AVDS conference reveals Bible’s eternal truths

Hesston College Bible and Ministry faculty member Michele Hershberger leads participants in the college’s Anabaptist Vision and Discipleship Series conference through the Heilsgeschichte.

by Quinn Katherineberg and Rachel McMaster

In the age of social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, how does the Bible – an ancient book, thousands of years old – continue to be relevant to common experiences of the contemporary age? That was the question explored by the 190 participants at Hesston College’s Anabaptist Vision and Discipleship Series weekend Feb. 21 to 23.

The weekend’s theme, “Reading the Bible in an Instagram World,” featured the college’s Biblical Literature curriculum. The Bib Lit course intentionally looks at the Bible in its historical context instead of reading stories from a modern understanding. It weaves the Bible together from Genesis to Revelation, moving into church history and the present to reveal the Bible as a narrative of God and the people of God rather than a compilation of stories. Exploring the Bible in this way allows participants to understand stories and situations in their original context to help shape and grow faith and values of believers today.

Attendees had multiple encounters with the cornerstone of the curriculum – the Heilsgeschichte, a German word meaning “salvation history.” The Heilsgeschichte is illustrated through an expansive timeline that shows how individual Biblical stories and events are connected as a larger story.

Presenter Marion Bontrager, faculty member in the college’s Bible and Ministry program, explained the concept with “hat hooks,” as he tried to hang his hat on the timeline only to have it fall to the ground, explaining that while people may know Bible stories well, it is difficult to acknowledge the larger context. “Hooks,” or stories, help the reader remember the entire narrative as a continuous story.

“I appreciated hearing the whole Bible story connected and tying the Bible to our personal stories,” said Christina Litwiller of Salina (Kan.) Mennonite Church.

Bontrager and co-presenter Michele Hershberger, also a Bible and Ministry faculty member, led participants through an inductive Bible study, studying a specific passage and determining the meaning for the original audience and applying the eternal truth to today.

Social media sites like Twitter were used as interactive devices throughout the weekend to formulate discussions as participants live tweeted their thoughts and insights of the discussion, illustrating the Bible’s continued relevance even in the contemporary world.

Breakout sessions gave participants the chance to find ways to deepen their understanding of scripture. Nationally recognized actor and theologian Ted Swartz (Harrisonburg, Va.) led a session on creating theatre out of scripture. Hesston College theatre director Laura Kraybill presented different techniques for reading scripture that make it come to life, including the rate of speech, adding emphasis on certain words and using gestures. Former Hesston College Biblical Literature students Carlota Ponds (Hesston, Kan.) and Rachelle Adrian (Mountain Lake, Minn.) recited the Heilsgeschichte and tied their personal stories in with the Biblical narrative. Del Hershberger (Hesston, Kan.) and Marvin Lorenzana (Harrisonburg, Va.) of Mennonite Mission Network presented on making disciples through prayer, scripture and accountability.

The weekend worship was enhanced by music led by well-known worship leader Jeremy Kempf, a Hesston College graduate and worship leader at Trinity Mennonite Church (Glendale, Ariz.) and Hesston College students.

Swartz also presented dramatic performances throughout the weekend that complemented plenary sessions. “Genre Café,” which also featured Hesston College students explained different interpretations of scripture. Swartz’s one-man show, “Didn’t You Get My Letter? Musings from the Apostle Paul,” presented the Apostle Paul as a man often misunderstood. Through his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus to his sometimes contentious relationship with Peter and his frustrations with the followers of Jesus – the church, the show allowed the audience to better understand Paul’s passion, pains, doubts and unshakable belief in the church and the power of love.

Many participants expressed appreciation for the weekend’s contents allowing them to view the Bible in a new light.

“Bib Lit is an important class for faith formation at any stage in a person’s faith journey,” said David Horst of Journey at Yoder (Kan.) Mennonite Church and a Hesston College graduate and former Bib Lit student. “This weekend was a good reminder of God’s faithfulness to his people in any age.”