An older woman in my church lamented to me that she loves to read – and reads everything! – but that she struggles to read the Bible. My response was immediate because I knew just what she needed – “I have the perfect thing for you!” I gave her my set of Immerse Bibles. A few weeks later, she found me at church, and with a twinkle in her eye, she told me she had been reading the Immerse Bible and that reading God’s Word in this way had become joyful and rewarding.
Thanks so much for creating this resource! It is making a difference!
My name is Ben Tameling, and I am a Bible teacher at Grandville Calvin Christian High School. I am writing to express my enthusiasm for the Immerse: The Reading Bible series created by the members of the Institute for Bible Reading and published by Tyndale Publishers. For the first time this semester, I used the Kingdoms book for my Old Testament Survey class and the Messiah book for my New Testament Survey class. In both cases, it reinvigorated my teaching and my students’ approach to the Bible. What struck me so positively from this experience are the following three qualities.
First, my students and I really appreciated and enjoyed the “user-friendly” format of Immerse. I had several students remark that reading the Bible this way felt less intimidating. As a Bible teacher who personally loves reading and studying the Bible, this comment blew me away at first, but then I began to see where students were coming from: all of the study notes, cross references, and footnotes in many well-meaning “study Bibles” end up distracting young people from actually reading the text itself. Reading both a large portion of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament using this format helped students focus on the grander narrative. The introductions to each book gave us helpful historical and cultural context for each book, but then we were off and running, uninhibited by the clutter of so many gigantic Study Bibles.
Second, I enjoyed having student discussion lead the class rather than my own preconceived agenda. I still did and do a lot of planning, whether it be formulating “unit maps” to help introduce major concepts in biblical books, summarizing key learning targets, or putting together “recaps” to help students review together, to name just a few things. But allowing students to “immerse” themselves in Scripture allowed me as a teacher to let students’ observations and reactions drive the class. As their guide, I encouraged them to ask questions continually as they read and for them to share those in small groups, whole class discussion, and in their weekly journal reflections that I required. This last technique was a great way for me to keep up with students as they read, dialoguing with them along the way and prodding them to keep asking great questions as they sought to connect the dots throughout the Story. In short, it was fun to explore a balance between pouring a foundation for them to build off of and then letting them go to work as they read and shared their own perspectives.
Third, going along with the above points about the user-friendly format and the student-driven dialogue, I believe using Immerse has allowed students to work toward a more holistic understanding of the Bible rather than see it as a series of disconnected “devotional chunks”. In my experience using Kingdoms, students could now approach the account of the Israelites entering and then exiting the Promised Land as part of a Story, more like an absorbing, tragic novel rather than a tedious textbook. Likewise with Messiah: suddenly all of the teachings and miracles of Jesus flowed together into a discernible storyline conveyed similarly yet differently by each Gospel writer. And rather than rush as a teacher to try and make each and every passage “applicable”, it was fun to watch students make connections between then and now themselves.
All in all, I am so glad that I was made aware of Immerse: The Reading Bible and can’t wait to keep exploring ways to integrate it into my other classes, refining and honing my own skills as a teacher to help open up the Bible to students, and in turn being blessed by what they teach me through this experience of reading communally.
Grandville Calvin Christian High School
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St. John’s Lutheran Church
Why did you do Immerse?
As a pastor, I wanted people to be involved in God’s Word, reading or listening to it for themselves. While a number of my members use a daily devotional, I thought the format of a verse taken out of context and a couple paragraphs of explanation was insufficient. The book-club format of Immerse was low-pressure enough that I thought I could get people involved.
What were some challenges? How did you handle them?
In spite of everything I did, I couldn’t get people to act as facilitators for the groups. I finally announced one group would meet Wednesday nights, and invited everybody to that one, and encouraged any other group to meet on their own.
The first night we had more than 20 people show up. Then some older members approached me and asked if they could meet during the day. Their only condition was that they wanted me there in their group as well!
Of the 50 people that signed up for an Immerse Bible, I think we had 20 meet in groups that I was involved in, and a number of them simply did the readings on their own at home.
We all struggled with the amount of readings and time management involved in keeping up with the schedule. We also all agreed that it was a good thing to struggle with and all made adjustments in our lives to have daily Bible reading in our lives.
We are seriously looking at Immerse: Beginnings as our next experience, perhaps with a 16-week schedule instead of 8.
Was it worth it?
Absolutely. A number of our participants told me their felt they understood the New Testament better than they had before. We had some great discussions, and we all agreed this was worth it.Read More
Barb and Glenn Martin have spent much of their lives in the education field — Barb as a faculty member at Bethel University, Glenn as a teacher, coach, and high-school principal. They both love the Word of God, faithfully participating in Bible studies and programs at their church in Roseville, MN.
When they heard about Immerse, Barb said, “It immediately captured our hearts and attention. so we thought, ‘let’s pilot it at church. If we can get a green light from our pastoral staff, we thought getting into the Word of God and doing it in the way that the Immerse program has been written would be a great way to get into the Bible with some folks from church and see where it goes.'”
Tell me about your experience with the Bible prior to Immerse.
Glenn: I’ve tried to be very diligent in the Word in many ways. For the last five years I’ve been doing the One Year Bible in various ways, most recently chronologically using the Bible app on my phone. I’ve really enjoyed that and have done it faithfully for many years. I have emails that come with topical ways to get in the Word. I’ve been in Men’s groups that have been in the Word doing leadership and discipleship studies. I love the Word of God…but I’ve been excited about Immerse. I’m thinking this really has possibilities for believers and seekers alike.
Barb: In my own study I’ve been slowly working my way from beginning to end in a Bible study program. Women’s studies at church, book studies, that type of thing. When we went to Israel in 2014 we read The Harmony of the Gospels in preparation. That was fun and different from anything I’d done before.
How would you describe your personal experience with Immerse?
Barb: I liked it a lot. The approach and way it was structured was fresh. We started out with Luke and Acts and then Paul’s Letters, and the sequencing of that was very interesting. I really liked the notes at the beginning that gave you an introduction to what you were going to be experiencing – I thought that was very helpful. I did like the format without the chapter and verse breaks and just reading it like a book! It was fresh. It was interesting.
I also liked the fact that we had a range of people who joined our group – some people with great Bible knowledge, some with very little. We read with the four questions in mind and what we’d like to share with the group. It was approachable and it wasn’t threatening. We had the freedom to go off on different tangents, and it was wonderful to see what people picked up on as they were answering those questions themselves. It made you say, “I never took it like that” or, “That’s an interesting thought.” It was really neat to see the Body of Christ at work in the Holy Spirit revealing things to all of us in different places.
Glenn: I echo a lot of that. Additionally, for me personally, I really appreciated the way it caused you to see the flow of Scripture. The flow of Luke to Acts to the letters of Paul – that type of thing. The idea of the Gentile track and the Hebrew track of the New Testament was something I knew about but I hadn’t really read it that way. It helped me see it in a new way—dots that got connected in ways I’d never really fully understood because for the most part I’d read the Bible chronologically every day, but it’s piecemeal, it’s smaller chunks. To have this more global, holistic, 10-thousand-foot view was refreshing and revealed things I hadn’t seen before.
How was your group’s experience?
Glenn: As Barb said, there was varied experience and differing depths of faith. So some of the questions that were raised were really eye-opening for me. One guy asked some questions that seemed obvious at first, but when you stop to really think about it, it’s a very foundational question. It really helped me see the potential of this kind of study with nonbelievers and seekers because it’s really non-threatening. Here’s a book, four questions, what do you think? You don’t have to be a Bible expert, experienced theologian, don’t need a degree, don’t need a concordance to really be blessed by it.
Barb: When we presented this to the group – the reading schedule and everything, there was an element of excitement that in eight weeks we could read the New Testament. It was a fun challenge, and for everyone to say, “Wow, the weeks flew by” and at the end it was really a nice celebration! We did the New Testament in eight weeks! I thought that was a really fun part of it – that we did it together.
What does your future with Immerse look like?
Glenn: A couple of us from the group are heading south for a few months, but the rest of them are continuing with Beginnings and we’re being encouraged to Skype in to the discussions. The group definitely wanted to continue and they actually had their first meeting last night.Read More
Chris Chapman has been practicing law in Southern California for well over a decade. Recently he created Chapman Sports and Entertainment—a full service sports and marketing agency where Chris is a certified agent with both the NFL and NBA.
Chris grew up in pastor’s home in Texas and attends Saddleback Church but had never read the New Testament. So when his small group leader at Saddleback recommended the group read through Immerse: Messiah, Chris jumped at the chance.
Tell us about your experience with the Bible before Immerse.
Reading the Bible, especially the New Testament, has always been on my bucket list, but when I tried to read I found it cumbersome and overwhelming. I think part of the problem was that I was reading from an older Bible that I got from church when I was a kid. I even downloaded a Bible app thinking that would help, but I found that overwhelming as well.
So how was your experience reading Immerse: Messiah?
Honestly I was a little intimidated at first. I’m not a big reader—I kind of got burned out reading so much in law school. But I was surprised at how easily Immerse read. I liked the layout, and the more contemporary language of the NLT really helped—although at first I kept going back to my original Bible to make sure Immerse was getting it right.
As a busy lawyer who’s in court a lot, were you able to keep up with the reading?
Honestly, once I got started reading, it was hard for me to stop. I’d take it to the office with me, and I actually ended up getting ahead of the 8-week reading schedule. I was surprised at how easy it was. I figured I was reading two to three hours a week. The book introductions are brilliant and helped me understand the cultural background and helped put everything in context for the reader.
How important was it that you read Immerse: Messiah with your group?
The group experience was critical. Even though I was enjoying the reading, I’m not sure I’d have kept reading without the group motivation. I really wanted to engage in the conversations when we got together, so the group really kept me on task. The book club approach was also helpful. I’m not looking for more work! So I’d just read and show up.
What were your group conversations like?
The discussions were great! People caught things that I’d missed and vice versa. A number of times we recalled that Pastor Rick had preached on this before, but now we were seeing it as part of the whole. We actually had one of Saddleback’s pastors in our group, and occasionally we’d pick his brain about something we didn’t understand, but because we’d all read about fifty pages that week, everyone had a lot to contribute.
Where do you go from here with the Bible?
I ordered copies of Immerse and sent them to members of my family. And I’m excited that Immerse: Messiah has come out in Spanish! We have relatives in Mexico and want to send them copies as well. Also, as my sports agency grows, I hope to share Immerse with the athletes I’m working with. I don’t want to cram anything down their throats, but I hope to give them a copy when the time is right.
As a group, we’re talking about starting Beginnings. I definitely want to read the Old Testament.Read More