Read Like An Artist: The "Why" of Reading Matters

Updated: Jul 13, 2019



Whenever we encounter a text, we read it through a lens colored by our purpose or intent. That lens filters out details or ideas that do not help us toward our goals and focuses our attention on the details and ideas that do. The same text is present, but we don’t experience it in the same way because we don’t utilize the same mental muscles and we don’t ask the same questions

Just think how different your approach would be to a book that you’re reading in order to write an essay for school compared to a book that you’re reading in order to relax. Again, consider how different the approach of a seminary student reading John 1 for doctrinal proof texts is compared to a pastor preparing for a sermon or a teenager doing quiet time. None of these approaches is better or worse than the others; they are simply different. And that difference is a gift, allowing our experience of the text to change and broaden over time and through different contexts.

Youth leaders, you need to be aware of this as well. You may not consider yourself an artist, but I trust that you value and want to encourage the budding artists that you are shepherding.

Like preaching and quiet time, adaptation can also serve as a lens for reading Scripture. Bible Artists have a unique perspective when they approach a biblical story, because the task of creating something out of that story forces them to engage it in a more imaginative fashion and ask unique questions. A couple weeks ago I focused on a few specific aspects of Jonah that Bible Artists need to mull over and think about. Now I’d like to look more generally at the unique questions that we bring to biblical stories whenever we read them with the intent to adapt.


A comparison of Bible reading lenses

There are a couple reasons I’m interested in exploring this topic:

For those of you who consider yourselves or aspire to be Bible Artists, I hope that this will get you to self-reflect on your Bible reading practices and perhaps suggest some potential ways that you could hone them further for the sake of your art.

But I don’t just have Bible Artists in mind. Youth leaders, you need to be aware of this as well. You may not consider yourself an artist, but I trust that you value and want to encourage the budding artists that you are shepherding. I’ve already suggested several ways that you can infuse the arts into your youth ministry, and this is one more. When you teach or disciple creatively-inclined students, introduce them to a variety of lenses for Bible engagement: not just quiet-time but also adaptation, study, and others. Doing so will not only help your students develop their creative gifts, it may also make them more aware of how they are reading the Bible and more excited about doing so.

Reading Like an Artist: Unique Questions & Perspectives

So, what does a Bible Artist look for when they approach a text? Every creator is different, of course, depending on medium, genre, and style, and these differences translate into different questions or areas of focus. But we’ll be looking at what I consider the most common and critical areas that Bible Artists need to focus on whenever they are reading Scripture with the intent to adapt:

1) Characterization

2) Identification & Points of Contact

3) Time Dilation

4) Emotion & Drama

5) Setting & Context

Have you ever given any thought to the lens that you read Scripture through? Are there any other aspects of a biblical text that you think a Bible Artist absolutely needs to focus on? Let me know on Twitter @theBibleArtist, #ReadLikeAnArtist.

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