For Trevin Wax, teaching a congregation to read the Bible effectively goes beyond distilling information. “Pastors are not ultimately seeking only to deliver information or practical application to people,” he says. “Those are both important, but our overall goal is to lead people to an encounter with God. Worship is the end result, and worship is what motivates us to mission.”
As managing editor of The Gospel Project, a three-year curriculum designed for all ages to pursue together, Wax has devoted years to considering all facets of Bible study. When we are not reading our Bibles and living the way God would want us to live, Wax says, “it is either a knowledge issue or a heart issue. If it’s a knowledge issue, we need to tell people how to go about it. But most of the time the problem is that the heart needs to be changed, not the brain.”
“As a teacher, I want people’s affections and emotions and heart to be fully engaged with the vision of God that they see in the Bible and through Bible study. I want them to be passionate about doing what the Bible commands. That vision of God fuels our worship and our obedience to his leading.”
The Gospel Project
Wax was drawn to The Gospel Project because the curriculum promised to be “a theologically robust, Christ-centered, mission-driven journey through Scripture”—a description that reflected how Wax preached during his earlier ministry as a pastor.
As the project developed, the team kept returning to the essential purpose for studying the Bible, Wax says. “The driving questions we asked were, ‘What would a curriculum look like if it was unashamedly theological yet readily accessible? What would a curriculum look like that shows how all Scripture points to Jesus and that shows how the Bible is equipping us to live on mission?’”
Wax believes it’s vital to study the Bible from a wide perspective, so we can recognize the big picture. “There are so many competing worldviews in our society, and believers need to be grounded in the overarching storyline of the Bible: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration—where we fit in, and how God is at the center of that.”
This God-centered approach to Bible study, Wax argues, helps believers avoid triviality. “In Bible study, we need to ask what the text teaches us about God. We go to the Bible not to find practical tidbits for our daily living, but to encounter God. Who is God? What is he like? How has he made himself known? How does he speak to us? What does he expect of us? To me, Bible study that doesn’t ask those questions is boring.”
And the questions go both ways. Wax learned the importance of taking time to allow “the Bible to ask questions of me,” he says. “As we encounter the Bible, we find that it presents us with questions we never had considered. We don’t simply read it. It searches our hearts. It causes us to think. It shows us where we may be in error, it illuminates directions, and it gives us guidance in so many ways. Reading the Bible should be a worldview-shifting experience.”
Step by Step
For Wax, God’s guidance has led along a roundabout path. A popular blogger and publisher for B&H Publishing Group (formerly Broadman & Holman), he has had three very different careers in the past 15 years, all of them ministry-related.
As a college student, Wax bought a one-way ticket to Romania, where he earned his undergraduate degree while ministering in village churches. He later worked for a Romanian radio ministry. After returning to the U.S., he attended seminary and served as an associate pastor for four years.
He eventually stepped away from the traditional path of church-based ministry to take a position with LifeWay Christian Resources, developer of The Gospel Project. In 2016 he accepted his current role with B&H, LifeWay’s publishing division, while he continues to oversee The Gospel Project.
Looking back on his career decisions, Wax acknowledges he used to feel some anxiety over the changes. “I wondered if my missionary calling was supposed to be forever, or whether serving in a local church ministry must look a specific way.” Ultimately, he came to understand his calling in the broad sense of disciple-making, whether that means serving in the mission field, a local congregation, a publishing house.
“The call of God to ministry on my life is more general than specific,” he says. “It may take on different tasks and forms throughout my life—each preparation for the next stage of ministry. I think that’s how God in his sovereignty works to get us where he wants us. It’s a step-by-step process of coming to understand the direction God wants us to go.”
Study that Transforms Us
Although Wax is encouraged to see more church leaders taking seriously the need to equip people to read the Bible—and to read it consistently—he remains concerned about biblical literacy. “We have so many new tools that will help us read the Bible, but so many people still don’t do it. It makes me wonder, what else do we need to get into the Bible as much as we should?”
One answer may be to mix things up. In his own Bible study, Wax likes to vary his approach between finding a big-picture overview and focusing on one book in depth. And no matter what else he’s studying, the psalms are a consistent part of his devotional life. He also listens to the Bible on audio. “The Bible is meant to be heard, not just read, and sometimes you catch things differently when you hear it,” he says.
Wax finds significant value in studying the Bible in community. “The Lord is showing people different things based on their personalities, backgrounds, and experiences. That can be such an exhilarating process,” he says. “There’s nothing like studying Scripture on your own and then coming together and getting insights you would have never gotten on your own. Everybody benefits.”
And if we’re recognizing the God-centered mission of the Bible, “everybody” means more than just Christians—because God’s Word isn’t just for us. It looks beyond the church to the world, inviting and empowering believers to be effective witnesses of Christ and to join in his project of redemption.
“All Scripture is inspired and Christ-exalting,” Wax says, “and yet it’s also there for a reason—to equip us to be better missionaries in the context God has put us in.”