A recent study by Lifeway Christian Resources revealed that the number one factor in spiritual growth is “Bible Engagement.” I was happy for Lifeway to confirm what I’ve thought and experienced for years in my own life.
Before coming to Brook Hills, I served at a church in Arkansas. Like Brook Hills, we challenged everyone to engage in a Bible reading plan around the turn of the year. One senior adult gentleman—let’s call him James—had never engaged in a daily reading or study of God’s Word, although he had been active in church for decades. He accepted the challenge and chose a plan. James came to me a few weeks into the plan and said, “Jay, this is changing my life.” It was great to hear his stories about what God was doing in his life.
James kept experiencing excitement from reading God’s Word and getting to know the Bible better. To me, it even took a humorous turn. After his first comments, he’d catch me every few weeks and say, “Reading the Bible is so life-changing! We’ve got to get everyone reading the Bible daily!” The funny part for me was that our very effort to do so was what got James involved in the first place. He kept saying the same thing every few weeks, but it was all good. I would smile and be really blessed by his updates and his admonitions to get everyone reading the Bible.
Another church that really emphasizes Bible engagement offered t-shirts that read, “Hungry? Feed Yourself.” I love that! Sometimes we can be lazy, "eat" only on Sundays, and depend on someone else to feed us. We won't grow as spiritually strong that way. What a blessing it is to meet God daily through His Word!
Whether you dig in book by book or go through a Bible overview, I challenge you to have a plan. I often rotate between how I engage God's word. For me, the variety helps. One year I'll go through an overview plan, and other years I'll camp out in a single book for a month or two.
Another way to increase the impact is to invite someone else, or even your small group, to join you. It's exciting to hear what God does in others lives as you answer the question for each other, "What is God teaching you?"
So, what about you in 2021? Now is the time to plan. Here are some available plans and tips to consider.
BiblePlan.org - I often enjoy choosing a plan from BiblePlan.org. You choose from a variety of plans and the translation you prefer. Then they email you every day with your assigned reading for that day. Accountability is good.
One Book at a Time - Another great way to deeply study God’s word is to choose a book of the Bible and study it verse by verse alongside a commentary. Since we're beginning to study the book of John in our sermon series this month, that would be a great place to start. (As I lead a group, I’ll be doing this too.)
Partner - Consider enlisting a Bible reading partner. They can be someone from your small group, someone from work, a neighbor or a family member. Schedule a brief time to call or meet with them once a week to share what you are learning, what God is speaking to you, and how you are responding to God.
YouVersion App - If you enjoy reading on your smartphone, the YouVersion Bible App is awesome! You can choose plans there as well. I suggest selecting one from their “Through the Bible” section. The F260 and many other plans are available there.
Scripture Memory - The Psalmist mentions treasuring God’s Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11). What better way to do that than to memorize Scripture? Traditionally, many have used index cards. Last year I discovered the iPhone app, Bible Memory, with over 92,000 users. It has been very helpful.
Commentaries - Commentaries on the Bible are so important to understanding Scripture. Start with God's Word alone, but for deeper study grab a Study Bible or commentary to understand more about the characters, the culture, the author, the audience, and the language. You can get a single volume commentary of the entire Bible, or purchase them by individual books of the Bible. Check your standard book sources but also consider ebay.com if you don't mind used books at a very reduced price. For some suggestions on commentaries, ask your Small Group Leader or visit our website referenced below.
We’ll put links to a number of these resources at brookhills.org/bible.
So, make plans, find a partner, and get started!
Jay Gordon serves on staff as the Adult & Small Groups Minister. He and his wife, Liz, have been members of Brook Hills since 2014. They have two adult children.