It is coming up to the time of year when people are making resolutions. One of the big ones in churches is to read the Bible through in a year. So perhaps you are thinking of encouraging people to do this by suggesting a reading plan. Here’s where I am going to tread on some special toes.
“I don’t think the Robert Murray M’Cheyne reading plan
is a good idea.”
There, I said it.
His plan, which is still widely promoted by various big names, essentially involves reading four chapters per day. This takes people through the whole Bible plus a bit of repeating (NT & Psalms, I think) in a year. I think it is great to help people get into the Bible, and I know many have been helped by it, but I don’t think this is the best way to go.
Essentially the problem with the plan, and others like it, is that the reading is segregated. So readers start in Genesis, Ezra, Matthew and Acts all on day one. I don’t want to stir up a sanctified riot, but I don’t think this is a good idea. Why not?
1. It treats the Bible chapters as vitamin pills rather than the feast that they are. That is, it creates a sense of “balance” without encouraging readers to really savour the taste of the text as it flows.
2. It hinders the reader from reading the text in context. In a busy life it is hard enough to keep track of one flow of thought, let alone four.
3. It doesn’t encourage the reader to get “in the zone.” I don’t know anyone that would advocate reading four novels at a time, a page from each, each day. How much better to invite people beyond the first few minutes of distracted reading and into the zone where they get gripped by the narrative and don’t want to put it down?
4. It promotes a tick-box approach to Bible reading as a discipline, rather than an overt opportunity to engage with God’s heart as revealed in the epic revelation. So many people view Bible reading as a laborious discipline that they must force themselves to do. But the people I know who delight in the Bible tend to be people who devour it, rather than dipping into it.
Suggestion? Why not encourage and invite people to read the Bible aggressively and relationally, as if God has a personality and is personal. That is, by reading His Word with a passion to know Him, readers/listeners might get to know His personality and grow in their personal relationship with Him.
Perhaps it is worth pondering how to encourage people by enthusiastic invitation, rather than by affirming the “difficulty” and “trudgery” of “getting through the Bible” in a year or three. Here is a link to my friend Ron’s article on Bible reading – as “Bible presenters” lets be sure to be genuine Bible enthusiasts that do more than try to fire up the so-called disciplined wills of our listeners!