“Americans revere the Bible – but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” – Researcher George Gallup
Until about five years ago, I was one of those Americans who revered the Bible but didn’t read it much. Of course I knew it was important, that it was God’s Word, and (fill in the blank with every other thing I was supposed to know after many years of being a Christian). But to actually want to read the Bible regularly? I thought that was a desire only a pastor could possibly have.
Frankly, I thought the Bible was about as interesting as watching paint dry. Seeing as how studies regularly show most Christians are biblically illiterate, I’m probably not the only one who has struggled with this.
Fast forward to this weekend. On Saturday night I was about to turn off the light for bed when I realized I hadn’t read the Bible yet that day. I let out a pleasantly surprised, “oh!” and reached for my Bible with genuine anticipation for the reading minutes ahead.
I love reading the Bible today. I would never have imagined myself saying that just a few years ago. If you struggle to actually like reading the Bible, here are six tips to help you out.
1. Change your underlying beliefs about the importance of reading the Bible.
It’s well known in psychology that your underlying belief about something drives your attitude toward it, and that attitude drives behavior. If you merely try to change your Bible reading behavior without changing your attitude toward the Bible, you’re setting yourself up for failure; furthermore, you can’t change your attitude toward the Bible without changing your underlying beliefs about it.
So that begs the question: what exactly do you need to believe in order to have a positive attitude toward the Bible that results in regular reading behavior? I suppose there are a variety of possible answers depending on the individual, but I believe this one is the common thread:
You have to believe that reading the Bible actually matters.
Ask yourself if you whole-heartedly believe that. If not, why not? Do you have unanswered questions about the Bible’s reliability? Get answers. Do you not believe regular Bible reading would actually change your spiritual life? Read this research. Do you have trouble understanding what the Bible is saying when you read it (we all do at times!)? Buy a good study Bible.
If you don’t believe reading the Bible matters, you’ll be very unlikely to suddenly start liking it.
2. Make sure you understand the overarching structure and story of the Bible.
I got through high school English without ever reading an entire book. I hated literature and survived on “Cliffs Notes” (book summaries you can buy). This approach to reading carried over into my young adult life. There was no way I was going to actually read a book the size of the Bible, but one day I decided to pick up “The Bible for Dummies.” I hate to say it, but reading “The Bible for Dummies” was a turning point for me. (That’s crazy to think of now – I’ve turned into a voracious reader!)
In 18 years of church, I had never really learned what the overarching story of the Bible was; I had simply picked up bits and pieces with no meaningful understanding of how they fit together. After reading “The Bible for Dummies,” I no longer saw the Bible as one huge, daunting book I had no interest in reading. I finally felt like I had a map and could enjoy visiting the different parts. If you’re fuzzy on what happens between “let there be light” and the resurrection, I highly recommend starting with a summary book. (For $.99, you can get the highly rated ebook “Know Your Bible” to help.)
3. Target your interests.
If you’re not yet at the point of enjoying reading the Bible, it may not be the best thing to dive into a reading plan that goes from Genesis to Revelation. Consider what you need spiritually at this time in your life or would like to understand better.
- Are you interested in or challenged by questions related to origins? Study Genesis.
- Do you wonder “what’s up” with all of those Old Testament laws? Study Leviticus (with a really good study guide…)
- Are you interested in the similarities and differences between the gospels? Read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
- Do you need encouragement for finding joy? Read Philippians.
You get the picture. Don’t force yourself to read the Bible in its entirety when you’re just getting going. Once you learn to enjoy parts, you’ll learn to enjoy the whole.
4. Treat every opportunity to read the Bible as a learning adventure.
I truly believe I will learn something new every time I read the Bible. That makes a huge difference in my desire to read each day. Using a good study Bible gives you insights on history, geography, culture, language, and theology that you would never gain on your own.
I use the ESV study Bible (which I read on my iPad, using the OliveTree app). I usually read a full chapter and then go back to read the study notes so my reading flow isn’t interrupted.
5. Treat every opportunity to read the Bible as a heart adventure.
True to the statistics I linked to in this blog post, I’ve personally experienced that nothing in my spiritual life has drawn me closer to God than reading the Bible. I think many Christians assume that’s the privileged role of prayer, but reading and studying God’s Word is just as much a “heart thing.” When you start to see it as such, your anticipation for reading the Bible will greatly grow.
6. Don’t feel bad if you don’t enjoy reading certain parts.
I just can’t get into the book of Psalms. But that’s OK. It’s absolutely fine (and normal) to enjoy reading some parts of the Bible more than others!
What are your Bible reading barriers?