Martin Luther, the 16th century Reformer loved himself some Scripture. He penned these words, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me, it has feet, it runs after me, it has hands, it lays hold on me.” Don’t you love that imagery? The Bible is the backbone of our faith. But did you know that only about 14% of Canadians read the Bible at least once a month? That’s why more than 86% of Canadians are going bald! Okay, we made up the going bald statistic. But it is true that most Canadians don’t read their Bible.
The sad reality is that we’re missing out on encountering the living God through his living Word.
Studies have shown that both inside and outside the church there is a serious problem of biblical illiteracy. People just aren’t reading the Bible. In our biblically illiterate culture, many people “increasingly don’t read their Bibles, don’t’ engage their Bibles, and don’t know their Bibles.” In fact, 23% of us didn’t even read a single book last year. Curse you, Netflix!
We as Christians should be different. An atheist friend of ours said, “I ask Christians all the time if they read their Bible and they often say ‘No.’ Seriously? If I believed I had a book written by God I would read the s**t out of that book!” Perhaps this is a tad crass, but it’s a solid, solid point. We have been given an incredible gift: The Word of God. God has personally communicated to us and has worked through people and history to preserve how he has ultimately spoken through his Son, Jesus Christ.
When we read the Bible, we can expect to be transformed as individuals and as a community. One pastor wrote that “reading the Bible generates life, it produces change, it heals hurts, it builds character, it transforms circumstances, it imparts joy, it overcomes adversity, it defeats temptation, it infuses hope, it releases power, it cleanses the mind.” Research has confirmed this. Studies have found a strong correlation between reading the Bible and church participation, mission, and evangelism (links below). The truth is that when we take in God’s Word, when we allow it to form the very fabric of our lives, our character will be transformed, our church will be transformed, and our city will be transformed. Why? As Martin Luther said above, “it lays hold on me!”
As a community at St. Peter’s Fireside, we’ve decided to read through the entire Bible together in 2015. So the next question is, how in practice do we take in God’s Word?
first of all, you’ll need to set aside time
Time is our most valuable “possession.” We’re all busy. So, we suggest finding some kind of regular pattern. If you can read the Bible for fifteen minutes a day, you will get through the whole Bible in one year. The most helpful thing to do is to set aside consistent time in your day (i.e. 7am). Guard this time, fight for it! Persist!
You will also need a place
Jesus, we read in the gospels, went off to a solitary place and prayed. We suggest that you find a solitary place—a place where you are free from distractions, where you won’t be interrupted, so you can focus on reading the Bible and responding to what you discover.
And now the challenge …
read through the entire Bible
If you’ve never actually read the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation, we suggest that you follow a reading plan and commit to read the Bible every day this year (you get the same version with YouVersion on your phone). You can also download a copy of our Read The Bible Guide. We get that it’s nice to start at the beginning of the year, or next Monday. But we suggest that you start now with the corresponding date in the plan. You’ll come full circle eventually! Just worry about reading the Bible for basic comprehension and spiritual enrichment.
Our hope, however, is that we do go beyond simply reading the Bible.
Begin with prayer
Ask that God would speak to you through what you’re reading, and that the Holy Spirit would take the Word and make it alive to you.
We encourage you to reflect on what you’re reading
God wants to speak to you through His Word. So when you read a passage in Scripture, bring a pen and paper and a moleskin journal (you hipster, you!). Write down what the passage says about God, make a list about what it tells you about yourself, and then jot down some examples to be followed or commands that should be obeyed. You can then choose one or two things that really impacted you when you read through the passage. With these ideas in mind, ask God to speak to you. Ask him to show you what you can learn from these truths.
And finally, respond in prayer
Pray that God would take his Word and apply it to your mind so that you don’t grow shallow, to your heart so that you don’t grow cold, and to your feet so that you’re not just a hearer of his Word but a doer also.
To learn more about the statistics cited in this post, you can read these articles:
Biblical Illiteracy by the Numbers Part 1: The Challenge
Biblical Literacy by the Numbers Part 2: Scripture Engagement
Canadian Bible Engagement Study