Five years ago the church we were attending spent the year reading through the Bible together.
Sunday sermons and small groups focused on the passages for that specific week. Journals with prompts and questions were printed in mass and available quarterly.
This wasn’t my first attempt at reading through the Bible in a year.
So I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
I was so thankful for the Sunday sermons and small group discussions that took us deeper. Had I been reading through the Bible on my own I would have missed so much!
However, to stay on (or close) to the schedule, I had to speed walk through the Bible.
I found myself skimming the surface and frustrated that there wasn’t more time to stop and savor God’s Word.
While there were many benefits in getting an overall, birds-eye view of the Bible in its entirety, I kept wishing we could slow down and perhaps take two or three years to really read the scriptures and dig into them.
Many weeks I would struggle to recall what I’d read earlier in the week.
Not much stuck.
I don’t think I’m alone in my experience or my frustration in trying to read through the Bible in a year.
I’ve thought a lot about the pros and cons of reading through the Bible in a year. (There are definitely both!)
I’m concerned that when we read through the Bible in a year:
- We miss cultural and historical context which can change the way a scripture should be interpreted.
- Our daily reading becomes something we check off a list, rather than time tuned into the Holy Spirit discovering what God reveals about Himself through His Word.
- It’s often completed in isolation – without accountability, discussion, and reflection with other believers.
- We move so quickly that we minimize the knowledge and wisdom that could be gained at a slower pace.
- The pace is not sustainable for many. Falling behind leads to giving up or at least frustration with our time in God’s Word.
- We hit a wall when we come to Exodus and Leviticus because it’s “boring” and more difficult to read. Rather than pushing through, many give up reading the Bible regularly before the middle of February.
- The answer to Biblical illiteracy is not to read more faster, but comprehension which requires a slower pace.
- It’s not a biblical mandate that some have elevated the practice to. Yes, we are to read God’s Word (see scriptures below), but God does not specify the pace.
I can’t help but wonder how much more of God’s Word we’d grasp if we slowed down and allowed ourselves time to marinate in His Word.
What would God’s best reading plan be for us?
What pace would He set?
How does He want us to approach the scriptures?
In His own words, God encourages us to meditate on, desire, and crave His Word.
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:7-11
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:1-5
I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:10-11
If we are going to:
- Seek God will all our heart
- Hide His Word in our heart
- Store up His commands
- Search it
- Understand it
- Keep it on our lips
- Crave it
- Allow it to refresh our soul
Most of us will need to slow down and not rush through the Bible in a year.
If God’s specifically called you to read through the Bible this year, then please, be obedient. But I want to encourage you to take the time to dig deeper.
If you’re considering reading through the Bible this year because:
- It sounds like a good idea
- It seems like everyone’s doing it
- It’s what you always do
- You’re not sure what else to do with your quiet time
Here are some suggestions for five other ways to approach God’s Word this year.
5 Alternatives to Reading through the Bible in a Year
1. Prayerfully select a topic or a theme to research.
Consider your “Word for the Year,” if the Lord has prompted you to focus on one. For example faith, hope, love, encouragement, hospitality, unity, leadership, joy, or courage. A great concordance will direct you to verses that focus on your topic or word. Take care not to take any verse out of context by reading the verses before and after. Record your findings in a journal or notebook.
2. Prayerfully select a person in the Bible to study.
Read their story multiple times and supplement your study with a solid commentary or two. You’ll uncover historical and cultural facts that open your mind and give your fresh insight.
3. Select a three-year reading plan.
While three years may seem like a long time, the pace of reading approximately a chapter-a-day may be more manageable. Slowing down might increase your chances of finishing. Here’s one three-year reading plan you may want to print out.
4. Use the READ Bible Study Method.
Select a book of the Bible and work through just 1-2 chapters each week. The guided worksheet allows you to record, explore, apply and do what the Holy Spirit reveals. Re-reading the passage each time you study helps it stick! I’ve been amazed at what I’ve discovered and retained as I’ve used the READ Bible study workbook over the last few years.
The READ Bible Study Workbook is the plan I’ll be using. I’m wrapping up Proverbs and will start on Joshua in the next week.
5. Gather with other women to read and discuss God’s Word together.
Sharing what we’ve learned with each other allows us to practice talking about God and provides accountability. Consider using the READ Bible Study for Groups Kit and meeting together weekly.
If we want a deeper understanding of God, we must slow down and dig into the Word.
When we speed read through the Bible in a year, we rarely take the time to discover those things our culture cannot fully grasp without a bit of research in a good study Bible and/or a trusted commentary. Most of us lack a history degree and aren’t shepherds, fisherman, or farmers by trade, so we miss details and insight that brings fresh meaning to God’s Word.
Here’s just one example of what we might miss. At our Christmas Eve service this year our Pastor shared something new about the Christmas story that changed the way I’ll forever view the role of the shepherds. See Luke 2: 8-20.
He explained that the shepherds the angels visited would have been the ones to select perfect lambs for sacrifice at the temple nearby. When the shepherds spotted a perfect lamb, they would wrap it in swaddling clothes and place it in a manager to prevent the lamb from injuring itself so it could be presented without blemish at the temple.
The shepherds understood the sign the angel told them to look for – “you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
One can’t help but wonder if or when they realized that the baby had come as the final, perfect sacrifice that would cover all of our sins.
God doesn’t specifically tell us how much of His Word we need to read each year, but He does tell us HOW we are to read His Word.
No matter your approach or plan, I pray we’ll all be faithful to be IN the Word this year and that God will use it to draw us to Him.
One year ago: 10 Ways You Can Encourage Women to Read the Bible
Two years ago: Favorite Posts from 2016
Three years ago: Vision Casting for Your Women’s Ministry – Part 1
Four years ago: 5 Tools to Use to Organize Your Women’s Ministry
Five years ago: How to Build a Women’s Ministry Binder