Encouraging a culture of Bible reading

Michael Kellahan

Last year someone pointed out to me we had no system at church for encouraging people to read the bible for themselves. My reaction to this was of course denial. But his analysis was on the money. Occasionally personal quiet times might be encouraged from a sermon, or I’d speak to people one to one about their bible reading. I’d obviously try and model it myself.  But despite an evangelical commitment to the centrality of scripture we mostly just lived in hope that people might read it themselves. There was no system in place to build a culture where personal bible reading was encouraged.

Perhaps the strangest thing about that omission is that the need was so obvious. Negatively, we struggle and struggle against biblical illiteracy - many of our regulars would not have read the Old Testament. Positively, I’m convinced that encouraging better listening to God’s word has the most potential to see immediate and sustained growth in the love and knowledge of Jesus.

So this year we’ve tried these things to put a system in place to encourage personal bible reading:

  1. we encouraged a church wide sign up to a one year bible reading plan. We gave out printed versions, and gave links to online plans. Rather than asking people to commit for a year, we asked them to commit for 20 days - with the expectation that this smaller target might give time for a good habit to develop
  2. we use the start of the month to remind people about the plan and to encourage people to sign up afresh 
  3. during January the preaching series was on selections of Psalm 119 so we were spending time thinking about what it means to delight in God’s word
  4. the Children’s Program this year has the option for parents to sign up to a ‘Connecting church and home’ single page email that encourages a home bible reading to prepare for the coming Sunday
  5. On the first Sunday of each month I’m preaching a one off sermon on a book of the bible. So from February to June we’ll do Genesis to Deuteronomy. By doing this we are chipping away at the strangeness of the Old Testament and giving people the encouragement to take it away and read it for themselves. This pattern roughly matches the one year bible reading plan. I’ll try and do outlines that people can use to assist their own reading.
  6. We will interview people from the front of church about how their bible reading is going and how it is changing them.

None of this is rocket science but it is time consuming - I’m convinced though that this is time well spent. If our members spend time in the word they are growing themselves and encouraged for ministry and mission to others.

At this stage there is lots of anecdotal support for these initiatives. More people seem to be reading their bibles. More after church conversations seem to be over what people are reading during the week. I’m being asked questions that come out of personal reading. We will conduct a survey later in the year to see what the actual take up has been. The vibe so far though is that the culture has shifted a bit - and for the better.


Feature photo:"CQ"