Read Your Bible in 2014?

BookTwo years ago I wrote a post that seemed to polarize readers.  I suggested that the famous reading plan of a certain famous Christian was not a good idea.  If you want to see that post, click here.  Let me offer some thoughts on this as we head toward a new year and probably a fair few resolutions for preachers and non-preachers alike.

I am a huge fan of getting people to read the Bible.  While there are numerous ways to walk devotionally with our God, every other option surely must be undergirded and shot through with exposure to the Bible – God’s primary means of self-revelation and input into our lives.

If a reading plan is the only way to motivate someone, fine, so be it.  But I am concerned whenever I sense a lack of motivation in myself or in others.  I think that too often we treat a lack of motivation as a normal emotional problem to be overcome by diligence, accountability and determination.

I would suggest that we treat a lack of motivation as a flashing light on the dashboard of our lives.  When the oil light flashes I don’t obey it and choose not to drive the car.  Equally I don’t disregard it and press on.  I address the issue.  Same with a lack of motivation for Bible reading . . . don’t simply obey it, nor ignore it, but address it.  The best way I have found is to talk to God about that lack of motivation.  Be honest.  Out loud.  Tell him what is more attractive to you than His self-revelation.  That should prove to be convicting and bring us back in humility with a brokenness and renewed, albeit weak, hunger to hear from Him that we might respond as we should.

The best motivation for Bible reading is a hunger to know God more.  Therefore the best motivator for stirring others to read their Bibles is to know God more and be infectious with it.  When you are captured by a person, others will want to know Him too.  This is a far cry from language of diligence and discipline and so on.

I don’t ask my friends to hold me accountable to pretend to love my wife and listen to her.  I may ask them to point out if they see me rationalizing a drift from healthy relationships though.  Same with the Bible reading.  I don’t need someone to crack the whip to make me do it, but I am wide open to hearing from a friend that I seem touchy or less excited about God than is normal.

So next time I will come back to the reading plan issue and share some thoughts.  None of this is intended to stir up the hornets nest again, just to stir our thinking as we head toward a New Year and probably a lot of renewed motivation to be consistent in Bible reading . . .

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Can I Tread on Some Special Toes?

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!

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