On a number of occasions I’ve had people say: “I wish that I was a Pastor so I could sit around all day and just read the Bible.” Ever heard that one? Its companion is normally, “It would be nice to only work an hour every week.” Most of the time they’re trying to be funny, but there’s been a time or two when I’m convinced that person seriously believed that we Pastors really do read the Bible all day. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “if you only knew.”
The truth is that I struggle with reading the Bible regularly just like most everyone else.
This study found that 45% of regular church attendees are reading only once a week.
And another 1 out of 5 regular attendees are rarely or never reading the Bible.
When it comes to Pastors and Bible reading I’ve looked around to find a stat or survey to support my thought but I can’t find one.
My experience from working with other pastors and ministry leaders; hanging out with pastors for over 2 decades; and my own story from 25 years as a “professional Christian” – we’re not very good at Bible reading.
Personally, I’ve found that it’s much easier to approach the Bible out of duty and not devotion.
For years I allowed myself to be content with spending time in the Bible while I was preparing messages. And there’s certainly a place for that to serve as spiritual growth and devotion.
And without a doubt, the Bible has been instrumental for counseling and helping to point people in the right direction. It’s even been there when I needed to support a point in a meeting.
I understand there are many ways to read, study, meditate and become more fully devoted through the words of Scripture.
But what I realized is that I wasn’t just simply reading the Bible for myself.
I was 15 years into ministry when I finally set the goal, on the front end of a new year, to read through the Bible from cover to cover.
I had never done that before.
About that same time I came across these numbers:
It will take the average person 30 minutes a day to read through the New Testament in a month.
The average person also watches 4 hours of TV a day, which adds up to 120 hours a month.
That’s 7 ½ times the amount it would take to read the New Testament.
I quickly did the math. I could read through the entire New Testament in one month and still have time to watch 105 hours of TV.
I convinced myself that I could actually read through the entire Bible in much less time than the 365 days I was planning on. Not to mention, there’s no way I could stay committed to a plan that took that long.
How did I do it?
1. I took the 365-day reading plan and crammed it into 90 days. I couldn’t find a reading plan at the time that broke it down this way for me. I would read 4 days’ worth of the yearly plan. Since then, a 90 Day Plan has become available.
2. I committed to a scheduled time of reading every day. For me, it was the very first thing. I would send the kids out the door to school and then sit at the dining room table and read. If I got behind on a day or two I pre-committed to make up ground. Many times I was reading extra on Saturday morning.
3. I stuck to simply reading, not studying. I resisted the notion to keep a notebook and limited myself to my Bible and a pen. Any notes I made were directly in my Bible.
4. Chronological reading is the way to go in my opinion. My first time through, I read from Genesis to Revelation. The next few times I chose to read in chronological order and it was a much more enjoyable experience.
Here’s the question you might have if you’ve never done anything like this.
“How long will it take me to do this every day?” At least the answer for me was, “not as long as you think”.
For the entire 90 day period I was reading roughly 13 chapters a day in a span of about an hour.
I’ve done this 90 Day reading plan several times now. And each time I finish I’m drawn to the same benefits.
1. I see the Bible as one cohesive story. The perspective on how all things fit together becomes so much more clear to me.
2. It helps me to connect the dots. Especially when I read chronologically, the stories, the characters and the writings fit together and start to fall into place. Because I’m reading such large portions in a short amount of time, I’m also able to recall and link together truths of Scripture that I might not normally associate.
3. I get to travel down roads that are less frequented. By that I mean, I’m forced to read sections of Scripture that are easy to avoid and don’t get much attention.
4. I’m able to find great stories and illustrations for teaching. Again, it’s not my goal to be mining for material, but sometimes it just presents itself. Part of our calling is to communicate God’s Word so it’s always helpful to uncover new things that I would have never found otherwise.
5. It helps me continue to maintain the habit and discipline of personal time with God. As I’m asking people to develop their own ways of learning and growing, I’m leading the way by my own example.
I’m not saying the goal is to read through the entire Bible in 90 days. Or even a year. (Although I think it’s a great practice.) I once had the Bible laid open to the same page for nearly 6 months, reading the same 3 verses every day. That’s what was needed at the time. All I want to encourage and challenge us to do is to read the Bible as a daily habit.
Let’s lead the way to read it out of devotion and not just duty.