We are people of the Word—gospel people who have received and now live in a relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We cherish the Bible as a way to see the steadfast story of redemption from the beginning of time. Scripture is a gift that we open to see God. It’s living and active (Heb. 4:12) and cuts to our hearts by the Spirit as we’re trained in righteousness and readied for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16–17).
Yet often, what we say and practice are two different things. The startling admission in many of our churches is that our people do not read and know their Bibles. They’re being formed by louder voices and urgent demands as busyness crowds out time and intention. This drift away from Bible reading is reflected broadly in culture and was captured by Barna’s “State of the Bible 2021” report. They found that people who read and are engaged in Scripture hover around 19 percent. Bible literacy is at an all-time low.
If we take seriously that the way of wisdom is delighting and meditating on the law of the Lord (Ps. 1:2) and that, in time, we are formed up into Christ (Eph. 4:15) by the gospel message invading our wandering hearts, then as leaders we should be moved to action.
We need to challenge those in our care to learn the Bible for themselves.
Called to Action
Our church did just that this past year. From our students to our eldest members, we invited the whole congregation to spend September to May reading the Bible together. Our goal was both habit formation and growing familiarity with the Word. We wanted participants to reach and be stretched, but not crushed, by the volume of the text, so our plan covered 75 percent of the Bible. Each month led us through the Old Testament and the New Testament with a daily Psalm. The startling admission in many of our churches is that our people do not read and know their Bibles. They’re being formed by louder voices and urgent demands as busyness crowds out time and intention. Click To Tweet
We also had one large group gathering each month for teaching on a biblical theology theme, a testimony of how the experience was going for one member, and a time for men, women, and students to break up into smaller groups for reflection, questions, discussion, and prayer. People showed up where they were. Some read diligently all month, others struggled, while a few persisted through hard circumstances and stayed engaged. In it all, we set our intention on wanting to behold God by cherishing his Word.
What Did We Learn?
This is a key question to consider when you embark on new rhythms. It’s an individual question, but also one we answered collectively as a church. We recently ended our Bible reading year together, and I was struck by three reflections echoing from many.
1. Endurance Is Key
There’s a temptation to abandon a new rhythm the moment we fail—to see all we haven’t accomplished and allow that to deter us from continuing. Bible reading is no different. We all have muscle memory of starting plans only to get to Leviticus and give up. So, we emphasized how important it is to keep going throughout the year.
If you miss a day (or many days), just let it go, skip those sections, and pick back up with the group where they are. This posture meant so much. It allowed us to cherish the good while letting go of crushing expectations. We received the invitation to open his Word with delight, not dread.
2. Community Is Essential to Engagement
The monthly gathering proved an essential part of staying engaged over the year. Reading is a solitary experience, and, although valuable, people often asked themselves, is this worth it? We don’t always see immediate results, but we’re depositing truth into our minds and hearts each time we open the Bible, and it’s essential to remember that. We have the opportunity to be shaped by many things in the course of our days, but nothing has more of an eternal impact than being shaped by Scripture. Click To Tweet
Formation happens slowly. It’s having the long view in mind when it seems fruitless to continue. Gathering together allowed us to revisit the bigger vision and ask questions about the text that were confusing or overwhelming. We try to go about life alone, but this experience proved that we truly are better together.
3. Scripture Saturation Is Good for the Church
The process of people reading their Bibles and growing in familiarity with God’s Word created heightened engagement on Sunday mornings and in the overall mission of the church. I was pleasantly surprised to hear how preaching came alive as it stirred our minds to references in what we were reading. Our smaller groups had a shared language, being literally on the same page in Scripture, that cascaded into conversations, encouragement, and prayers.
Our people had a growing love for God and his mission, percolating in their souls and driving them to consider others above themselves (Phil. 2:3–4). The work of the Spirit is often quiet and unseen, but when people give themselves to an earnest pursuit of God, he meets us with an abundance of his love that can’t be contained.
God has graciously given us his Word: many words revealing who he is and his love for us. We have the opportunity to be shaped by many things in the course of our days, but nothing has more of an eternal impact than being shaped by Scripture. May we give ourselves to that and then, as leaders, call others to join us in pursuing Jesus with all we have.