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Weaving Through the Bible Maze

by Cynthia Ruchti

“The dog ate my Bible.” The young man lowered his gaze, as if the tattered pages in his hand were too embarrassing to show anyone. “I got it free from this church I started going to,” he told the bookstore employee. He held the ragged book a little higher. A page fluttered to the floor.

The staff person stooped to retrieve it—a page from Psalm 119, ironically.

“And I can’t ask for another free one,” the young man said. “That’s, like, a mortal sin or something, isn’t it?”

The staff person smiled. “Not a mortal sin to request another free one from your church family, if needed.” She patted his shoulder.

“Church family. I’m not used to thinking that way. Jesus and me—we’re just getting acquainted, if you know what I mean.”

“I do.”

He paused a moment. “I think it’s time I invest in a Bible of my own.” He landed on the word invest as if it held holy meaning. “A friend told me I can use a Bible app on my phone, but my phone has lots of voices clamoring for my attention. With a real Bible, there’s just One. That’s what I need.”

The staffer headed toward what the young man would soon realize was a complicated maze. His eyes widened. A section—a whole section of the store. Not just different sizes and colors, but different versions. Different fonts. A plethora of features to rival the list of add-ons when purchasing a new vehicle.

What was once a simple request—I need a Bible—had turned into a quest he wasn’t prepared for.

Some enter a Christian bookstore with a clear idea of what they want to purchase. Card, gift, novel, Christian living book, a specific version and style of Bible. But often someone new to the Bible or a newer Christian knows only one thing—Bible. They’re unaware that the maze is like a flow chart of questions and answers.

Candice from Christian Book & Gift Shop says that for a newcomer to the wonderful world of Bibles, “I first ask if they have a specific translation they are looking for. If they answer yes, I ask if they are looking for a regular Bible with just the Scripture or if they are looking for a study Bible that has notes [and additional resources] to help break down and explain Scripture. If they are not sure which they prefer,” Candice says, “I show them both styles of Bibles and see which one benefits them most.”

What if the customer is starting his search further back than that? What if the new-to-God’s-Word individual is unaware of the variety of translation options? Cover options? Font options? How can a retailer play matchmaker between a person in need of a Bible and the “right” Bible for them?

Like Candice, a good guide asks good questions.

A good guide asks good questions

Are you looking for an easy-to-understand translation or a scholarly-sounding Bible? Candice says that if they answer easy-to-understand, “I pull an easier translation for them such as the NLT, CSB or the NIV. I pick a verse and have them read from each translation to see which one they best understand.”

Is it important to you that this Bible align word-for-word with the one your pastor or your church uses, or is it for personal study? A person in search of a Bible may not have considered that question. But the answer helps narrow the field of possibilities. It also opens an opportunity to recommend a church home if he doesn't yet have one.

How durable do you need this Bible to be? Will it accompany you on your backwoods hiking and whitewater rafting trips, or will it mostly live on your nightstand? Are you a person who envisions purchasing a new Bible once a decade or once in a lifetime?

What size works best for you? Compact enough to slip into your purse or backpack? Or large enough to not get lost at the bottom of your tote bag?

What are your special needs? We all have them. Are thin pages problematic because you like to underline in your Bible? Do you prefer large print (or the now available Super Giant Print) because of low light in the sanctuary, tired eyes from Zoom time or the other reason that has to do with an accumulation of years?

Do you feel comfortable locating the books of the Bible, or would you appreciate built-in tabs to help you navigate?

Do you want wide margins for notetaking or journaling?

Pointing to the Bible section in the store and setting a new believer on a daunting, intimidating quest when they don’t yet know what questions to ask themselves about choosing a Bible is a sure route to confusion and an empty dead end. The questions a good guide asks may seem overwhelming at first, but one at a time narrows the search inch by inch until the clouds part and angelic voices accompany the discovery of the perfect match—a Bible style, version, color, size that the customer will find compelling before they even open the cover and connect with the content inside and its Author.

More than a dozen years ago, this author (lowercase “a”) and her husband chose to give their young grandchildren Bibles of their own, tailored to their individual interests or need.

One connected with the pictures of an illustrated Bible. Another appreciated short devotional thoughts to help show that God’s Word speaks to a kid’s everyday needs. A third had an artistic bent and processed thoughts through journaling.

This is an image of the Sunday they each received their new Bible chosen specifically for them. It looks like they’re asking, “Is there anything in these pages for me?”

A new or young Jesus follower may silently wonder the same thing. The answer is a resounding yes! A prepared, listening, question-asking retailer can help guide a newcomer to that all-important, life-giving yes. CRA

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