I am a goal setter. New Year’s Day is always a day of possibility and hope and typically involves setting annual goals. I love the idea of a clean slate with a fresh new calendar year and striving towards something with intention.
This year I invited my church to read through the Bible with me. I declared 2018 “The year of the Bible” and asked them to commit to spending 30 minutes a day reading the Bible. Every day. For 365 days. Including Leviticus and Malachi. And 14 ambitious folks said yes to the challenge. It’s not everyone, but 14 is a good start.
What you need to know is that I issued the same challenge to our church last year.
The 2017 Bible reading plan was birthed from my desire to read through the Bible. I thought it would be more fun to do it with others. I offered to buy a one year Bible for anyone interested in joining me because that was what I had used in the past. Quite generous of me, right? A handful of folks from our church said yes to the challenge.
January 1, 2017, came around and I set out to begin the reading plan. I started strong. So did the others. But, as one might expect, the zeal for daily Bible reading waned. Right around Leviticus. Not surprising, I know. I could have seen that coming. Almost everyone, including me, all but abandoned this plan midway through the year. I refused to bring it up because I didn’t want to heap shame and guilt on them—mostly, on myself. Determined that it was a good idea, I vowed to myself that I would try again.
Only the next time it would be better. I had approximately 305 days to access the failure of the goal and evaluate what could have been done differently. At the end of the day, I was convinced that it was a great idea that was poorly executed, which was why it failed. When January 1, 2018, rolled around, I was ready for Year of the Bible 2.0.
We are a month in and going strong (so far). Much better than last year. And these three things are the reason I think it is working. Should you endeavor to attempt the same or similar feat, perhaps these lessons will be helpful to you.But, as one might expect, the zeal for daily Bible reading waned. Right around Leviticus. Click To Tweet
There’s a reason weight loss programs have weigh-ins. People need accountability. Regular, frequent accountability. Knowing that someone else knows whether or not we are doing what we set out to do fuels the desire to do that very thing.
Last year I gave people their own Bible. This year I asked everyone to sign up for an interactive reading plan on the You Version Bible app. Everyone in the group can see who’s on track and who’s behind. “You mean other people can see if I am reading the Bible?” asked one woman. “Yep,” I said. “That’s called accountability.” She looked at me with determination in her eyes and said, “I think I am actually going to do this!” And so far, a month in, she is on track.
From the beginning, God’s word was meant to be experienced in community. Much of the New Testament, for instance, were letters written to churches. Groups of people. It’s no surprise, then, that people are learning more from the scripture by interacting with others whoa re-reading the same scripture.
The reading plan on the Bible app is designed to interact with others. There is a “Talk it Over” section daily where you can ask questions, make observations and dialogue with others in the group. And talk it over they have! These conversations start online, but they are moving offline. People are wrestling with doubts and confusion in community. It’s a beautiful thing to see people growing as followers of Jesus and creating a culture where it is normal to ask how you are being challenged by reading the Bible.
As a church plant we don’t have a lot of programs to maintain, but we have intentionally incorporated the daily Bible reading into the structures we do have. We wanted the Bible reading to be integrated into what we were already doing instead of it becoming another program people add to their already full plates.
For example, we have a Thursday morning liturgical prayer gathering every week. Part of this is the reading of scripture. We swap out the prescribed scripture reading for whatever our daily Bible reading is for that day. Those who join us for Thursday prayer are reading that day’s Bible reading in community and responding together in prayer. Additionally, those who are in a discipleship group (peer-led discipleship groups of 2-3) are holding each other accountable to sticking to the reading plan and helping one another respond to what they are reading, whether that is repentance, thanksgiving, lament, confession, pressing further into mission or something else. In addition to tweaking the structures, we already had we have also added some rhythms to our community gatherings. Each week, someone (who has been asked ahead of time) shares something that they read during the week that challenged or encouraged them and why. It lasts 3-5 minutes. But it has a powerful impact.
People are more likely to accomplish a goal that has a lower bar for participation. Reading through the Bible is a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) in and of itself. The mode of reading the Bible ought not be. With the frenzied, hurried lives that most of us lead, it is rare to find that 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to read the Bible. The Bible app allows people to listen to the scripture instead of reading it.
Honestly, this one thing alone was the selling point for over half our participants. “You mean I can listen to it on my way to work? And that counts?” Indeed, it does! I have found myself listening more frequently than reading and listening to it in a version of the Bible that is less familiar to me so I do not tune it out. Not only can people listen while they are on the move, but they can also take it with them wherever they go. There is no excuse for not having that 1 Year Bible with them. It’s accessible.
I hope to check back in in a couple months to give you an update on how we are doing in our “Year of the Bible.” You know, like a weigh in. Because of accountability. My guess is that we will have many stops and starts but my hope is that we will all grow closer to the Lord and one another through this.