In the new year, my focus at our church is on prayer and Bible reading. As part of that effort, we’re reading through the entire Bible together as a church.
How to Do It
- Settle on a plan. We are using the one-year plan from BibleProject. I printed out a paper copy for our church, but also encouraged people to download the app, which incorporates over 150 animated videos that introduce each book of the Bible and major biblical themes. This plan is also on the YouVersion app, which allows you to share highlights and notes; however, I prefer to read and mark a paper copy of Scripture.
- Provide a simple method for recording questions and insights. As a pastor, I’ve heard this many times: “I had a question, but I can’t remember where it was.” I encouraged our church to start with the simple practice of putting a question mark (?) in the margin of their Bibles when they don’t understand something, and putting an exclamation point (!) when something stands out to them. That way, when we gather, and I ask, “What questions do you have from this week’s reading?” or “What stood out to you in this week’s reading?” they aren’t scrambling.
- Set a regular time to discuss the reading. On Wednesday evenings, we will be discussing our reading. I will be well prepared, but I won’t have a lesson plan. I’ll be asking for questions and insights. And since the goal is to get the whole community engaged, I won’t be jumping to answer every question. I might just ask, “Does anyone have any thoughts about that?”
- Urge people to avoid the snowball effect by always reading what the rest of the group is reading. Encourage people that if they miss a day, it’s okay to skip it, move on to the next day’s reading, and come back later. Otherwise, they will always be a few days behind the group.
- Consider setting a time to get together and just read—taking turns reading aloud. Sometimes on Wednesday evenings, as time allows, we will just take a section of the reading and read it together. On Saturday mornings at 9 AM, I’m also opening the church for anyone who wants to come, have morning devotions together, and just read the Bible. We’ll sit around the front of the church and just take turns reading and discussing that day’s Bible reading. Listen to the BibleProject podcast on Ancient vs. Modern Ways of Reading Scripture, where they talk about why it’s important to read Scripture out loud together.
- Consider preaching from the readings. Unless there’s a special day or season on the church calendar, I’ll be defaulting to the reading plan for my Sunday sermons. Sometimes I’ll just select a passage, other times I may preach on a large section or entire book. See Joey Ratcliff’s article on Preaching Through the Whole Bible, which includes example outlines.
- Provide resources along the way. I’ll be sharing dozens of charts, visuals, articles, podcasts, videos, etc. throughout the year. I’ll especially be promoting Mitchell Chase’s little book Hope for All the Earth: Understanding the story of the Old Testament. It’s only 64 pages and was written to help people understand the big picture and unfolding story of the Bible.
Why to Do It
- Searching the Scriptures is a means of grace for the church. If we want our churches to grow (not just numerically, but spiritually), then we need God’s grace above all else. God’s grace is ordinarily received through the means of grace, including the searching of Scripture.
- Scripture is best read and studied in community. See my article “Reading the Bible in Community with the Local Church.” See also “The Bible is the Church’s Book.”
- Many people struggle with the discipline of daily Bible reading; this helps to keep them accountable. I think that many pastors would be surprised by just how little people actually read their Bibles in a week. If it’s true that our people aren’t reading the Bible very much, then it should be one of our top priorities to help them do so successfully. Having a set time when they will have an opportunity to ask questions, and to be asked, “What stood out to you in this week’s reading?” encourages them to keep up.
- I don’t want people to go for years or decades with the same unanswered Bible questions. I won’t be able to answer every question, but I hope to clear up a few questions that have plagued people for years, or at least move closer to an answer together.