Reading Scripture slowly
After some discussion with friends on Sunday followed by a brief email exchange today, I’d like to further explain my personal Bible study and devotional plan for the year.
In previous years, I’ve chosen a Bible-reading plan that guides me through the entire Bible over the course of the year. Some years, I’ve also read through a 365-day devotional book. Any Bible study I did was extracurricular, if you will. I wasn’t necessarily studying each day’s reading, which would have been difficult to do since each day’s reading was three or more chapters.
In short, I benefited from reading every word of Scripture over the course of the year, but I never felt I was able to truly meditate on the text. Frankly, it was too much reading on which to meditate. It’s like giving people too many options. Tell them to choose between A or B, and they’ll probably pick one. Tell them to choose between A, B, C, D, E, F, and so on, and they’ll likely freeze up and shut down. They won’t be able to pick. The volume of options will become too overwhelming.
To be candid, I never thought of it this way until I opted to follow a much slower reading plan this year. Instead of reading through the entire Bible in a year, I’ve chosen a reading plan that will take me through only the New Testament over the course of several years. By the way, I still listen to an audio Bible each day, so I’m not altogether neglecting the Old Testament.
Part of my inspiration for this slower reading plan was a set of CSB New Testament Scripture Notebooks that someone gave me as a birthday gift. You can find similar notebooks or journals in almost any version of the Bible—ESV, NASB, NIV, KJV, NKJV. Each book of the Bible has its own notebook. The Bible text is on the left, and a blank page for writing notes is on the right. The text is larger than you’ll find in most Bibles, so it’s very easy to read. The notebooks are small and thin enough to be portable, so you can take one with you wherever you go.
Typically, I carry one to work with me. As I move through the New Testament in roughly chronological order, I take the appropriate book of the Bible with me, and whenever I find time, I read the next passage. Then, I read it again and again and again. When I have larger blocks of time, which is usually at home in the evening just before bed, I grab my study tools and resources and begin taking notes. Then, as I continue to meditate on the text, I keep the notebook with me, so I can add notes to it any time. Occasionally, I even find myself pulling off the road while driving to jot down something that came to mind.
Perhaps most importantly, I don’t rush the process. While I strive to work my way through three passages of various lengths per week, I’m not insistent about meeting a deadline. The purpose of this plan isn’t to read the entire Bible by a certain date. The purpose is to thoroughly meditate on and understand each passage as I move through the Bible in whatever amount of time it takes.
The last step of my process, which I know isn’t for everyone, is writing a brief devotional. At times it feels more like a summary of the passage. Other times it comes closer to a mini sermon. Whatever we might call it, it’s my primary takeaway from the text I’ve spent two or three days reading, studying, and thinking about.
Though I’m only one month into this experiment, I have enjoyed it immensely. Similar to when I was preparing a sermon each week, my mind is constantly fixated on a single passage. I’m thinking about every word. I’m thinking about its place in the larger context. I’m thinking about its implications on me and others. I always feel excited to return to my Scripture journal and have another look at the text. It never feels like a chore or that I’m just checking off boxes each day as I read. Sincerely, it has been a tremendous pleasure thus far.
Is this kind of slower reading plan for you? I can’t say, but I believe it’s worth your consideration. If not this year, maybe next year. It may even be something you try on top of your annual Bible reading plan. I can only speak for myself when I say it is even more beneficial than I expected.