Don’t read the Bible

Don’t read the Bible

An elderly gentleman was asked how many sermons in church he could recall in his many years as a faithful attender. His reply was “… none”, he couldn’t remember any. But, after a moment’s thought, he added that, for almost every day of his married life – some 50 years – his wife had cooked him a meal. He couldn’t remember those either, but he knew they had fed him, they had nourished him, they had even delighted him.

I don’t know if that story is true but here’s a question for you: Do you remember what you read in your Bible today? Or yesterday?… Or the last time you picked it up? It’s not that easy is it!

But, like the well-fed senior-citizen, there is something about just spending time daily in God’s presence, that nourishes us over and above whatever we might do or learn. The very fact that you spend time with His word, will encourage your faith and provide a framework for life’s events.

In this blog we’re not going on a guilt trip. We are just stepping back and considering 5 simple ideas, one or two of which might just add some freshness to your quiet time.

So here are 5 ways to “not read the Bible”:

Feeding from the Bible

1. Don’t just scan the reading

Try memorising – just a verse or two.

 You may already be thinking: “these days I can’t memorise anything” ….

But wait a moment. Too often we skim scripture and assume we have “read” it – after all skimming is the skill we must learn to handle the vast quantities of information on the internet. But “scanning” the word of God in this way won’t do; memorising is a an effective and counter-cultural way make ourselves STOP. Occasionally memorising just a verse or two is a wonderful way to “internalise” truths, truths that God will remind you of at the time you most need them.

To help you, Navigators produce scriptures on small cards you can carry around –  I used them for some years. And there are apps like Remember Me (which I haven’t tried but let me know if it works for you!)

2. Don’t read the Bible at all

Listen to the word as people did before King James made Bibles commonplace, and widespread literacy made them accessible.

This might seem an odd thing to do if you have not sat and listened to a recording of the Bible – or you may just find you are a person who prefers to listen. Try the recordings made by the exceptional Christian performer David Suchet. Here’s a sample:

3. Don’t use Bible notes

If you are a regular user of notes that accompany a bible reading, that’s great. God can and often does speak through the words of others. But occasionally try putting aside your notes for a week or two and let scripture speak for itself.

Or, if you have never used notes before, try them – particularly if you struggle to read your Bible at all – these can really help. For example the excellent (and free) Voice of Hope from Premier Christianity.

 Either way, shake it up – do a new thing!

4. Don’t simply read fragments

Once in a while try reading a whole book in one go – which is the way most books were intended to be read, not a few verses a day.

And before we all say “I don’t have time” (me neither), think about it.  You wouldn’t read a novel or even a newspaper for just a few minutes a day would you? In an age where we might binge-watch a whole TV series in a few days …. we have time. And it’s less time than you think! Desiring God have produced a table of how long it takes on average to read each book. Almost 30 books in the Bible can be read in less than 20 minutes – try it, expect to gain a whole new perspective!

Start with an introduction that explains who the book is written to and why eg using the NIV Study Bible notes or the much simpler ESV intros.

How long to read books of the Bible?

Source: Desiring God

5. Don’t rely on your electronic Bible

… occasionally try a real one! Digital technology is enabling more people across the world to access the Bible more effectively than ever before – great!. And like me you may well have several Bible translations on your phone or tablet – useful to always have the Bible handy. But there’s a risk that simply having a Bible in our inside pocket or handbag makes us think we are somehow “more spiritual”..

 Having Scripture to hand isn’t the same as having it nailed to your heart.

Moreover, we lose something if we rely entirely on e-Bibles. The Bible is more than the words on a screen. It is a library of 66 ancient documents that belong together as a whole. A physically bound Bible calls attention to this fact. Its physical nature  emphasises the placing of each chapter within a book, and each book within the whole. Chopping up the Bible into bits and bytes to fit on a screen or a daily post makes it portable but ultimately loses something of the whole.

Add value to your Bible reading in 2017

There’s a lot more help out there, from the ambitious Bible In A Year, to short reading plans based on a topic, to the Essential-100 Readings – the Bible story in 100 selected readings.

Don’t take on too much or we set ourselves up to fail. Maybe try just one of the suggestions in this blog and see how you go. And lastly, if this all sounds rather complicated, take the advice of the old man who enjoyed his wife’s cooking … just keep eating!

May God bless your reading of His word written to you throughout the coming year.

Christian Discipleship

If you enjoyed this post, try Questions we’re afraid to ask about the Bible

  • APK

    Very useful and concise set of ideas here. Just not sure about the listening to the Bible thing – my mind would wander unless it was an exceptional reader, – but is this just me?

    • Hi APK, in the past I’ve listened to the Bible while driving on long journeys. Not done that for a while, but worth thinking about. Certainly beats listening to the same news again and again!

      • Yes I think “audio” ie podcasts etc is a genre that is coming back into fashion. As we lead busier and busier lives its the only medium we can engage with whilst doing something else … mowing the lawn, driving etc. I take the point about danger of our minds wandering etc though!

  • Thank you for these different perspectives Chris! I wanted to plug the positive blessing of reading the Bible as an app on my phone (through YouVersion). For over 20 years I struggled to read the Bible in a year – I would misplace my Bible or forget how far I had got, get distracted or miss days and feel discouraged and give up. However, for the last 5-6 years I have managed each year to get through the whole Bible reading the McCheyne Reading Plan on my phone. Don’t be too impressed – I’m not that disciplined! I am sure it is because it is easily available on my phone and can so easily just pick up where I last left off. Having said that I agree there is a different feel to reading electronically and for prolonged reading/ meditation a good old fashioned book feels more enriching.

    • Thanks – I haven;t come across YouVersion – will check it out …. and I am impressed!

  • David M

    Hi Chris, As always clear messages. You’ve inspired me to buy a bible for my pocket. Something I haven’t owned since school!
    Happy New Year.

  • Cathy Buntin

    Thanks for this Chris. I found it very challenging especially as I stopped using Bible notes before Christmas.
    I’ll let you know how I get on. I enjoy your thoughts on seven minutes keep them coming. Aim to read the Bible in different ways

  • Thanks Chris, interesting.
    I found as someone “wanting” to read the Bible, it isn’t as simple as it sounds. I recall presuming one reads it from beginning to end ( something I didn’t achieve) . You explained to me that this isn’t the way to approach it. I found a study group, but time isn’t easy with all the responsibilities and demands on our time.
    A simple user friendly guide to study, or in deed ( if its allowed ) a briefer introduction to the message of the Bible might be a useful starting point. Important to engage people , as its easy to begin and not finish – meaning to return next week, which ends up the week after, after after and so on.

    • OK – I get that.I am actually working on a reading plan for my church right now. The plan will take them through ALL the main stories, the big characters, and the important teachings of Old and New Testaments in one year. There is 1 page to read each day and 5 readings per week. Its based on the E100 above but I made it significantly easier! I’ll give you (and anyone else who wants one) a copy. At the end of the day though we have to give time to what we believe s important 🙂

  • Agshin A. Jafarov

    This is very good post, Chris, and the issues you raise are things I’m passionate about. I love reading the Bible and I know from personal experience that when people read or learn or hear or somehow get in touch with the whole of the Bible (reading or listening the whole Bible not just verses or passages or single books within the Bible) their perspective on matters of faith deepens. This is so because reading/listening the whole of the Bible (from cover to cover) exposes people to passages that we don’t usually read and reading those passages force us to think about the value of marginalized parts of the text.

    However, I have come to believe that reading the scripture and listening someone to read the scripture are different kind of experiences. Reading the Bible is more intimate experience. When you read the Bible no one comes between you and the Bible. But when someone reads the text to you their voice, intonation, pauses ever so subtly interprets the book and comes between you and the word of God. When you read on your own, you can linger on verses that affect you, come back again to a specific verse and change your pace according to your purpose. When we read the text we slow down and give undivided attention to the text (unlike, say, listening a podcast that tempts you to divide your attention between listening the Bible and doing xyz). None of this is possible in listening to the Bible being read unless you can control the reading of the person (or repeat, if it is the recording).

    So I think reading the Bible has its own place in perceiving the scripture. But that said, we live in a culture in which people find it easier to watch fluffy entertainment than to read the ages old wisdom of the scripture. So, yes, if a person can’t stand the reading of the Bible they should listen to it. It is better than nothing.
    Anyway, good job.

    • Thanks for making the points Agashin. I think you are right on all counts. I also listen to podcasts every day on my commute but yes my attention is divided between that and driving the car. Also agree its important to get to the “less well known” passages as well as, say, the Parable of the Sower and Daniel in the lions’ den. But – as you say – we need different solutions for different people based on where they are, what they are used to etc. See for example my note to Dylan below where I have been working on a reading plan for my church which is limited and yet at the same time (for many) rather ambitious! Thanks very much for commenting!