a lot over the past decade. I have wondered in silence and loneliness—and very much out loud as well. I have had my doubts and defeats, stress and helplessness along the way.

I cannot fix this. Not by a long shot. I cannot fix it for my son or my wife or my other children. I cannot fix the past or the present or the future.

But I can trust. I can hope. And I have since the beginning, since the day that we first heard the word “autism” attached to Nathan’s name. The day I came face to face with the reality that I actually do believe this stuff—God has captured me. But the pressure remains. Autism hasn’t magically vanished.

I have all this training in the Bible and it can still be hard for me to catch a glimpse of what God is up to sometimes. Still its truth has worked its way down into my very soul. Sometimes in surprising ways. Like the day we first heard “autism” and I didn’t panic. Didn’t cry out, “Why me?” I was able to say, “That’s Nate.” Not because I am better or more spiritual or even just numb. But because I actually believe this stuff. I believe that God is who the Bible says he is. That he is for us. That he wants us. That he is big enough to take care of the things that we cannot see past.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the word of God is alive and powerful.

I have known this all my life. I have caught glimpses along the way. But it took Nate’s diagnosis to truly open my eyes to just how powerful God’s Word really is. To open my eyes to the fact that this living word points me to the Word—the one who doesn’t just save me from or for some future moment but in the messiness of the here and now. In the mundane routines of life. In the expectations and failures and hopes and dreams and, yes, even in autism. This message has sunk down into me, however imperfectly. It matters.

ISB Outside

That’s why I make Bibles. I want to help people to see what is going on in its pages, to drink deeply of its message and hear its call. Ken Taylor, who created The Living Bible and started Tyndale, was often asked what the best Bible was. His reply was always the same: “The one you read.”

It’s often easier for us to say we believe the Bible than to actually read it. We half remember Bible stories from our childhood (and would be shocked at what is really in—and not in—them), we struggle over hard names and wonder what the point of Leviticus is anyway. Sometimes it just feels too hard. Study is for people who went to seminary and who know Greek. It’s stuffy and boring and takes the mystery and wonder out of our faith. It doesn’t help when people like me with years of training are tempted to turn the Bible into a textbook. You know, the kind of book you are supposed to read but don’t? The kind that bewilders and puts you to sleep?

It doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be that way. The Word of God is alive and powerful. We need constant reminders. Nate has been one for me. But even so, it’s easy to get caught in the routine, the day to day.

For the past couple of years I have gotten to be a part of an amazing project. We started with Taylor’s simple premise and asked ourselves, what would it take for people to want to study the Bible?

Not textbook study. Love-letter study.

The kind of study that sinks down in so that when life happens we have an anchor, not an answer.

What if we used color and photography, images and art to open our eyes to what God is up to?

I got to be a part of a team that went through the entire Bible asking what we should (and could) illustrate well. I got to rediscover the wonder of this thing we call the Bible, watching firsthand as each of us caught a glimpse of the breadth and the depth of God’s love for us. Remembering that this is his world, that he invites us to be a part of it. He carries us home when we wander, tells the father of an autistic child that yes, he can handle this, too.

I want to help people understand what the Bible is all about. Because in all of my crazy, messed-up life, in all of my knowledge and doubt and fear and wonder, I believe it is true.

Somewhere in the middle of it all, I also got a reminder that the process is never done. Every day I have to open my eyes in wonder.

Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.

                                                                                  Ps. 119:18

Check out the Illustrated Study Bible

Kevin O’Brien is a nerd. A full-blown liked school, stayed there far too long, Dr. Who–loving, bookworm sort of nerd. Who also won the lottery when he married a former cheerleader. (Yes, it really can happen.) He also happens to love hockey enough that he married a Canadian former cheerleader. He is a father to three kids, an ordained minister who currently serves as an elder at his church in the far western suburbs of Chicago, and a brand manager on the Bible team at Tyndale House Publishers (which is a fancy way of saying he does product development and marketing all rolled into one). He served as managing editor for the Illustrated Study Bible.

This was originally written in 2016.