My last post (Read the Directions, Feb 19/16) was written earlier and I had intended it to be a standalone post, one in the string of stories I was writing. But after I had written it and moved on to another one, I realized that I didn’t want to leave that idea alone. For most of my ministry, I have been encouraging people to read and study the Bible. I have always led Bible Studies as a pastor, I have developed Bible reading programs in churches, I have helped people get free or low cost Bibles. The more Biblically literate Christians are, the better it is for the Faith.
However, there are some annoying realities that people run into when they begin reading the Bible. Often, we in leadership try to gloss over the problems, perhaps hoping that we can get people reading the Bible and that an excitement will develop that will keep them going. All too often, the very leaders trying to use this technique to encourage others to read the Bible are guilty of not actually reading much of the Bible themselves.
The Bible is God’s revelation to us–it is filled with things we need to know, things that will help us in our faith journey, things that bring comfort and peace in hard times, things that inspire and excite–but all these wonderful things are scattered randomly among the pages of a book that can be very boring, hard to understand and difficult to follow.
A lot of believers make commitments to reading through the Bible. They begin with great enthusiasm and excitement and make wonderful headway. The more devoted might even make it through Genesis. But even the most faithful and committed often begin to stumble in Exodus and if they make it through Leviticus, are pretty much finished by the time they reach Numbers.
The end result is that perhaps the majority of Christians get most of their Scripture from what they hear in worship on Sunday morning. They also have some stories they remember from Sunday School but would likely have a hard time when asked to place the stories in context. (Does Moses come before or after David?) A few, those who attend Bible Study, get a bit more but I think it is a fair statement to say that for most Christians, including a depressing number of Christian leaders, the Bible is a revered, respected and unread book.
So, for the next few posts, I am going to look at some of the problems that keep people from reading the Bible. I have discovered a few techniques to help overcome some of the problems which I will offer and I will eventually get to the real secret of reading the Bible. I can’t guarantee that these ideas will help you or anyone read the Bible more consistently but I offer them as a help in the process.
The biggest issue I have found with reading the Bible consistently is the boredom factor. I know the Bible is the word of God–but there are vast sections of it that are just plain boring. I have a friend who wrote a large commentary on the Book of Numbers–but I can barely stay awake when Numbers comes around in my Bible reading scheme.
In the face of people trying to tell me that the Word of God can never be boring, I offer the long lists of laws and penalties in Leviticus. They might be fascinating to a Jewish historian but to a busy Baptist pastor, they are often a road block to reading through the Bible.
There is an easy solution to the boring parts–we can skim them or even skip them. I advocate skimming rather than skipping because every now and then, something interesting pops out of even the most boring parts. As heretical as it might sound, not all parts of the Bible are equally valuable to all people all the time. The Bible is God’s gift to all humanity for all time and as such contains stuff that is vital to some people someplace at some time–but not every section is vital to every person at every time.
And because of that, when we get bogged down, skim through it. There are going to be enough passages that catch and hold your attention that the fast skim of the laws of Leviticus or the histories of the kings isn’t going to distort or damage your spiritual growth. And, should you ever really need the skimmed stuff, you know where it is.
May the peace of God be with you.