ST. LOUIS – New Year resolutions can bring enthusiasm and hope for developing new habits. Daily Bible reading might be one of those resolutions for Christians. According to two Missouri pastors, Christians need to be intentional in reading the Bible and have a plan to get through it because—though it has great depth—it can be complex.
Many Bible reading plans are a guide of books, chapters, and verses to read each day—usually alone, without accountability, and perhaps without textual understanding.
But if you’re planning Bible reading for a family that ranges in age from 1 to 38, you will probably need a different approach.
Noah Oldham, lead pastor at August Gate Church (Belleville, Ill.) and Senior Director of Church Planter Deployment for the Southern Baptist Convention North American Mission Board, is leading his young family in reading the entire Bible through this year and next. Oldham’s family includes wife Heather and children Alethia (Allie, 11), Chaim (9), Piper (7), Haddon (5) and Dox (1). He and Heather, who homeschools the children, have goals for each child based upon their age and spiritual seeking.
“Allie is in sixth grade and growing as a Christian pre-teen,” Oldham explains. “We want her to know and love the Word. Chaim is a 9-year-old baseball player. We want him to grasp a deep understanding of his new faith. Piper is asking all the questions of budding faith. We want to water that.
“Haddon is in a big learning phase and we want him to ingest as much of the Bible as possible. And for Dox, we want him to see the joy of knowing and understanding the Bible as he sees his family make the scriptures a central part of life.”
Oldham’s reading plan starts with the New Testament, which wraps up by September, and then switches to the Old Testament through 2021 and 2022.
Using a spreadsheet he created a start date for the family’s Bible reading, then plugged in the books and chapters using an online Bible app to make daily readings. A family wall calendar contains the daily reading texts. “Catch-up days” are built in if the family gets behind.
Each family member reads on their own except the younger children, who are read-to by Oldham and Heather—with a twist. “We’ve even learned how to get our Amazon Alexa to read scripture.” (Alexa is a device, produced by the online retailer Amazon, that allows user voice commands to access and retrieve information.) Meal times are used to discuss what’s been read and answer questions.
“We are showing (the children) that the Bible isn’t an emergency handbook you run to only when you need an answer,” Oldham says, but “it explains to us life as we should know it.”
Besides having a Bible reading plan, understanding what’s been read is necessary, too. Another pastor believes churches sometimes overlook teaching how to read the Bible.
“If I ask people who have been going to church all their lives, ‘Have you been told you should read the Bible?’ all the hands go up,” says Matt Dennings, Pastor of Teaching and Equipping at Anthem Church in Columbia.
“Then if I ask them, ‘Who’s been shown how to read the Bible?’ maybe two or three hands go up in a room.”
He believes pastors need to take the lead and be intentional in instructing believers to take away “the fear and anxiety” of Bible reading. He wants “to give (Bible readers) the basic tools so they don’t feel so overwhelmed when they sit down to read God’s Word.
“We all remember what it was like when first started to read God’s Word,” Dennings says. We said, ‘What’s going on?’”
Anthem has a one-year reading plan that’s supplemented by back-to-back, three-hour workshops over two Saturdays throughout the year. The workshops cover study topics, such as reading various Bible subjects. “I’ll cycle through different genres,” Dennings says, “such as Old Testament poetry.” Homework between the two weekend sessions allow participants to practice what they’ve learned, and discuss what they’ve learned with others.
Anthem’s one-year reading plan is on the church’s website at https://www.anthemcolumbia.com/biblereadingplan.
Both pastors say having a Bible reading plan, self-discipline, and accountability are necessary to maintain focus and prevent life activities from diverting the reader.
“The challenges are keeping at it,” Oldham says. “As schedules get busy and family members are moving in different directions for activities and schedules, keeping disciplined will require us helping one another.”
“The urgent is going to take over your life,” says Dennings. Without a plan, “the world is going to give you a plan and it’s going to be filled with a lot of fear and anxiety.”
Bible reading can help us meet and overcome our present worldly troubles, he says. “If I give myself time to read God’s Word and I’m intentional when I do it, there are riches and depth (to receive). God’s Word speaks.”