Can 'A.D. The Bible Continues' Lead People to the Best Book for Another Look?

"A.D. The Bible Continues" is an amazing epic series that began Resurrection Sunday evening, April 5, and will continue for eleven additional Sundays until June 21, on NBC, the most watched TV network. This is an awesome, grace-filled opportunity. It is a Divine invitation to go deep into the Bible and to benefit from its unique spiritual empowerment and joy in our own lives, and in the lives of the children, youth, and adults whom we can benefit, too.

Paul de Vries is an exclusive CP columnist.
Paul de Vries is an exclusive CP columnist. | (By CP Cartoonist Rod Anderson)

The one hour of intense Biblical content drew the largest TV audience of Easter Sunday evening, at least doubling the audience of programs even on NBC just before and after "A.D." It was a good choice for NBC and a great choice for all the 9.5 million "A.D." viewers. In the Easter Sunday's installment, the first episode, brilliant executive producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey dramatized the story of Jesus' death and resurrection. Subsequent episodes on Sunday evenings will dramatize the exciting, formative events of the Acts of the Apostles, chapters 1-10.

A trademark of excellence for the programs and films produced by Burnett and Downey is their embrace of "whole events" – without restricting their purview to what secular historians might generally accept, or what a particular theologian might teach. Experientially, they take the wide angle "lens," recognizing the vibrant realities of the supernatural persons and actions, the human characters and relationships, and the natural world's Divine revelations, too. To watch an episode of the "A.D." series attentively is to be personally stretched and spiritually enriched, in many dimensions.

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We can choose to embrace this opportunity or watch it pass. Since the "A.D. The Bible Continues" epic series will continue on NBC until June 21, there is still time to organize activities to help multiply its spiritual benefits – for ourselves and also for children, youth and adults we know – or whom we can recruit.

The attraction is certainly multi-generational – for the epic series and even more for the Bible itself. The historic stories of the early months of the life of the Church, in the first 10 chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, are as personally engaging and as spiritually meaningful as any 20 pages in all of literature. These great stories from the Church's roots can help revitalize individual Christians and the Church now in AD 2015, and going forward. Certainly, these remarkable Scriptural stories will attract new believers, and these unique, historic narratives from the best Book will draw many new people to Jesus and to his Church.

Here is an amazing spiritual parable developing right before our eyes. Many have told the story of the early Church, even using film media. However, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are especially knowledgeable and skilled producers, and they retell the great Biblical stories through film in a more nuanced and engaging way that captivates our attention. In a similar but even far more profound way, the Holy Spirit himself, illuminating the mind and heart of the articulate Dr. Luke, the human author of Acts of the Apostles, communicates linguistically in an especially nuanced and engaging manner, too. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate knowledgeable and skilled "producer" – of both the Bible text and of the personal transformation and enduring joy that we all need and seek.

Too often in our own Bible study we miss the Holy Spirit's potent linguistic nuances and engaging style that have kept the Bible the best-seller for centuries. How could we have forgotten that Holy Spirit-inspired Biblical authors are still the best writers?

1. Have we allowed familiarity with the texts to dull our senses and diminish our joy in Bible study?
2. Might our plain-fact-only modern reading skills blind us to the Bible's linguistically rich history-telling?
3. Could it be that all those standardized comprehension tests in school have distracted us from real reading for all it is worth?
4. Have our media gadgets, text messages and tweets "dumbed down our own daily communication, so that it is quite different from the awesome life-changing, deep communication that is repeatedly exemplified between the covers of the greatest Book?
5. Did we allow quick readings of excellent 5-minute devotional writings to displace truly engaging the real, original record of Divine revelation?

Nevertheless, the Bible still has the power to change lives like no other book, and it contains the best stories ever told or ever depicted in films or epic series. A 12-year scientific survey of 150,000 people around the world shows that the Bible's life-transforming effects are especially measurable and sustainable when we engage the Bible at least 15 minutes at a time, at least four different days each week. This simple commitment brings an extraordinary new level of measurable joy, meaning, and transformed behavior into peoples' lives – regardless of the person's continent, location, ethnic group, age, or economic or educational level.

Can we rediscover the joy of deep reading and engagement with Bible texts? Can the "A.D. The Bible Continues" epic series draw our attention back to the best Book for another look? Can we experience again the richness of the grace of Divine revelation?

To help everyone rediscover the joy of deep reading and engagement with the Bible, we have prepared sets of Bible study questions on the main Scriptural texts for individual episodes of the "A.D. The Bible Continues" epic series. The new lessons are sets of simple probing questions to draw people' attention to the Bible text in multiple new ways – according to the seven dimensions of all word-use, all verbal communication. These question-filled lessons are now free to download at They are not sermons or personal reflections –but contain pointed questions to help everyone dig deeper into the source, the Word of God. These questions could be powerfully used also in adult group study, or with meeting with children or youth.

You and those who join with you in a 7WordWonders study will also increase precious word-skill and knowledge of the power of language – to then engage the Bible texts even more meaningfully going forward. You or your group can profitably spend 15-minutes with the 10-12 questions in just one of the 7WorldWonders in a Bible text, and then explore the same text with another WorldWonder right away or the next day. For children or youth who are having education challenges, the 7WordWonders will especially help them enjoy reading and equip them with additional priceless word-power. Such mastery of language-skills matters for every activity in our lives, including particularly everyone's continued joy in deep reading and engagement of the Bible itself, at least four times a week.

Therefore, the 7WorldWonders Bible engagement teaches word-power, too – which leads to more joy-filled Bible engagement, …and then even greater word-power going forward, ...and therefore followed by even more fruitful Bible engagement, again, too. This wonderful holy helix lifts all souls.

Now, please watch "A.D. The Bible Continues" epic series Sunday evenings. Encourage others to watch it with you. Engage yourself and others in related deep Biblical reading. Explore all the 7WorldWonders of the Bible texts used in the epic series. Then, let the precious joy and transforming power of personal Bible engagement arise within you – and also within the others whom you can influence.

Dr. Paul de Vries is the president of New York Divinity School, and a pastor, speaker and author. Since 2004, he has served on the Board of the National Association of Evangelicals, representing 40 million evangelical Americans.

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