Friday Five: Tyler Ellis

December 7, 2012

Today I’m pleased to welcome my friend Tyler Ellis to the blog. Tyler serves as a Campus Minister at the University of Delaware. Tyler also partners with One Verse and the Seed Company which translates the Bible into new languages. Tyler and his family live in Newark, DE.

Tyler has a just-released book, Question Everything. The book comes with endorsements from some very prominent Christian leaders. This is such an intriguing approach to Bible study that I asked Tyler to stop by and answer a few questions:

This is a unique concept – providing a question for every verse of the New Testament – what spurred the idea?

The idea to write a question for every verse in the New Testament was spurred in the spring of my sixth year as a Campus Minister in Arizona.Our student organization on the university campus was composed of students from a variety of backgrounds.  These students were Christians, atheists and agnostics.  Some had grown up in the church, while some were new believers.  We also had a number of international students.With every cup of coffee I shared with a student, I noticed a common thread being confirmed over and over.  It was something I observed first in students, but have since seen it to be true in all types of people.
People often have strong opinions about the Bible without ever having read the Bible.It is this observation that compelled me – as the subtitle of the book says – to be on the lookout for a “fresh way to read” the Bible.  I wanted to offer a new approach that made Bible reading more engaging.  That’s why I was thrilled to discover the art of inquiry.

You talk a lot about “Bible poverty”.  What do you mean by this?
We usually associate the word “poverty” with people who lack money, food and water, housing, education, medicine, etc., but what about those who lack the Word of God? We can be spiritually starved as well as be physically starved.I’m not sure who coined the phrase, but I first heard about “Bible poverty” at a Catalyst conference in 2010.  One of the booths that caught my eye was for The Seed Company who are a division of Wycliffe Bible Translators.  As I read through the packet they gave me, I was shocked by two sobering statistics.  First, that more than 350 million people in the world still don’t have one verse of the Bible translated into their language.  The second statistic is that 66% of U.S. Christians rarely or never read the Bible.

The mission of The Seed Company and of my book, Question Everything, is summed up by the Twitter hashtag, #EndBiblePoverty.  That’s why I’m excited to see that 10% of the book’s royalties go to The Seed Company and sponsor Bible translation.

Christians are often afraid to ask questions about the Bible.  Does this hamper spiritual growth?

Asking questions and growing spiritually is definitely related.  In fact, Jesus provides the perfect example of this.  In Luke 2:41-52, we read the account of Jesus at the age of twelve.  Verse 46 says he was, “In the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.”  And in verse 52, it says that, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.”

Questions and doubts are a fact of life.  We all have them from time to time.  But I think we underestimate the way questions have the potential to be the best or the worst thing that ever happened to us.  The difference maker is how we respond to questions.

When people are afraid to ask their questions, they take a step in the direction of “blind faith” or even losing faith altogether.

But when people allow their questions to launch them on a quest for truth, they take a step in the direction of good faith, as they grow in confidence and own their beliefs.

That’s one of the benefits of reading Question Everything hand-in-hand with the Bible.  It doesn’t tell you what to believe, but invites you to go to the source for yourself.

This is sort of a new way to read the Bible.  How can these questions help discipleship?

Reading God’s Word is essential to following God’s Son.  Jesus was emphatic about this when he said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

To “abide” in the words of Jesus means to live out his teachings; to continue in it; to hold to it; to accept it; to obey it; and to be faithful to it.

While Question Everything is a great resource for students in High School and college; couples and families; new believers and old believers; homeschoolers and seminarians; it’s particularly ideal for discipleship groups looking for a practical tool to encourage Bible reading.

In addition to the 7,958 questions I wrote for every verse in the New Testament, the book also includes a Life Application page after each chapter.  I almost left this part out since it added another 260 pages to the book, but I decided to keep it because I wanted the book to be more than an academic exercise.  These questions help us to be doers of the Word rather than hearers only.

What do you think are some of the most important Bible-related questions?

I can think of a lot of questions regarding the Bible that people would do well to investigate for themselves.

• “Are the books of the Bible reliable history?”  Just as people who’ve never read the Bible often have opinions about what the Bible says, there are people with opinions about whether the Bible is reliable history, who have never held it up to the laws of histiography in order to test it in same the manner as other classical literature.

• “What if the Bible had never been written?”  This question invites us to explore the often overlooked impact the Bible has made in our lives, both generally and personally.  We take many things for granted – like law and morality, art and music, science and exploration, and hospitals and universities – that are hard to imagine life without.  Yet aspects of life such as these would not be the same had not the Bible influenced them.

• “Hypothetically, if the message of the Bible was shown to be true, would you give your life to follow Jesus?  This may very well be the most important question anyone ever asks themselves in regarding God, the Bible and Jesus.  To answer with a “Yes”, shows humility and a willingness to go wherever truth leads.  To answer with a “No”, exposes a deeper issue of rebellion.  If someone admits that they would not take the Bible seriously even if it was proven to be true (hypothetically), then they’d be wasting time to ask any other question.  May we all have humble hearts that desire to know truth at all cost!

Question Everything Book Trailer: